The new wave of supper clubs
THE WEEK THIS column went to print, my colleague was hunting for locally made cheese, portable hotplates and wine glasses – the necessary kit for the inaugural supper club she hosted in a designer shoe shop in Soho, London. A features writer by day, Eleanor Steafel and her two co-founders (who work in media and restaurants) serve up cocktails and three-course meals for 20-odd guests by night, popping up in a different neighbourhood each time. Over British ricotta with chilli and crispy breadcrumbs, and an incredible apricot polenta cake, invited female speakers steered the discussion for the evening, from upskirting to race and restaurateuring. Group conversation, as well as that cake, was key (hooddinners.co.uk).
Supper clubs, their dates once disseminated with hushed secrecy and often hosted at home, are no longer simply about superb food; inspiration and collaboration are often the goals. That’s certainly the case at The Amateur Table, launched by Lily Gjertsen (theamateurtable.co.uk). A Leiths graduate, she supports fellow culinary students – daunted by choosing between professional kitchens or catering – to host their own evenings. ‘They all finish their training with ridiculous talent,’ she says, ‘but some don’t have the confidence to do it themselves.’ So while paying guests enjoy cardamom ice cream with baked-custard baklava, say, the chefs learn menu planning, budgeting and marketing, many going on to run successful streetfood operations, supper clubs and restaurants themselves. ‘The food industry is so open that lots of people helped me when I started out,’ says Gjertsen. Supper clubs can inspire great things, and feed you well at the same time.
Top right Diners and speakers enjoying an evening courtesy of Hood.Right Some of the dishes served at The Amateur Table supper club