Dinner parties don’t have to be stressful with a helping hand from Dineindulge, as Jessica Hope discovers

The notion of a private chef, for a long time, has been associated with the likes of A-listers and yacht lovers sailing around the The French Riviera. However in recent years, with many people preferring to entertain their guests at home rather eating in a restaurant, and with the rise of Airbnb group-style holidays among friends and hen parties, there has been a significant growth in the demand for private chefs to provide a personal yet relaxed dining experience at home.

Two and a half years ago, private chef Rod could see this market growing and decided to co-found Dineindulge – an easy to use online private chef booking service where chefs offer a range of menus for parties at the host’s own home. So rather than you having to fuss with simultaneously tidying your home, cooking and entertaining your guests, Dineindulge – whose head office and test kitchen is based in Henleaze, north Bristol – takes the stress of cooking off your hands with a personal chef. They will use your kitchen’s facilities, crockery and maybe some of your pots and pans to create beautiful dishes for you and your party to enjoy. The host needs only lay the table, get the wine in and keep those glasses topped up, so they can really take the time to catch up with friends.Co-founder of Dineindulge, Rod, cooking up a storm in the kitchen

One scorching summer evening, we took over one TBM team member’s flat for a dinner party to remember, and were lucky enough to have Rod as our chef for the evening. Prior to setting up Dineindulge, Rod worked for most of his career in the catering world, either in hotels and restaurants or as a private chef.

The Dineindulge menus are tried and tested by chefs across the country, and offer a wide range of dishes to suit all tastes, celebrations and budgets. When making our booking, we used the straightforward website to choose a menu to suit our guests. We agreed on one of the deluxe tasting menus, which includes nine dishes, and then it is down to the chef to bring all the ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about whether you’ve forgotten to pick up some basil or run out of butter. While we popped the prosecco and chatted in the living room, Rod quietly and efficiently prepared the dishes.

Once we were seated, he presented us with an amuse-bouche of gazpacho – a cool tomato soup shot with a touch of chilli, cucumber and olive oil. On one of the hottest days of the year, this was a refreshing start to our meal. Served with a parmesan and fennel crisp, and a warm bread roll with salted butter, it was an ideal hit of savoury and saltiness on our palates.

Next we enjoyed a simple, delicious starter of seared shiitake and portobello mushrooms with peashoots and dill, topped with delicate poached egg yolk; the fresh herbs and creamy yolk complementing the meaty, woody mushrooms.

For the fish course, Rod pan-fried Scottish scallops and served them with baby gem lettuce, shelled peas and a milk foam. The scallops were impressively sized, soft to cut through, and had a hint of caramelisation. Even those around the table who had never had a scallop before raised their eyebrows in surprised appreciation for the molluscs.The pasta course of truffle oil tagliatelle with shaved celeriac

Our next course was an absolute winner. Rod plated up fresh white truffle tagliatelle with shaved celeriac and truffle oil. With silky pasta and the earthy yet subtle taste of the truffle, this was a perfect palate cleanser after our previous courses, and had us all yearning for Italy.

Throughout the evening, Rod was the epitome of professionalism. Friendly, adaptable and laid-back, he answered any questions about the food and his work with good humour, impressively remembered all six of our names, made us feel very relaxed and able to chat freely around the dinner table, even when the conversation turned to last night’s antics on Love Island.

Up next was the main course of lamb noisette with micro broccoli, caramelised feta cheese and carrot puree. The lamb was lightly pink, succulent and, importantly, didn’t have any of the chewy bits that poorly cooked lamb is prone to. There were sighs around the table as fellow guests all shared a mutual love for the caramelised feta – simply blowtorched before plating, the bursts of salty-sweet cheese were well-matched with the juicy meat and fresh veg.

As a vegetarian alternative, two guests tried the parmesan and pine nut polenta which was raved about, and the generous helping of toasted pine nuts went down especially well.

We were then treated to a pre-dessert – how have we been living without pre-desserts for this long? We tucked into a lightly whipped peppermint cream layered with a sprinkling of sesame brittle and dark chocolate covered mint leaves. For dessert, we eagerly delved into spiced pears with a walnut butter biscuit crumb and a sweet cider sabayon, topped off with pretty edible flowers. Thoroughly poached, the pears didn’t contain any of that graininess that can sometimes occur, and the light, spicy flavours contrasted nicely with the sweet pear and creamy, rich sabayon.

“With silky pasta and earthy yet subtle truffle, this was an ideal palate cleanser…”

Contently full, our palates were refreshed after a shot of orange and caraway seed granita, before we attended to a carefully selected cheese board to round off the night. The summer’s evening made for the perfect temperature to taste this fine selection, including a rich and mature Godminster vintage cheddar, a Cashel Blue from Ireland, which was almost like a Roquefort, and a soft and tangy Trevarrian Cornish brie. We gobbled these up with pickled veg, charcoal crackers, sweet and decadent fig and date chutney, as well as sharp pickled walnuts.

While we waxed lyrical about the final course, Rod was away washing the dishes, packed up and cleaned the kitchen before he left us to polish off the last of the cheese.

The idea of nine courses could be a bit much for some, however each dish was perfectly proportioned and Rod had impeccable timing between courses, giving the guests enough time for their stomachs to settle and to top up their wine glasses.All hosts have to do is dress the table and top up those wine glasses

If a tasting menu isn’t for you, Dineindulge also offers two and three-course menus, as well as barbecue and platter selections for more casual dining. The chefs can cater for any event to suit the client, so if you’re looking to get dolled up for a romantic dinner for two, for foodie fun with a hen party or for a relaxed catch-up or celebration with lots of friends – you could even climb into your pyjamas for the occasion – the Dineindulge team are happy to accommodate all.

Whether you’re an A-lister or not, Dineindulge offers a smooth and efficient service that will have your guests talking about that dinner party for a long time.

• Dineindulge menus range from £24.99 – £69.99 per person; visit dineindulge.co.uk

Featured image:  An amuse-bouche of gazpacho with a parmesan and fennel crisp, warm bread roll and salted butter