If someone you live with is having a birthday and you’d like to mark the big day with something a bit more special than just giving them the last two Weetabix, or if you want to find celebratory treats you can send to other households, read on.
We’ve got ideas for food, drinks, flowers and decorations for special occasions, as well as thoughts on how to keep online hangouts from descending into awkwardness.
Our delivery options are UK-based. Apologies to readers from elsewhere in the world but these are the services we’ve been able to try out ourselves.
If you want to cook a special meal, a delivery of fresh ingredients is the way to go. And buying from independent retailers is more important now than ever. Not only can you get something really amazing delivered but you can help support the kind of businesses we hope will still be around once we're all out and about again.
To find out what recipe boxes, freshly baked bread, fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat and alcohol you can get brought to your front door, head over to Dishpatch and have a look at its directory. Dishpatch has curated a list of the best small suppliers of high-quality produce of all kinds. Once you input your postcode, you’ll be able to see what’s available in your area.
If you feel as though cooking yourself won’t quite cut it, and the usual delivery options are getting a bit stale, why not order from Côte at Home? The restaurant is now delivering heat-and-eat bistro meals in London and the home counties. You can use the postcode search on its homepage to find out if you can order.
The main course menu includes Risotto Vert, Beef Bourguignon and Smoked Haddock & Salmon Fishcakes. You can also get side orders, desserts (including chocolate mousse and crumble) and your drinks for the evening, including beer, cider and a decent selection of red, white, rosé and sparkling wines.
But the real plus for lazy foodies is that Côte at Home also has a butcher, so they can deliver you steaks, duck confit, sausages and more to cook at home. Pair some steaks with a dessert and a bottle of wine and that’s a pretty good evening right there.
Meals are either to be microwaved or oven cooked at home, depending on what you choose. And at a price of £10-£14 for a main course for two, they’ll probably undercut your local takeaway.
If you’re catering for a vegetarian or vegan and want to give them something other than Afterthought Risotto, Young Vegans in Camden is now couriering its tasty and slightly over-the-top pies to hungry customers. As well as all the usual favourites, like a veganised steak and ale pie, they also have a chicken katsu, mac and cheese and cheeseburger pie.
Pies are £3.50 each, with a minimum order of six.
Drinks for a toast
Craft Beer Hour has a list of independent suppliers that will deliver craft beer and bar snacks, depending on what county you’re in. As you’d imagine, prices and options vary depending on where you live.
If there’s nothing near you, you can also join Beer 52 and choose small batch beers from around the world for delivery. At the moment, you can get a free case when you sign up to the ongoing service but be warned, we have heard that cancelling can be a bit of a mission.
We checked out cocktail deliveries as well but we have to say that, in almost every case, you’re going to have a better drink at a more reasonable price if you buy the bottles and mixers. Deciding on a cocktail and mixing it at home is a great way to get into a party mood.
To make the perfect cocktail, simply channel Stanley Tucci setting the internet on fire with his mini-tutorial on how to make a Negroni. The whole thing is even better once you find out that his technique is frowned up on by bartenders around the world. Just goes to show that you can be totally wrong and still completely right, merely by holding a cocktail in a suave manner.
To get spirits delivered for your cocktails, give the East London Liquor company a try. They deliver beautifully bottled, independently produced spirits, at reasonable prices. Or, head over to Dishpatch and see if any other suppliers catch your eye.
However, if you're putting something together last-minute, and if it’s available in your area, you could do worse than have a few cocktails delivered from Cocktails at Home by Bacardi, via Deliveroo.
To browse a really fantastic selection of party decorations for every occasion, head over to Ginger Ray. The company is still delivering as normal and it even has a dedicated section on hosting virtual parties. We really love this foil balloon bunting, for £7.99. As the balloons thread onto a string and can be hung from a wall, you don’t need helium to make an impressive display.
It's not a party without cake
Obviously, we’ve all been working on our baking skills, so if your local shop has the right supplies, there’s nothing better than a homemade cake.
If not, all of the supermarkets have pretty decent cake options. For a fun, nostalgic option, what's more beloved than Marks and Spencer’s Colin the Caterpillar? If M&S isn't within reach, other supermarkets have created rival caterpillars, including Tesco’s Curly, Morrisons’ Morris and Waitrose’s posho Cecil.
If you live in Birmingham, Slough, or London, you can also get a cake, cupcake or brownie delivery from Lola’s Cupcakes.
Although many brick and mortar florists are closed, there are still options from specialist suppliers.
Bloom & Wild deliver via Royal Mail. As the name suggests, their letterbox flowers do indeed fit through the letterbox. The bouquets are beautiful and feel a lot less ‘floristy’ than your traditional Interflora delivery. If you want to send a green gift that’ll last a bit longer, they also deliver plants.
If you’d like to give someone a regular delivery of flowers, Freddie’s Flowers delivers all over mainland UK. You can choose how often you receive bouquets and there’s a fresh arrangement each week. The flowers are chosen week by week from the best blooms available. Flowers cost £25 a box for regular delivery, or £28 for a one-off gift. They are beautifully packaged, come with an information card, arrangement advice and flower care instructions. They last much longer than rival flowers as well. Take care of them and they’ll be around for a couple of weeks.
Once you’ve got your party bits sorted, you’ll want to think about inviting other people to join you – remotely, that is. But be aware: now that the novelty of the Zoom/Hangouts experience has worn off, it's a lot less entertaining to sit in front of your laptop and engage in awkward chit-chat.
So, if you’re going to host a hangout, plan an event for everyone to take part in. The obvious go-to is a quiz. The app Kahoot allows you to write and share your own quizzes. It’s free and available for both Apple and Android. Your players just have to enter a PIN to join.
App-based games that people can log into and play on their phones can help to get around variable internet connections and stop everyone shouting at the screen at once. There are lots of options but our tip is to go to Jackbox Games and buy a party pack, which will give you five games for $24.99. You can also buy standalone games for $4.99.
It’s easy to set up and play. Share the game screen on your conference call and ask your guests to go to Jackbox.tv on their phones and enter your private room code. You can also play using a console, Discord or Steam.
If you are going to be using Zoom to host, read our article on how to use the platform like a pro.
For a more low-key get-together, you can arrange a movie night. Netflix Party allows you and your friends to watch a film together and chat. For this to work, everyone invited needs a Netflix account or access to one. If you don't know how to set it up, read our step-by-step Netflix Party setup guide.