For many of us, home has recently become an unexpected theatre for culinary discovery. As restaurants with Michelin-starred credentials increasingly deliver boxes of elaborate, seasonal fare, the happy realisation is that dining “out” at home can be a delightful experience in its own right. London food-delivery service Ayo is one such shining example – and it prides itself on being an intricate, luxury event. “That is the essence of what I do,” says owner Paul Murashe. “It’s not about just delivery – it’s about the all-encapsulating evening that comes with it”.
Ayo means “joy” in Yoruba, inspired by Murashe’s Nigerian heritage, and everything about the concept speaks to that intention. On the day I ordered, the deceptively simple, ready-to-cook organic menu of lasagnes, salad, aubergine Parmigiana and chocolate-chip dessert was created with the finest Herefordshire rump steak, hand-kneaded pasta and truffles.
Murashe himself arrived at my doorstep, a vision of Dover Street-influenced good taste, to deliver dishes wrapped in parchment paper, tied with brown string and encased in chic monochrome packaging. A handwritten note swung off the bag in velvety textured card with Murashe’s mobile number and email. Instructions for cooking had been sent to my mobile, along with a Spotify playlist dense with euphoric tracks by St Vincent and Mykki Blanco. The entire experience was indeed a joy.
“The way that I look at it is that you are opening a gift. Like it is your birthday, or it’s Christmas, or some form of celebration,” says Murashe of his attention to detail. Alongside the sense of festivity the delivery brings is a warmth usually reserved for meals cooked by loved ones – that marvellous feeling that someone is taking care of you.
Murashe grew up in Sheffield as the youngest of eight children and food was central to the family dynamic. “It was about how we came together, how we shared... It was family time,” he recalls. After moving to Australia, he was intrigued by an article profiling the Metropolitan hotel and the Japanese chef Nobu, and in the 1990s decided to return to the UK to work there. “It was the glory days of the Met Bar, the Brit Pack... It was going off,” he remembers. Murashe worked his way up to manager before taking on senior roles at five-star restaurants including Nobu Berkeley Street, Sexy Fish and Annabel’s in a career that spans 22 years.
Murashe coyly admits delivering Ayo to those same supermodels, artists and musicians he met in his Mayfair days, but sees serving local communities as the crucial element in the business’s future. “For me, it is about how those worlds should come together,” he says, before telling a story about returning to Sheffield with sashimi as a treat for his sister and how much she loved it. “Let’s give everybody that. Let’s not just keep it to ourselves.”