Christian Huhnt takes his first foray into the world of supper clubs
I don’t usually find myself in the east of London. It’s not because I don’t like it but simply because it’s just an awful journey to get there from where I live. Eventually, though, a “secret” was able to convince me to make this long journey. This “secret,” I was told, could only be revealed to me if I “attended” it. Of what, you may ask, am I am rambling on about? I am talking of something called: “The Secret Supper Club.”
Next, you’ll be asking: “What the heck is a ‘supper club’?” Well, in essence, a “supper club” is essentially a dinner in the company of a bunch of total randoms. It is a bit like blind dating, although you get to speak to many more people than just the one opposite you. As I had heard and read so much about supper clubs, I became very curious about attending one. Normally these gatherings happen in someone’s own home without any professional help, but the one to which I was invited was quite something else.
This particular supper club is on another level. It is run by Lime&Tonic, an international firm of event planners and costs just £35 per head. Lime&Tonic made their philosophy to: “Save the world from boredom” according to its co-founder Stefan Cordiner and in the London supper club they operate I certainly found plenty that fascinated.
The major idea of Lime&Tonic’s take on the supper club is to make new contacts. In this case it was as far reaching as it could get. We were 14 in total. None of us knew each other beforehand, but almost everyone came as a couple or with a friend. What, I realised, made it particularly special was how wide an array of people came: Where else would a pharmaceutical product developer from Birmingham have dinner with an F-15 pilot from the US?
The “un-restaurant,” as it is also referred to by Lime&Tonic, happens every month at a “secret venue,” but never a private residence. The location is revealed to the attendees one day before the event. It’s usually held in a venue with a “unique feel” but wherever it may be, the focus is on somewhere with “authentic charm.”
Suspense and surprise is the order of the day here as the “secret menu” is not revealed until guests sit down at the table either. On arrival we were told that our chef for the night was Paul Hannagen, a good-humoured young Irish professional who established his own catering operation, Cuisson, in August 2011. His passion for his craft was infectious.
The one element of “surprise” that I found hard to deal with was the “bring your own” wine policy. Without knowing what would be served, how could I know what alcohol my wine buff companion ought to choose?
The food itself, though, was delightful. We started with some small ‘lollipops’ stuffed with chicken liver and chunks of apple as an amuse-bouche. This was followed by a ham that had been cooked for 36 hours and served in a “British farmer’s style” with mini-cauliflower, sliced carrots, a rocket salad and a truly wonderful chutney. For a main we were served salmon, cooked “hot and cold” on one side only at 44.5°C in basil oil served with marinated prawns, mashed potatoes and broccoli. It was a great dish but perhaps a little more salt could have made it perfect. The final course, equally, was a delight: chocolate fudge with Baileys ice cream and salted caramel. I was in heaven.
In general, Hannagen’s approach to slow cooking and his use of local produce reminded me very much of that of Jason Atherton at Pollen Street Social. I was therefore not surprised when he later told me that Atherton was his mentor. He did a great job and my companion and I agreed that he deserves huge success.
The meal over, we ended up downing Patrón XO Cafe shots together while happily exchanging numbers. Though I may have been sceptical in the beginning, this concept is brilliant. I am very much looking forward to attend the next Secret Supper Club soon.
For more details about Lime&Tonic and their supper clubs, go to: http://www.limeandtonic.com/london/en/
For more details about Paul Cuisson, go to: http://www.cuisson.co.uk