Eating In: We'll all be Lucky Devils when this lockdown take-out service finds a home
THINK of this as a peek at the coming attractions, a trailer for a sure-fire blockbuster. But you’ll have to wait. It’s like the dim and distant past when a big film might take six months to arrive from America, creaking with anticipation and excitement, only added to by the friend at school who was fancy enough to go on Stateside holidays and had already seen it.
Or it’s like the dim and distant past when going to the cinema anywhere was a thing.
Either way, Lucky Devil’s gourmet box service came to an end this weekend, on hiatus until a permanent home can be found by chef Tony O’Neill and his wife and business partner Andrea (full disclosure: a former colleague here at The Irish News).
While they had always planned to open Lucky Devil as a restaurant, a cousin to their established stars Coppi and Buba, fate and pandemic intervened, so instead it was born as a take-home service, little feasts either collected from St Anne’s Square in Belfast city centre or delivered to a healthy swathe of the surrounding area.
Like so many quality restaurants, both Coppi, now reopened, and Buba offered the same sort of service throughout lockdown closure – the treat of having dinner from the standard bearers of Italian and eastern Mediterranean food in the city in your home. All Lucky Devil did was add south east Asia to the list.
As the weeks went on and I was required to take pictures of the food I was Eating In, I realised I may need to up my crockery game a bit. Everything we have is just fine and does the job nicely, but a look at Lucky Devil’s Twitter feed, where followers were urged to post pictures of their dinners, brought on serious tableware envy – at least for the purposes of showing it off to the public.
Everywhere there are dishes that look tailor-made for these dishes: plates and spoons matched with deep and shallow bowls, little square compartments for pickles, and receptacles for salad that show off the toasted rice sprinkled on top just so.
Anyway, for the time being here’s the beef rendang in what is, by some measure at least, the fanciest piece of tableware in the house – a Wonder Woman cereal bowl. And, you know what? It could hardly be more appropriate.
I said little feasts, but they’re not. They’re generous things, easy enough to spread over a couple of days if you’ve got the self-control, but even if you plan to, once you start it’ll be difficult to restrain your curiosity.
I blame the heat. It skips its way through the entire menu; it’s balanced and comes at you from different directions and in different ways. Nothing will blow your head off – unless you munch down on one of the birds eye chillis, though the accompanying instructions warn you about that – but everything will leave its mark.
The rendang in the superhero bowl is deep stuff. The meat falls apart in great strands, still as beefy as can be but touched with spice. Caramel sweetness carries the warmth through the stew, with chunks of pickled mouli bringing both crunch and a gently sour counterpoint.
Minced pork in coconut milk and white peppercorn paste wears its heat fragrantly, shot through with the crunch of peanut and onion, chicken wings in chilli jam pack a smoky sweetness, while a simple salad of cucumber, tomato and cabbage, sings of mint and a salty nam jim dressing.
The tom yum soup is where the real fire lives, not just in the birds eye chillis, bobbing ominously in the broth with batons of scallion, a plump mushroom and pink little shrimp, but in the umami explosion of the liquid itself.
It builds and builds but doesn’t overpower, being held back by lemongrass and galangal, and the squeeze of lime that goes with everything.
The most effort, apart from squeezing the lime, was running some green beans, pak choi and peppers through a hot pan. The chicken wings went in the oven and everything else took a few minutes in the microwave.
To produce dishes so vibrant, layered and complex, even after they’ve answered the ping of a microwave oven, is impressive in itself.
In a world that won’t feel the same for a long time, Lucky Devil will be something to really look forward to.
Gourmet box for two £40