As we made our way eagerly to Rachel’s house, the guests described their thoughts on the menu. Nobody seemed entirely sure as to what to expect, Catherine admitting that she felt Rachel was a “dark horse.” The menu certainly didn’t give much away, with basic terminology for each course that left everyone guessing, including chicken satay skewers for the starter and for the main, the mysteriously named mixed paella.
The starter signaled controversy for Ollie, who became convinced that they would be the product of Sainsbury’s. Once again, Will had never had chicken satay before, saying “I’m excited. I’ve no idea what to expect.” As we walked through the door, however, Ollie firmly declared, “I stand corrected. I can smell the saaah-tay.” The scents that wafted over to our intrigued nostrils could be no effort of a supermarket.
As soon as the guests were ushered into the kitchen and seated, the aforementioned chicken satay was placed in front of them – possibly the quickest turnaround from front door to starter we’ve seen on Come Have Dinner With Me. Catherine was impressed with the little skewers with which the chicken pieces had been impaled and the boys were won over by the marinating process, as Rachel proudly stated that it had been an overnight affair.
Post-starter interviews, however, revealed that the guests did have some niggles with the dish. What was generally well-received due to intense flavour, was also accompanied with beliefs that a third skewer may have made the dish even more well-received. Ollie yearned for a “stupid salad” or some equally pointless but beautiful garnish.
Starters consumed, Rachel announced that there would be “inter-course entertainment.” After quite a substantially awkward pause, she added, “it involves straws.” The game did, indeed, involve straws, as well as a bowl of salted peanuts and a lot of sucking. That’s right, Rachel had her guests sucking nuts. Ollie was declared the winner, with Will losing by just one nut. The boys came up with their own theories as to why they had completely annihilated the girls, with Will saying, “I reckon it’s the testosterone levels”, and Ollie chiming in that they had been engendered by society as men.
Rachel then served up the mixed paella main. The sparse wording had left the guests well and truly stumped. No one could ascertain what “mixed” paella would specifically comprise, but the consensus seemed to be that no one would be keen on a surf ‘n’ turf orientation. Will was “excited” once again. As mounds of golden yellow rice were slopped onto the plate, flecks of both seafood and meat could be seen and everyone looked at each other nervously. As Rachel dashed upstairs to fetch something, Catherine began to frantically flick her pieces of chorizo onto Ollie’s mound, admitting that she wasn’t a fan of the spiced meat. This tactical flicking meant that everyone had near-clear plates, apart from the singular prawn that Ollie left on his – a leftover that he could not quite understand himself.
After dinner, conversation was centred on Catherine’s aspirations for a career in digital marketing, before they all started reminiscing nostalgically on their time with each other. As the penultimate night of Come Have Dinner With Me was drawing to a close, Ollie noted that talk had gone from “lewd to actually quite civil.” Were our diners… maturing?
Suddenly, Rachel gasped and brought over a strange bowl, inside of which were four lemons that were meant to adorn the paella with their glorious juices. The guests’ analyses of the main indicated that the lemon could have brought the overall taste up a notch, but it was generally received well. The combination of seafood and meat surprisingly went down a treat, despite everyone’s slightly irrational fear of the marriage. Luckily, the lemons still went to use, as Ollie had a firm belief that the inter-course entertainment would also work on the weighty citrus fruit. Needless to say, it didn’t.
After another dose of inter-course entertainment – this time involving straws and Maltesers – Rachel served up the dessert, a chocolate ripple cheesecake. Once again, Will had told us that he found the idea “quite exciting… I’m excited.” Rachel placed it onto the table, and everyone began to discuss what they could see in the patterns on top – Will said that he saw a dove. Woah man. All fun and games over, the cheesecake was devoured. Will had two slices, but double-portion veteran Ollie wasn’t on top form – he felt a bit delicate after getting drunk with his Granny the day previously.
Multiple portions later, Will even said he could have eaten more. Ollie described the experience as “entirely delicious”, even though he had to leave the thick white rim (inebriation with Granny really had left him in a bad way). Catherine wasn’t entirely convinced, saying that the “base could have been crisper”, but ultimately, the soggy bottom didn’t hinder her enjoyment too much.
Overall opinion: Rachel’s food seemed to be a hit, guests noting that any criticism they mentioned were mere niggles. Catherine longed for some atmospheric music, as had been enjoyed on previous nights, and Will said that the entertainment would have worked better with more rules: “Organised fun is the way forward.”
Scores will be announced when everyone has had a chance at hosting!