Meal kit review: Otto by Phil Howard
Pasta kits get polished up by Phil Howard, chef of Michelin-starred Elystan Street, with restaurant-quality produce and a magical secret ingredient...
What's the draw
Put simply: Phil Howard, he of vaunted Michelin-starred restaurant Elystan Street in Chelsea, has come up with the ultimate side hustle – pasta kits that fit through your letterbox (sound familiar?), but done seriously well. Howard earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant The Square, before choosing to focus on unfussy fine dining at Elystan Street, so his pasta kits come with serious pedigree. The seasonal pastas, sauces and antipasti are made with the same suppliers used in Howard's restaurant – tomatoes from Natoora, meat from beloved London butcher HG Walter, cheese from Buchanan's Cheesemonger, among others – so you really are bringing next-level quality into your kitchen with these kits.
How it works
Choose from eight seasonal pastas, with plenty for vegetarians and a selection of gluten-free options, too. The pastas on offer change regularly, with a handful of chef Phil Howard's signature dishes sitting on there permanently, like the strozzapretti with black truffles, butter and parmesan. There are some delightful little picky bits to get you going: coppa di parma, buratta dusted with a chilli and olive crumb, an antipasti box loaded with perfectly oily focaccia, olives and tapenades. Other than the sourcing, the thing that really make Otto's pasta kits stand out is the secret ingredient included with every pasta: a carton of pasta water. This pasta water – more concentrated the one that you'd get from using your own pasta water – brings together the pasta and the sauce in holy matrimony, emulsifying the sauce and making sure it coats every curl of pasta with flavour.
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This is pasta, so, well, it isn't hard. That said, even though you get a recipe card in each box, it's still worth watching the How To videos on the website so you use the visuals to wield that magic pasta water to its full effect (and it can be surprisingly to get wrong). As you'd expect, you definitely won't be disappointed – the sourcing (and saucing) shines through. We tried a flavour-packed wild garlic linguine and the deeply flavoured oxtail rigatoni, but the pastas change often so keep your eyes peeled. It's also probably worth ordering more than you'd think: we'd say at least three pastas plus snacks for two, or four pastas if you're feeling hungry. Worth cracking open a good bottle of wine for.