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Published: 21 August 2008

Ready to heat green curry
Ready to heat, and ready to eat

Gone are the days when take-away means soggy noodles and mushy vegetables, thanks to a clever new system from XO, says Dan Carrier

THERE is a scene at the beginning of the film ET where the family order pizzas to be delivered.
To my young mind, this was almost as astonishing as an alien coming down and befriending little Elliot: imagine it – you ring up a number, a chef somewhere out there wallops together your favourite pizza and then sends someone to deliver it to your door.
What a concept, my young mind screamed! I made a vow that when I was bigger, I’d call that magic phone number.
The concept of food brought to your door has long been the domain of the high street pizza joint or cornershop curry house.
It’s all well and good for the couch potato that lurks within us all, but it has to be said that “ordering in” has all too often been a hit-and-miss affair, with an underpaid delivery boy on your doorstep with a flimsy bag of tepid food that’s been hanging around on the back of a moped for far too long.
No longer.
As higher-end restaurants realise that we are bedding down to weather an economic storm, sitting on the sofa may seem like a more sensible option than heading out for a meal in swanky surroundings. But we still want our favourite chefs to knock us up something – and this is where a new delivery service from the Belsize Park-based pan-Asian restaurant XO comes in.
The restaurant is based in the former Belsize Tavern in Belsize Village. Opened two years ago, its stylish dining room and superb food has been a hit. Now you can get the goodies whipped up by chef Will Ritter served on your own china. The only downside is now you have to do the washing up.
We tried out the delivery menu one lunchtime in the New Journal news nerve centre, and deciding what to choose from the astonishing range on offer was the only problem we encountered.
Delivered well within half an hour of phoning our hefty order through, we discovered that the restaurant has come up with a clever way of how to beat the annoying fact that the food suffers because of the time lag from kitchen to plate. For main course curries, your dish arrives in a nifty little packet that you bung into the microwave for a couple of minutes and, hey presto, a hot and tasty dish awaits.
We indulged ourselves with starters: delicious and dainty bahn trang rolls, with pomegranate seeds and a spicy mango dipping sauce and two types of maki: asparagus and enoki mushroom, and a delightful purple-tinged red pepper and rocket ensemble – a meal in itself.
We went for two types of noodles. The first was a sweet ginger dish in a warm-through packet – lively on the tongue and lean rather than stodgy, as noodles can so often be. The other was a salad of soba noodles and tofu, which was set off with a deep and rather luxurious sesame dressing.
Our main courses featured two green curries – chicken and vegetable – and had stand-out spice and plenty of creamy sauce.
Too often the vegetables in green curries have collapsed in the face of the flavour attack, addled by too much coconut milk. Not here. They put up a brisk fight and had been cooked to be firm, succulent and wallowing in juice, rather than being consumed by it.
Prawn dumplings were almost too nice-looking to eat – we admired them for a while before demolishing them. Shaped like an art deco shell motif, the care in presentation was matched by the seafood surprise hidden within.
We had a side of seasonal Asian greens, which again stood up well to the journey and did not allow the stock they came in to saturate the leaves, and then capped off the whole experience with a tub of green tea ice cream – a pistachio green, palate- cleansing delight.
The meals come in two categories: ready to eat and ready to heat, and they cleverly give you bits of the ingredients to mix together yourself so they don’t suffer travel wilt on the way to your door. And with a huge menu featuring such delights as marinated tuna steaks and Thai beef and bean sprouts, there is enough on offer for an at-home restaurant experience too.
They can deliver wine, beer and soft drinks as well, and the price is reasonable: our lunch, which provided three people with a hefty three-course meal and left enough over for other hungry colleagues to pick at for the rest of the day, came in at around £40.
It’s no longer just pizza ET, it’s XO, too.

* XO To Go,
31 Belsize Lane, NW3. Orders by phone on 020 7433 0880 or online at

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