Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Supper Club.

Last week, I attended my very first Supper Club. As with everything we think is new and trendy in London, the idea has actually been around for years. Supper Clubs began here in the 1930's and 40's, influenced by the ambient cabaret of underground American Jaxx Clubs. People could enjoy a wonderful meal whilst enjoying live music. Back then, whilst most Supper Clubs were purely informal dining societies for music lovers, others created more niche groups for poets, book lovers, or with dancing to complement the atmosphere. So, things really haven't changed that much... only now, of course, we take a great idea and try to make it even better. With Supper Clubs enjoying such massive revival over the last few years and with people seeking more interesting and diverse ways of enjoying food, they have never been more popular. There are Supper Clubs for meat lovers, for vegans, or those with gluten free diets; there are clubs offering Spanish, French or Italian cuisines; there are clubs that show movies; clubs that incorporate life drawing classes and even clubs for yoga enthusiasts (yes really). There are supper clubs for ever taste and hobby but, of course, the one thing they all have in common, is a love of food.

There are other significant differences to the Supper Clubs of past and present, however. It is not just the food and interests that have changed, it's also the location and how we hear about them. Instead of using public spaces, Supper Clubs may now be in small underground private rooms, or a person's house or flat, making the evening far more intimate. They may have roving premises which are only revealed to the guests once they are invited or have purchased a ticket a few days in advance and, in doing so, can add the ever alluring word “pop-up” to their name. Oooh. Also, they usually only reveal themselves by word of mouth or on social media, so they still feel private and exclusive. But don't be fooled... these are not just glorified dinner parties, these evenings are run very professionally. Wether the cook is amateur or professional, the guests are paying to be there (or rather, being asked for a donation, for legal reasons I'm sure!), and so they are expected to display their culinary talents to the best of their ability. If you get flustered cooking for a table of six, then this is not for you. There are usually between 10 and 30 people eating from a set menu, guests bring their own booze and have a lovely time fraternising with their friends and the other guests. What's amazing is that Supper Clubs have flourished so fast in the last couple of years and become so incredibly popular in London, that the most successful ones are being reviewed in leading newspapers (and also being investigated by the Tax man, I'm sure!). Simply put, Supper Clubs are brilliant... for foodies of any kind, they are a fabulous new way to spend time with your friends, meet new people and eat stunning food at the same time.


So my first experience of a Supper Club was receiving a text from a friend, asking if I had seen the invite on Facebook (you see, social media is never that straightforward... you often have to send a text or an email to make sure the person has read the original message!). I duly accepted the invite to attend an evening called The Roots, at Marlons Kitchen, run by friends of a friend of my friend. Phew. The dynamic duo behind this enterprise consisted of Marlon and Swietlana. Marlon is an amazing chef from Colombia, and Swietlana, the wonderful owner and front of house manager from Poland. The night was to celebrate the Supper Clubs first anniversary and was to be hosted in their West London flat, with a Columbian inspired menu.


The menu was sent to us a week or so before the dinner, and here's what it looked like:


Snacks

Selection of Root Vegetable Chips with Zesty Whey Cream and Tamarind Chutney

Pre-appetizer

Colombian White Cheese and Yam Cappuccino

Starter 1

Corn Fed Chicken Tamale with Tomato, Spring Onion and Coriander Sauce (Hogao)

Starter 2

Coconut, Crab & Red Snapper Casserole with Green Plantain Fritters

Main

Glazed Sous Vide Hump of Colombian Zebu with Scallion Jus, Celeriac two ways and Spiced Semi-dried Tomatoes

Dessert

Milk Skin Pudding with Passion Fruit Gel, Blackberry Coulis and Coffee Cookie Sand

Petit Fours

Colombian Mini Popcorn Pralines & Cinnamon Shortbread

I read the menu while I was at work, making very appreciative “yum” noises, until I got to the 'Hump of Colombian Zebu'. Hmmm. My train of thought went, as follows:


Maybe it's a typo and should read Zebra.
Do they have Zebras in Colombia?
Don't be ridiculous, Zebras are only in Africa. (Might just google it anyway.)
Ok, there are no Zebras in central America, so it's not a typo. What the hell is a Zebu then? Ask your workmates.

"Um, does anyone know what a Colombian Zebu is?" 
Frowns and blank faces all round. Google it.



Ok... wow... so we're going to be eating some sort of camel-looking hump, but it's not on a camel, it's on a giant white bull. Interesting.
I wonder where he got the hump from? Hmm, best not think about that too much?
Do they even sell cow humps in England? Google it.
Noooo, they don't seem to sell that sort of thing around here.

Well, I will just have to ask the chef.

And that is precisely what I did the minute I was in the kitchen, meeting Marlon for the first time. I asked him about his hump. The hump, it turned out, had been brought in from Colombia a few weeks previously, in Marlons hand luggage. Since then, it had been hung to improve the flavour. Blimey. As someone pointed out, it wasn't the usual thing smuggled in from Colombia, so maybe the Customs officers just turned a blind eye. Haha. The hump, I must report, was absolutely divine... slow cooked in a water bath, then roasted. It tasted more like belly of pork than beef, to be honest, but an exquisite flavour nonetheless. 




For the next four hours we were in heaven, with tasty morsels appearing, one after the other, at our table. Some flavours I recognised but quite a few I didn't and that's what made it so special. When you eat out quite often and think you have tried many of the world's cuisines, it's so refreshing to be surprised with curious ingredients and things you've never tasted before. Marlon's cooking is stupendous and Swietlana, the most charming hostess ever. If I had known how late the night was going to be (the main course was only served at 10:30pm), I would definitely have taken the following day off, but apart from that, the whole evening was simply wonderful.

I was tempted not to put the name of the Supper Club on here because I was worried I wouldn't be able to get a spot at Marlon's next feast. Please don't all rush at once, and make room for a small one (that's me by the way!).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love your post, Jules! I've been meaning to go to a supper club in London for ages but I haven't had the chance yet. How much was it for all that food? Is it better value than a restaurant with similar food, do you think?

Jules said...

All that food for £35 x