Last week I was in London and had an opportunity to try a new range of hot dishes from Costa Fresco. You'll know Costa coffee shops from all over the UK, and if you need an introduction to Costa Fresco, it's their lovely and bright concept store in the city's Tottenham Court Road where you can find handcrafted ciabattas and pastries and fresh soups and salads in addition to their barista-made coffee. To expand their menu of high quality food to satisfy the hungry and time-crunched yet discerning lunch crowd, Costa Fresco has launched a new range of yummy hot dishes from luxury brand Charlie Bigham's and handmade desserts from Cartmel. I tasted all of them and knew I would be suffering from cravings when I got home up north. (And I did. I am.)
The three new savoury dishes are Lasagne, Fish Pie and Macaroni Cheese, all made in Charlie Bigham's kitchens in north London, then baked instore at Costa Fresco and served hot to eat in or take away. My favourite was the Lasagne, done the proper Italian way with slow-cooked beef and pork ragu with red wine and orgegano, layered with fresh egg pasta and topped with bechamel. I LOVE lasagne and this is exactly as I try to make it myself, but I have to say it's even better than my own. It has rich flavours, is not short of gooey cheese, and has just the right amount of bechamel. Perfection. The Macaroni Cheese came a close second, and is such an indulgence. With its creamy, flavourful blend of stringy mozzarella and sharp cheddar topped with crispy pancetta and ciabetta croutons, it is so tasty and will surely spoil you for all other versions. The traditional British favourite, Fish Pie, is the most popular of the new range so far and I can see why. It's the nicest fish pie I've had, with big, chunky pieces of cod, haddock and salmon in parsley sauce with creamy mash and a crunchy cheddar and breadcrumb topping. All are generously portioned - you will be full! - and are priced at £6.50. I tried hard to restrain myself with these meals when all I wanted to do was devour them, but I had to save room for the puddings.
The desserts arrived. Oh my. Sweet Sticky Toffee Pudding and Rich Sticky Chocolate Pudding, all nice and warm and served with cream. Cartmel has been hand making puddings in the kitchen of their Village Shop in the Lake District for 20 years using 100% natural ingredients. I just stared at these dark and tempting little dishes for a moment, then dug in for a few heavenly bites of each. Again, I wanted to go nuts and throw all caution to the wind, but my friend was making me dinner in a couple of hours so I left them both half-eaten and I really don't know how I managed that. My first favourite was the Sticky Toffee, then I went back to the Chocolate and this confused me. Let's just say both are just gorgeous and will more than satisfy a craving for a sweet finish. Each are priced at £2.45.
In case my impression of Costa Fresco's new range is somehow ambiguous, I should let you know that I did leave with all of my leftovers in hand. Without prompting. Yes, they were that good.
The new range of hot lunch dishes and desserts is available at Costa Fresco, 190 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7LH.