Lockdown 3.0 has been the hardest so far for me. I miss working on my laptops surrounded by friendly faces in coffee shops. I miss meeting start-ups at makers markets and hearing the stories behind street food stalls. I miss finding a new favourite restaurant where I can discover a beautiful dish. And it seems I’m not the only one.

These strange times that we find ourselves in have led to a phenomenal increase in ‘At Home’ food delivery services as we try to recreate the restaurant experience we miss so much on our own dining tables. So I’d like to introduce you to the local lockdown foodie startups that I’m most excited about in 2021.

Kilty & Co was Founded by Eddie Kilty in 2018. When he’s not catering events, Eddie can usually be found somewhere in the Med sourcing local produce to cook for guests in some of Europe’s most beautiful private villas. Eddie is a rising star in the world of food, having headed up the AA Rosette kitchen at The Inn on the Lake as well as working for a host of Michelin starred chefs including Tom Kerridge, Andrew Pern and Emily Watkins. But like most of us, Covid-19 meant Eddie staying at home here in Liverpool, where he decided to diversify his offering and bring the restaurant experience to his customers through his ‘At Home with Kilty & Co’ meal kits.

With his skilfully crafted menu changing every week and a focus on seasonal and local produce, Eddie provides everything you need for a gourmet dining experience in your own home. The food is freshly prepped and ready for you to heat and serve, including the opportunity for you to get creative with sauces, piping bags and some edible garnish. Not only does it taste like a restaurant meal, with a little patience it can look like one too!

Kilty & Co were one of the very first ‘At Home’ services I encountered during the original lockdown of 2020. Initially I wasn’t sure if there would be sufficient demand to sustain this kind of high-end offer. I’m happy to admit I was wrong and almost a year later Eddie and his team have just launched their Valentine’s Day menu and continue to deliver their gourmet boxes containing everything you need for a 3-course restaurant quality meal.

With a limited marketing spend, much of Kilty & Co’s success is attributed to a reputation built through word of mouth. Repeat customers are the backbone of his business which is completely understandable once you’ve tried Eddie’s cooking (and more specifically his beef dripping popcorn which has to be one of the most craveable menu items I’ve ever encountered). Eddie’s agility and willingness to act quickly in order to change his business model to adapt to a new – and let’s face it – utterly bizarre marketplace will certainly pay dividends should he choose to establish himself in bricks and mortar in the future.

It was our Content Director Chris who first discovered Ay! Que Rico towards the end of 2020. I received a text from him saying “I’ve just had these tacos delivered and they’re STUNNING and you HAVE to try them!” Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself on Instagram placing an order at 1am on a Thursday morning for delivery the following Saturday. It’s hard to explain, but after a pretty challenging week the idea of having some new and tasty food delivered to my door gave me something to look forward to and lifted my mood for the weekend.

I was not disappointed. If you’ve ever eaten authentic Mexican tacos – and I mean the real ones from those incredible street food stalls in Mexico City – you’ll know that the tortillas are thicker and more bread like in texture than the usual offering here in the UK. These tacos were the real deal, and the chicken was perfectly seasoned with just the right level of spice. But the most delicious discovery from Ay! Que Rico (which directly translates as “Oh! Delicious!” by the way) was their beef consommé which comes as a kind of dipping sauce for the Birria taco – a rich, meaty broth which was dark orange in colour and had the most incredible depth of flavour.

The most surprising thing about this is that Ay! Que Rico is not a restaurant, or even an established street food concept. It’s the brainchild of Gabriela who is herself a big fan of Liverpool’s vibrant food and restaurant scene. During the first lockdown she found herself ordering takeout from as many independents in the city as she could, which inspired her to start her own journey.

“I LOVE sharing my culture by cooking for my friends and family. I was born and raised in a little country called Belize and my mother is from Guatemala, so growing up I was able to experience loads of different types of food. Belize’s largest bordering country is México, but there are many different ethnic backgrounds in Belize which translate into our food. I chose to create Latin food because it is what I love and what I grew up eating. My tacos aren’t fancy, they are just the way they should be, and I wanted to bring that authentic taste to my community here in Liverpool!”

Gabriela takes orders through her Instagram page and has sold out every week since her launch. She already has big plans in sight for the future of Ay! Que Rico. “I would love to get a little food truck or perhaps a stall at The Baltic Market. Maybe even a little restaurant in town doing one day making tacos and loads more authentic Latin food!”

You’ve no doubt seen Lulu’s Kitchen on social media, with their beautiful brown packages tied up with pink string in which you will find the most delicious, creamy desserts you’ve ever tasted. Their range of Arabic style fusion desserts involve the layering of infused creams and toppings with flavours such as pistachio and Biscoff, and a traditional Khaskash which is topped with crunchy vermicelli.

Anisa is the founder of Lulu’s kitchen. With a job working in the Charity Sector and four young children, starting her own business wasn’t something she had ever considered. “I started making my traditional Arabic fusion desserts as a way to raise money for Yemen in June 2020. I’ve always enjoyed making desserts for friends and my family, and the response to our charity project was overwhelmingly positive. Lockdown meant that I had a lot more time to try out new ideas, such as putting a modern Arabic twist on traditional desserts and inventing new recipes, all the while satisfying peoples sweet tooth during lockdown when a lot of local cafes and dessert shops where closed.”

Anisa’s Arabic style fusion desserts are currently available for delivery and collection in the South Liverpool Area, and her group of loyal customers is growing every day. “Many of the desserts that I make are traditionally made in Arab Households around the world. It’s a niche business, but there was no-one else in the city making this type of product. I know how much my family and friends enjoy the taste, and it’s incredible when I receive the same positive feedback from my new customers!”

Anisa is happy to continue surprising and delighting the people of South Liverpool with her homemade creations this year, growing her business organically and experimenting with new products. She’s also keen to support the independent community here in Liverpool and to inspire new business start-ups. “I feel that since starting Lulu’s Kitchen, I have also inspired others to come up with similar ideas which makes me very happy. I have plans to grow Lulus Kitchen and release new desserts this year, so… Watch this space!”

Keep It Real Kitchen was started by Tony shortly after the first lockdown of 2020. Based on the Wirral, Tony had previously been running pop-up restaurant events but when that opportunity was taken away from him in March, he decided to deliver his food to the people – literally. “We’ve been busy creating a variety of dishes that pack a punch when it comes to flavour. Whether it’s date night or treat day, if you fancy letting someone else do the cooking, we’ve got your back!”

Keep It Real Kitchen creates Indian food that’s then chilled and delivered straight to your door, ready to heat up when it suits you. With a new menu released every 2 weeks, ordered are placed either through Instagram or by phone. Regardless of your choice of dishes there’s a fixed price for each box of £25 which includes generous portions of curry, rice, sides and snacks for 2 people. And it’s been a popular choice, with boxes selling out almost every weekend since their launch.

There’s no doubt that business creativity and agility were key themes for the hospitality industry in 2020, and whether than means transitioning from a restaurant kitchen to your own home as Eddie and Tony did, or starting a business in your own kitchen which may one day lead to a restaurant… Lockdown has proven that there’s no shortage of talented foodies here in Liverpool!

Are you a food startup looking to make your mark in the city? Why not get in touch…

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