Although the Covid-19 lockdown is still in place, there is no shortage in the variety of food available for order for Basingstoke residents. UberEATS, Deliveroo, and Just Eats are seen to constantly frequent our neighbourhoods in place of the weekly takeaway.

In times of isolated uncertainty, we feel a sense of familiarity and happiness when ordering our favourite burgers and sugary treats.

Whilst this month saw the opening of the popular Leisure Park McDonalds, KFC, and Nando’s, there was also a definite influx in orders from local eateries.

I was then interested to (digitally) explore the most popular independent food businesses and try them for myself – to see if the food lived up to its raving reviews.

Although I am not a professional food critic by any means, I am a self-proclaimed food lover – isn’t that the same thing?

I got the chance to speak to business owners Will Nimako and Amelia Ng, about the difficulties, as well as the highlights, of running a food service during a pandemic.

When it comes to hearty burgers, curries, and mixed combos, look no further than Will’s Meals.

The fusion of Jamaican, Asian, and Ghanaian inspired food brings all the spice of international cuisine, but at heart, it is comfort food.

I got to try the ‘Monkee Combo’, by Will’s recommendation, which has a mixture of items from the menu all in one box! The plantain, crunchy coleslaw, mac & cheese, and more made me an instant fan.

It’s clear that the authentic flavours and variety of dishes certainly make them (@wills_meals on Instagram) a cult favourite of families in Basingstoke.

I got to ask Will about the experience of making and delivering heart-warming food throughout the last few months.

Regarding the difficulties of running a business in a pandemic, he said: “It’s been a roller-coaster of a journey! As a small business, it wasn’t something we were ever prepared for. However, our business has grown so much in this time – we’ve really learned a lot through adapting our ways of work to ensure we can safely see as many of our lovely customers as possible!”

The strength of a local business is only as strong as its community. For Will, having a loyal community that supports (and raves about) his work has been significant as a young business owner.

He told me: “We want to keep our community as the centre of the business, and the key way to do this is by helping others and giving back. We are always willing to give advice to any new business. As a young business owner, I want to share my experience and support any other aspiring chefs and businesspeople!”

If you are ordering from Will’s Meals for the first time, he recommends his personal favourite, the chicken, halloumi, and plantain burger, or the ‘Monkee Combo’, for its flavoursome appeal.

On the sweeter side, treats and desserts are sorted when you order from Baked by Amelia (@bakedbyamelia on Instagram), a family-run business based near the town centre.

The eponymous company is run by Amelia Ng, a professional pastry chef for more than five years. I got a chance to talk to Amelia about how her range of cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and afternoon tea boxes are the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ for everyone right now.

She told me: “I feel like cake and a cuppa is kind of a ritual for people to keep calm and grounded. It is a moment for yourself, which is very important in times like these! By changing our ways of delivery to follow social distancing standards mean we can keep delivering to people”.

I picked up a box with a variety selection of cupcakes, cookies, and scones – it was completely finished by the afternoon.

The different cupcake flavours (S’mores, Kinder, Oreo, to name a few) were so decadent. It’s obvious that there is a level of professionality in the treats, combined with the homemade factor we all love.

Amelia noted: “I think that is what’s unique behind our business! I have training from working in Michelin kitchens at 5* hotels, so I want to deliver the best quality products I can! Above all, I think it’s very important to support local businesses because you’re supporting people in your own community. I think you’d be surprised with what you can find in your own town when you look!”

What was unsurprising was that all the food I got to taste this week was nothing less than delicious.

It felt all the more special after actually meeting the individuals behind the business. I think that when a consumer can put a face to a business, it makes the purchase personal and positive.

These are the chefs, cooks, bakers, and business-owners of Basingstoke – it was so inspiring to see their work.

As a community, there’s no debate that we love to eat and try food from all cultures and cuisines.

So, I urge you to perform a small Google search, talk to neighbours, friends, maybe conduct Facebook research, to try to discover the same flavours you love, in our own hometown.

There are even more businesses in Basingstoke, just like Will’s Meals and Baked by Amelia, that rely on community support and word-of-mouth, just waiting for your first order!