I firmly ascribe to the belief that life boils down to one thing; anecdote shopping. Beyond being kind, personal hygiene and paying taxes we all have a duty to find interesting things and share them. It’s up to us to take a chance, try something new to see if we like it.
In the best case scenario, you discover something extraordinary you didn’t know about before. In the worst, you’ve got a new story to tell.
This is one of the good stories.
Supper Clubs aren’t anything new in London. There are so many of them now that you may find Ms Marmite Lover’s Supper Club portal useful to locate one in your area to suit your mood.
Essentially, a supper club is an underground restaurant. It’s in someone’s home. They’re often themed. They’re where extraordinary cooks get to show off a bit. You can bring your own booze. They’re usually cheaper than a restaurant meal. And they’re quite often frequented by interesting other people who you’ll be sat with (which is where previous anecdote shopping experience come in handy).
James Ramsden is a cracking writer and a great cook. I’ve had his ‘Small Adventures in Cooking‘ on my shelf for the last year. I’ve also had ‘go to his Secret Larder’ on the to do list since we first arrived in London. The Secret Larder is the supper club that he and his sister host every second Thursday night and occasional Sunday in their flat in north London.
Last week we finally made it there.
This Turkish themed Secret Larder also came with a free gift with purchase (and not just the opportunity to pump James for places to eat in Istanbul). The night was co hosted by the equally talented writer Oliver Thring. The dinner was also serving as a soft launch for their new joint venture; Kebab Kitchen. It seems James and Oliver are now using their considerable talents to give the dodgy doner a makeover.
|James carving the lamb|
The night all kicks off with drinks between 7.30 pm and 8 pm, with a complimentary cocktail or beer, while your wine is whisked away to a fridge to chill. There’s a chance to chat with other guests. ‘Do you come here often?’ is, generally the first line of questioning.
From there, we’re sat at loosely assigned ables to share mezze, family style. Hummous, cacik, baba ghanoush, and chopped fattoush style salad are passed around. The revelation was the sweet and lightly dressed anchovies. They’re sweet and soft, with a whisper of pickle to them. They giggle in the face of anyone who associated anchovies with the furry lumps which haunted the pizzas of their childhood.
Main course are lamb kebabs, with warm pitas passed around with soft slices of pink lamb that’s been cooked on a rotisserie in the oven in the corner of the impressively kitted domestic kitchen.
What takes it to another level are the blistered chillis they’re adding as a side. Long and puckered from heat they stomp around in a tantrum of spice. They’re fantastic.
Dessert was artfully simple bowls of sliced blood orange, toasted almonds, dates and a drizzle of creme fraiche. It’s elegantly simple and light, a riot of colour in a white bowl.
The evening closes with mint tea, coffee and a diamond of restrained, beautiful baklava. This is not the honey sodden mess that leaves sticky traces on your fingertips to collect grime for hours afterwards. This baklava still has bite and crunch and lets the nuts and pastry lead. I’m crossing digits it’s going to be available at Kebab Kitchen too (we live in hope).
This is not a restaurant. You have to plan ahead to book by email. You keep your cutlery between courses. You’re pouring your own wine and drinking out of tumblers. You’ve got plenty of paper towel for napkins. The evening ends in a casual way. There’s no bill, so to speak. You leave your £30 in cash in a box by the front door along with a nice note in the welcome book. What also separates a supper club like this from a night out at a restaurant is the jovial spirit that hugs the room. Conversations spill from one end of the table to the other as people meet, share anecdotes and collect new ones. At the close of the eve business cards and twitter handles are exchanged. There are promises to meet for drinks among new friends. There’s some gentle flirting going on. If I was single, I’d possibly be going to one of these once a month. It sure beats meeting people at a bar.
There’s a good chance the next time we have guests visiting us in London, instead of taking them to a restaurant, we’ll be taking them to one of these sorts of nights.
In the general scheme of good times and anecdote shopping; it’s official. I’m chalking The Secret Larder up as a roaring, roaring success.
For more information about The Secret Larder
Supper Club Etiquette
For information on etiquette when attending a Supper Club go to Kerstin Rodgers (aka Ms Marmite Lover’s) page here
Find a Supper Club near you in the world
To find a Supper Club near you in the world, go to Ms Marmite Lover’s dossier here
Any hints and tips about other fantastic supper clubs across the world gratefully received.