Thanks to the WordofMouthBlog for the awesome article below. Although they are a UK based blog and refer to their own country, the similarities are uncanny. We love how Supper Clubs tend to be strictly about the food, sans egos. They also tend to be more exploratory in nature and take bigger risks with their menus. Well, at least we do. Our usual gripes? The basics: cold food, expensive and leaving hungry. You’d be surprised that few manage to get the fundamentals right. Also, why pay for someone renting the space for a Pop Up Dinner when that cost shouldn’t be absorbed by you, the diner? This is why we started our own Supper Club.
How many times have you gone to a Supper Club or Pop Up where the chef is unapproachable..or when have to prepay for a Mystery Menu..or taste no love in the food? Sound familiar? Yup, we hate that too. That’s why we print exactly what you are getting for your money. During dinner service, our guests ask us all the time about the preparation of a dish, all of which get answered. We take it a step further not only by interacting with our guests, but also allowing them to sample raw ingredients from which sauces, soups, etc come from so they leave less ignorant. We’re far from experts, but we feel obligated to inform guests of what’s going into their food. Our mantra: We don’t serve anything we wouldn’t want served to us. This allows us to keep exacting standards and quality high.
Chefs should treat their diners like people and not cattle. When chefs treat their diners like cattle, this is a result of greed: turning as many tables before close. With regards to the food, we use a healthier approach, trying to avoid sugar and cream as much as possible in our savory dishes. Also, we always over deliver, giving more than what is stated on our menus. The above is what sets us apart and why we have many repeat customers. Speaking of which, see you at i8 on Saturday!
What’s the future of the Supper Club?
Now the big-name chefs have moved in with their pop-up restaurants, is there still an appetite for eating home cooking at a supper club?
A restaurant in someone’s home. Photograph: Cyril Folliot/AFP/Getty Images
Of all the recent UK food trends – the micro-herbs, the cupcakes, the flirtation with foraging and the new wave burgers – the burgeoning supper club movement has perhaps grabbed the most media attention.
The original supper clubs were about rebellion. Prohibition speakeasies and Cuban paladares were of a truly underground nature. The more recent revival in the UK came as a reaction to fine dining establishments, an antidote to the kind of restaurants that charge you £26 for a salad. The clubs were intimate and affordable instead of overpriced and faceless – dinners cooked on a houseboat or an ex-punk’s Aga.
These semi-illegal dining rooms immediately appealed to novelty-seeking appetites, and within a couple of years supper clubs and pop-up restaurants materialised in their hundreds. I even jumped on the bandwagon myself.
But something untoward is happening. Chefs – professionals! – have taken this concept and only bloody hijacked it. Now the very people against whom the whole movement began want a slice of the action. Pierre Koffmann opened his wildly successful £75-a-pop pop-up at that bastion of bohemia Selfridges, while Nuno Mendes gamely took £100-plus off customers at his Loft Project. The extortionate pricing at Tom’s Terrace baffled critics so much that he eventually dropped them. Even the sainted Skye Gyngell charged a near-vertiginous £85 for the set menu at Petersham Nurseries last summer, without grog.
It’s no wonder this happened, really. The media buzz surrounding the underground dining scene gave PR-savvy chefs an opportunity for publicity before they’d got round to actually opening a restaurant. Jason Atherton held a charity affair during the London Restaurant Festival last autumn, MasterChef finalists showed us how tough cooking gets at Meza, and there have been whispers recently of a Thomas Keller pop-up at Harrods.
Meanwhile the media splurge that surrounds these ventures gives chefs the perfect springboard to launch new projects – Koffmann had Koffmann’s, Mendes had Viajante, and Atherton has his forthcoming Pollen Street Social. It has become the right-on alternative to a soft opening, without the half-price menus and the overheads. But in so doing these chefs are espousing a movement whose very raison d’etre was the undermining of everything they are about. Like Cameron’s supposed love of the Smiths, it’s all wrong.
Why shouldn’t they, you may ask. The hazards of opening a restaurant are many, and so any publicity – particularly that which gives them the opportunity to road-test some new dishes – must be welcome to chefs and restaurateurs. Fair enough. Perhaps instead there needs to be a disconnect between supper clubs and pop-ups. All too often the terms are interchangeable when they shouldn’t be, meaning people turn up at someone’s home expecting Pierre Koffmann at the stove. One potential guest to my own supper club backed out when I told him the menu, saying “er, I’d rather come when you’re cooking something I can’t”.
This demand for something more from supper clubs might not be a bad thing, however. With underground restaurants in London alone now running into the hundreds, perhaps it’s right that hobbyists can no longer rely on the isn’t-this-quirky-a-restaurant-in-my-living-room fallback. Now that the rebellious element of these gastro-dens has all but disappeared, there is more onus on us to provide something special and unique. I recently caught wind of an upcoming opera-themed supper club, which might up the ante somewhat.
Failing such innovation, you can’t go too far wrong with good food, a warm welcome, and a cosy atmosphere. Let the chefs have their pop-ups, their vanity projects, their fling with the food equivalent of the “big society”. Supper clubs are where the real soul of underground dining lies, and you don’t need quirk or Michelin stardom when you are offering a genuine, caring, friendly place to eat. It’s something few restaurants manage.