The Subscription Economy
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How did the Collinson brothers, Patrick and John, get to be the richest people in Ireland?
Like, how did two dudes from Limerick get to be so astoundingly wealthy that they buy Irish country estates in pairs?
The answer lies in this question: How do you buy your coffee?
If it’s the same way you buy your Netflix, and your peanut butter, your news and your tea brack and farmhouse cheeses, and maybe even how you access a car to get around the place, then you are a Subscriber.
The Collinson brothers process your subscriptions, via their company, Stripe, along with those of scores of millions of others. And they make gazillions from doing so.
Subscription is the architecture of the new economy, and we are all subscribers now. The infrastructure of delivery and payment – the facilitation of what you buy – has changed beyond recognition. What used to be difficult and expensive is now relatively simple and affordable.
What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that Sally and John can sit down on a Friday or Saturday evening at their gaff – up a hill in remotest West Cork – and eat top quality restaurant food, prepared by one of the great restaurant duos, at our own table.
At our own table! How bad. Who made that happen?
Hara - A tumultitude of tastes
When Roz and Andy Turner had to shutter their Hillsborough restaurant, Hara, in early 2022, there was something akin to bereavement amongst the dining classes in Northern Ireland.
Hara was not just an admired restaurant, it was a beloved restaurant. We used the adjective “irresistible” not once, but twice, in our attempt to describe the impact Roz and Andy could create with their food. Here was a kitchen that could deliver a tumultitude of tastes with every course.
Come the pandemic, they kept operating by creating Hara at Home kits, which customers would collect from the restaurant. But when the building was sold, it was time for Roz and Andy to find something new. Hara at Home became the new focus.
It works like this. Each month, Roz and Andy create a new three course menu, which is prepared and parcelled up in a neat box, wrapped up in CoolWool, with the Hara hare logo on the top, and posted off to customers for delivery on Friday, even those of us who live at the opposite end of the country.
The box contains all the elements needed to heat and plate a three-course dinner for two people, along with their signature wheaten bread and Abernethy butter to start, and some County Down butter fudge for those sweet dreams.
It goes like this: heat the oven and warm the wheaten bread.
Heat the rich velouté of buttermilk and potato soup and pour it over the discs of cooked potato and pieces of hay-smoked salmon, then dot with the herb oil. Bon appetit!
The oven, meantime, is busy warming your Peter Hannan’s chateaubriand, and your beef fat chips. You warm the red wine sauce, and toss the watercress leaves and shallot salad. When the beef is ready, you slice it, then anoint it with slices of the peppercorn butter and warm for a few minutes, then plate up: beef, sauce, salad, chips. Serve.
I made this?!!
’Course you did. And you haven’t finished.
Next, you pour the chocolate sauce onto a pair of plates, then place a chocolate tart on each. Scoop some sour cream mousse on top, then scatter with the chocolate crumble.
Heaven is a place on earth, right?
Serving the Hara at Home three courses requires timing, but no special skills. The arrangement of the ingredients and their perfect preparation, and the logical instruction card, brings to mind the planning and move-plotting of chess Grandmasters: Roz and Andy are the Magnus Carlsen of home delivery food kits.
The chateaubriand dinner for 2 costs £90, which includes delivery by DPD. The dishes have a three day shelf-life, so whether it’s a slap-up Friday feast or a quieter Sunday special is up to you. The quality and value are remarkable, and we think the ham hock, Irish lamb, and rhubarb meringue tart will be our next date night dinner.
The Brack Club by Graham Herterich
You won’t need to think too hard about this to recall an ageless truth: how many of the happy memories of your childhood were related to being proximate to cake?
Birthdays, of course, but think of those other slices, those other moments when a confection of eggs, flour, sugar and butter made your world stand still. Coffee cake – you weren’t allowed coffee itself, even though it was Maxwell House – with the sweet scent of Irel coffee essence in the icing. You and your siblings licking the bowl of angel cake batter with your fingers after the mix had been put into the baking tray. A slice of gur cake after school. Happy out.
Now: imagine Happiness by Subscription. It’s called Brack Club, from Graham Herterich.
It goes like this: you sign up for 3 or six months, and a brack is posted to your address around the 10th of each month. Genius bit: you won’t know which of Graham’s signature bracks it will be until you have unwrapped it.
The excitement of unwrapping a new brack! The first one we received was China rose tea and prosecco, with dried strawberry, rose petals, vanilla, pink peppercorns and white chocolate.
See? Happiness by Subscription.
The Wine Explorers Club, by Wines Direct
It’s all very well people explaining to you that to understand wine you only need to read several books and do a few wine courses. For most people, that is too much to accomplish, so wine remains a mystery, an intriguing liquid that looks friendly in your glass, but which always speaks a foreign language.
One way to crack the mysteries of wine without subjugating yourself to nerdsville is to utilise a wine subscription where you receive new wines each month from a wine merchant, with descriptions and details of the wines themselves. That way, in the privacy of home, you can tease out what you like, learn a little bottle by bottle, and find your feet in the vinous world.
This is where the Keogh brothers of Mullingar come in. Gavin and Gareth’s company, Wines Direct, will send you different wines each month, from a trio to a half a dozen mixed wines, with notes on producers, grape styles, geography and much more. Gavin and Gareth choose the wines they will post each month, and Wines Direct is an artisan company with 25 years of experience sourcing from the wine world, so there are lots to discover.
It’s like the best tutorial you ever had.
Coffee Angel - three month Subscription
We really enjoyed the different coffee delivered over three months by Dublin’s vital Coffee Angel. What we liked almost as much as the beautifully roasted beans was the little note, signed by a member of the team, that came along with the bag of beans and wished us happy coffee times. Very sweet, and very Coffee Angel.
Nutshed - Path to Paradise
Evie and Eliza call it “The Path to Paradise”, but to really get on the Fast Track to Paradise you need a subscription to deliver the girls’ outstanding Nutshed peanut butters and peanut buttery delights straight to your door. It’s what toast is for.
Many of our monthly subs are dullsville itself – pensions; insurance. So a monthly subscription to Beer – Beer! – is Nirvana, Homer Simpson Nirvana, Insert-Name-Here Nirvana.
“What do you buy for the person who has everything? The answer is a Craft Beer Subscription.” BeerCloud sagely inform us. That’s the secret of life, right?
Sheridan’s Cheese Club Masterclass
Having a monthly farmhouse cheese masterclass with Kevin Sheridan is to cheeselovers what an audience with the Pope is to Catholics: you are talking to the Main Man. Kevin selects the cheeses, writes the tasting notes, and then gets them in a box straight to your door, in perfect condition. You have already organised the wines and beers to accompany the cheeses, of course, so happy days are here.
Marvellous as ever. I find that subscription shift both exciting and unnerving - all those comparatively small outgoings chiselling away at the bank account, and yet...
Signing up to all of these right now, thank you , fab article John and Sally!