With one day left alone in London and hungry for an unexpected adventure, John Martin decides to show up for dinner at a stranger’s house.
Mr. Martin, 36, a writer from North Carolina, had just finished a trip to Europe and said goodbye to a friend. Tired of restaurant hopping, he was browsing his DesignMyNight event site when he discovered his twice-a-month event, Fengzhen Supper Club, which promises a feast of Chinese and Southeast Asian home-cooked food. I found.
Before he knew it, he was on a southbound train, knocking on the door of a terraced house at the last stop, and eating a 10-course meal prepared by Jay Chan with 11 strangers. The host, a hairstylist by trade, was leaning into another passion that night. It’s about taking strangers on a luxurious culinary experience.
The experience, which Mr Martin paid around £65 (about $80) upfront, was “absolutely worth it” and was a chance to meet “the real everyday people who live there and make the place what it is”. He said he felt more connected. . “You can get things at a supper club that you can’t get at a restaurant.”
Before the pandemic, London’s supper clubs were a popular alternative to the restaurant scene, offering a more family-friendly option for a night out. The event, usually held in the homes of amateur chefs, enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 2000s, but was forced to cancel due to lockdown.
Now, communal dining is making a comeback and the trend of new and old chefs preparing meals has evolved. With a little creativity, you can have Indian street food at a chef’s house, Malaysian food at a local community center, or Sri Lankan food at a neighborhood cafe.
Finding and attending an event requires some research. Shared through word of mouth and social media, many of the local supper clubs are passion projects of self-taught chefs looking to test their skills at the food they love. Companies looking to attract a wider range of customers list their clubs on sites like Eventbrite and DesignMyNight, or offer reservations on food experience sites like Eatwith and WeFiFo. Some clubs go viral with the help of TikTokers and food influencers. Visitors looking for a specific theme will also find supper clubs geared toward singles looking for dates, comedy lovers, and listeners of Motown His music.
Ticket prices for the event also vary from £30 up to £150, which is comparable to prices at fine dining restaurants.
Aficionados say the difference between supper clubs and pop-up clubs involves clear metrics. That means the venue is an intimate space, not a restaurant, even if it’s not someone’s home. Customers tend to pay for their meals before they arrive, observers say, making the experience less transactional. Menus are fixed (although dietary requests may be taken into account) and tend to include a unifying story or theme, often depicting the chef’s background. We also strongly encourage social interaction when dining, whether alone or in a group.
To accomplish this, some supper club hosts use icebreakers like name tags and pre-dinner quizzes. Some hope that a shared table or a quirky setting that sparks conversation will work.
Eating on the subway
On a recent Saturday night in East London, I sat with eight strangers in a repurposed 1970s tube carriage as part of the Tube Train supper club, which meets three times a week. We squeezed into our seats and waited for our first course to arrive, introducing ourselves and cracking traffic-related jokes. By the time the third course, a Peruvian-Japanese dish of hake, arrived, there were two Swedish tourists on my right and a group from Kent on my left, all excited about Brexit, NATO and the city. covered the noisiest railway lines. By the end of the last course (amaretto-soaked sponge cake), someone at the table ordered a Negronis, and the conversation turned to stories of sibling squabbles and bad dates.
Karin Klagenskjold, a Stockholm-based psychologist who brought her sister after discovering the dinner on social media, said: “You meet all kinds of people that you wouldn’t meet anywhere else, and you just spend hours there. We can sit and talk about this and that.” . “I really, really liked it.” She paid £67 for dinner that night, but her drinks were charged separately.
Supper clubs became popular in the British capital during a time when London’s gourmet scene was booming. Its popularity was fueled by its reputation among food bloggers and critics as a more authentic alternative to the flashy restaurant scene.
“There’s something very intimate, anarchic, and unusual about going to the home of someone you’ve never met before,” says the author of Supper Club, a cookbook and how-to book. says Kirstin Rogers, who was an early adopter of the trend. In 2009 he started hosting grassroots events at his home. “It’s an extreme sport.” (In July, she hosted a “Barbie and Ken” themed food club.) Supper clubs have “fundamentally changed” the way Londoners eat out, she said. Told.
For chefs who felt closed off from traditional paths into the food industry, this event provided a path to success in the industry. “It gave me the confidence to get a job and start my own business,” Rogers said.
Among the high-profile success stories is British restaurateur Asma Khan. His path from supper club chef to Soho restaurant owner was featured on a season of the Emmy Award-winning Netflix show “Chef’s Table.”
Inspired by lockdown
Before lockdown, Akshi Shah Farrelly, 28, never thought of herself as a chef. When she started cooking to curb her craving for her favorite Indian food, “it turned out she could actually eat it,” she said with a laugh. “I decided to keep working on it.”
An English teacher by trade, this year she started hosting a monthly Jamambar Supper Club (meaning “feast” in Gujarati) at her home and posting tickets on Eventbrite.
One seat this year had 10 guests who paid around £35 gathered family-style around the Farrelly family’s dining table. They were deep in conversation when Mr. Farrelly emerged from the kitchen to introduce his next dish. It was a pav bhaji skewer that was part of a six-course menu that she spent weeks preparing.
Her husband, in an apron, busily moved around the table, serving the food. Her teenage nephew politely refilled everyone’s glasses. Although they had never met Ms. Farrelly, some guests drove nearly an hour to attend the dinner at her home. After dessert was served, she poured drinks and joined in on the festivities.
However, even professionally trained chefs have found success with this format. After training as a cook in Argentina and working in a restaurant in London, Beatriz Maldonado Carreño, 46, was looking for a venue for her growing supper club. She and her colleagues decide to lease a decommissioned Victoria Line train parked at a museum in East London.
“It doesn’t get much more London than this,” Maldonado Carreño said, adding that the Latin-inspired menu reflects the city’s growing Latino population.
Chefs who want to start hosting supper clubs say they are driven more by a desire to feed people and make connections than by financial gain.
“What people look for in a supper club is a certain level of authenticity,” said Alice Whittington, 41, who runs a Malaysian-themed club called Eastern Platters. For dinners held at neighborhood bars or community centers, Whittington creates shareable courses meant to be spread around and curate playlists of Southeast Asian music.
She was surprised but delighted when a group of New Yorkers gathered for a meal last November. They say they found it on social media. “I built this supper club around the London community and I’m so happy to be able to show people on the outside what it’s like,” she says, adding that she believes the British “hard He added that he wanted to challenge the idea of ”upper lip.” She says: “You’ll meet interesting new people who will change your preconceptions about London.”
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