Five pro tips for supper club virgins

I love a good supper club. They’re sociable, good value, and – as tickets must be bought in advance – a welcome antidote to the tiresome trend of no-reservations policies. If you’ve never been to one before, well, they vary tremendously, but generally you can expect gatherings of 20-60 people, generally sat together at big tables, and more food than you can shake a spoon at. Amateur chefs sell tickets alongside full-time professionals making a bit on the side, and the menus are often inspired by old family recipes. If you like exploring authentic cuisines from other cultures, supper clubs are a great place to start.

That said, God knows not every supper club is made equal. The key is to successfully sift the gold from the duds. Here’s how.

Remember that home-cooking > fine dining

Some supper clubs will try to pretend they’re doing you multi-Michelin star food for £30 odd, an offer that’s almost always too good to be true. That’s not to say that the food can’t be absolutely fantastic, but most pop-up chefs don’t have the resources – like an army of kitchen staff, specialist equipment and the economies of scale enjoyed by full-time restaurants – to pull off ultra-complex dishes without over-stretching themselves. In my experience, a good supper club will give you fabulous, creative home-cooked food with carefully chosen ingredients and a gourmet twist.

Ox cheek bourguignon at A Little Lusciousness, served with cauliflower puree, wilted radicchio, greens and squash salad. Sounds fancy until the leftovers were brought out to the table for everyone to help themselves to seconds!

Ox cheek bourguignon at A Little Lusciousness, served with cauliflower puree, wilted radicchio, greens and squash salad. It looks fancy until the leftovers were brought out to the table in big bowls for everyone to help themselves to seconds!

Accept that service will be slow

Realistically, the chef is in the kitchen sweating like a pig on speed and fending off the inevitable curveballs that come when you’re a small team trying to simultaneously serve dinner to thirty people and their assorted dietary requirements. But that’s okay – it’s all part of the experience! Just don’t make any concrete plans for afterwards. Or, er, the next day, because…

Choose a BYOB

My favourite thing about supper clubs is that many of them are BYOB and carry no corkage fees, which significantly shaves down the cost of your night out, i.e. you can get completely fucked for less than £15 of mid-range supermarket wine.

Take advantage and bring along a couple of bottles of champagne, or, sod it, take an entire bottle of vodka and do yourself some DIY bottle service.

Sensational scallop ceviche at Sabel's Row2Rio supper club.

Sensational scallop ceviche at Sabel’s Row2Rio supper club.

Oak-smoked turkey with Smoke & Salt for Thanksgiving.

Oak-smoked turkey with Smoke & Salt for Thanksgiving.

Take some mates
Supper clubs are great for catching up with friends or a casual date night, but what they’re really good for is big group get-togethers. For my birthday last year I had an absolute nightmare trying to find a restaurant that would take 16 people without demanding a deposit or insisting we order from an expensive and extremely limited set menu. This year, we’re descending on Rosie’s supper club, A Little Lusciousness, which is Grub Club’s highest rated pop-up. (I’ve been before and it oozed excellence from start to finish, so I know it’s good.)

An incredible and authentic edible centerpiece from Iraqi pop-up kitchen, JUMA.

An incredible and authentic edible centrepiece from Iraqi pop-up kitchen, JUMA.

Admittedly, storming one of these events en masse requires a bit of forward planning, but it’s worth it. Firstly, you get to have everyone commit in advance, with no chance of drop-outs later. Additionally, everyone is responsible for their own ticket, so if they do drop out you don’t get screwed with the deposit. And did I mention BYOB?

Malted chocolate bread and butter pudding served family-style at Sabel.

Malted chocolate bread and butter pudding served family-style at Sabel.

Read reviews
I know, I know. We now live in a world where most people are loathe to even take a piss in a public toilet without at least a four-star review from TripAdvisor; this is not new information. But it’s worth looking a little further than the ticket-seller’s reviews for more in-depth research. Supper clubs are popular with the kind of people who like to write about their dinner on the internet, so you can easily find the good stuff with a little digging.

Foreground: PARTRIDGE SAUSAGE ROLLS. Background: gooey cheese croquettes. Both homemade at Sabel.

Foreground: PARTRIDGE SAUSAGE ROLLS. Background: gooey cheese croquettes. Both homemade at Sabel.

My recommendations? Apart from A Little Lusciousness, I’ve had fabulous times with Sabel and Smoke & Salt. If you want to be adventurous – and I thoroughly recommend you do – try JUMA, which serves up authentic Iraqi cuisine. I usually use Grub Club to find new pop-ups, and if you use them too there’s a £5 discount to be had with the code CURIOUSLONDON10.

 Chestnut pavlova with candied hazelnuts and chocolate sauce, served with a shot of rum. I don't actually know if we were supposed to tip it over the dessert, but that's what I did.

Chestnut pavlova with candied hazelnuts and chocolate sauce, served with a shot of rum. I don’t actually know if we were supposed to tip it over the dessert, but that’s what I did.

 

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.