Dining Out at Home – London Supper Clubs

Make way for the main course - lamb cutlets with lamb neck ragu on a bed of polenta. Photo: Courtesy of Matt and Steve @Pistachio and Pickle Supper Club

‘Dinners are given mostly in the middle classes by way of revenge.’ – William Thackeray.

Perhaps Thackeray had a point in 19th Century London, but Supper Clubs in London are now enjoying quite a tasty revolution.

The name Supper Club sounds rather archaic, but they are recent developments (also sometimes referred to as pop-up restaurants). What it basically amounts to is going round someone’s house for a dinner – except none of the people there are your mates.

Supper People

The people who run Supper Clubs will host and cook dinner for a group of people at their own house. Most people don’t know each other, so it’s a chance to eat and socialise at the same time.

Of course, the formula varies from Supper Club to Supper Club. Some are run by people who have other day jobs, but are foodies with a passion for cooking. Others are run by people who work in the food industry in some capacity. The numbers, locations and prices vary and of course the people who go vary – although the latter do tend to be appreciative eaters, if not full-on foodies.

Yours truly, ever the selfless culinary correspondent, went to get a taste of what a Supper Club offers.

Pistachio and Pickle Menu

Pistachio and Pickle, a Supper Club in east London, was started up by Matt and Steve, an events manager and an architect respectively. At their Italian night, Matt, Steve and their dog, Cooper, welcomed their guests with a kir royals and treated them to six sumptuous courses.

They tickled our palates with arancini (rice balls), warming tortellini in broth and pollock on a cannellini bean soffritto with fennel jus. We were already starting to feel quite full and had to pace ourselves when the main course arrived.

It was lamb cutlets with lamb neck ragu on a bed of polenta. The meat was cooked to perfection and even as as a former resident of Italy, I have to say polenta has never tasted so good.

The desserts (pudding and cheese) were equally rich. The Christmassy panettone bread and butter pudding was spiced up with an amaretto sauce and by god, there was a lot of cheese and dessert wine. The cheeses came with pickled walnuts, honey and pickled plums and were laid out in enormous slabs before us so that we could cut off slices and indulge ourselves. And we did. Even after all those courses, I had to have a bit more of the dirty gorgonzola.

Supper Clubs are not just about the food - they're also a fun way to meet fellow foodies and socialise in a warm and communal environment. Photo: Courtesy of Matt and Steve @Pistachio & Pickle Clubfrom

Added Extras

In between our ooh-ing and ah-ing and stuffing our faces until we had to roll home, we managed to fit in some chat and enjoy each other’s company as well as the food. The communal eating element was less awkward than I’d anticipated.

The set menu and informality of the evening avoids some of the more sterile elements of eating out in London. Another advantage is that each course is introduced by the chef, which means you know exactly how everything was cooked and what went into it – a personal touch.

Matt certainly feels that Supper Clubs offer something that many restaurants don’t, ‘I guess it’s something different; you get to go to someone’s home, meet new people, hopefully have some great food in a sufficiently unthreatening environment.  By that I think I mean that dining in London can be daunting – long wine lists, increasingly specialised food, unusual flavours and formats, scary sommeliers, even scarier prices and I think people like the slightly home-spun quality of a Supper Club.’

Even if you don’t think the idea of dining with strangers is unthreatening, at least you know if you’re stuck for conversation, the food is always a good talking point.

Supper Clubs charge anywhere between £20 and £120, though most tend to fall around the £30-£40 mark. Perhaps not ideal for an impoverished student, but still good value for money. The same standard of cooking would cost much more, particularly in a Central London restaurant.

So, if you do fancy an indulgent night, seek out a Supper Club that takes your fancy. There are dinners that offer everything from a Scandinavian or Vietnamese nights to spaghetti dinners and Burns Night celebrations: homesick internationals can get a taste of home and everyone has an opportunity to taste something new or meet someone new.

Find a Supper Club at http://supperclubfangroup.ning.com

More information can be found about Pistachio and Pickle at http://www.pistachioandpickle.com