Monday, 19 July 2010

Southville Supper Club - Bristol

The supper club phenomenon, which in London has become almost part of the fixtures and fittings of the dining scene, has been somewhat slower to make its way from the capital and take root in other cities around the UK. Don’t get me wrong, supper clubs are dotted throughout the country, and the movement is huge but whereas in London it’s now a well-established scene, in lets say Bristol; it’s quite a new and groundbreaking diversion from traditional dining.

I absolutely love the whole concept; the idea of getting to nose around a stranger’s house and eat their food is incredibly exciting, so I couldn’t wait to try a new supper club holding it’s second event in Bristol, where the whole scene is still really in its infancy, and subsequently the movement here has a real pioneering vibe to it.

Arriving bang on 7pm at a towering Victorian terraced home, right on the edge of the Southville district of Bristol, I knocked at the door with the excitement, tinged with trepidation that comes from pushing the limits of your comfort zone. Happily the slight degree of nervousness I felt was soon settled by the warm welcome we received. We were greeted happily and ushered upstairs via a winding staircase to the dining room by the cook’s smiling girlfriend.

The dining room was set as one long communal table, which I thought would make for an interesting dining experience. Chatting whilst waiting for the other guests to arrive our host informed us that six diners had dropped out at the last minute, so she and the cook Sam, would be joining us for the main and dessert to make up the numbers. Fine by me, but I thought it was such a shame for the hosts to be let down at the last minute by so many people.

Sam, who was no doubt slaving away in the kitchen as we opened a bottle of cracking sherry we’d brought with us (No corkage), has a reputation that proceeds him somewhat, having had an article published recently in Fire & Knives magazine. He works as an artisan baker for the rather excellent Bristol based Mark’s Bread, which had obviously paid dividends here; he’d made the superb semolina and sesame sourdough bread we were tucking into.

At this point our fellow guests arrived, a nice couple that confided this was their first supper club dining experience and a smiling female work colleague of Sam’s, hailing from Japan.

The seating arrangement with the one table meant that conversation broke out spontaneously between us and our fellow diners, and continued throughout the course of the meal. This is one of the real differences between a supper club and the more formal restaurant experience. It makes for great fun if you like meeting new people.

Our first of six courses arrived, striking crimson against the white bowls it was served in – chilled beetroot soup with frozen broad bean crème fraîche and beetroot crisp. It was a nice start to the meal, the sweet freezing cold broad bean contrasting beautifully against the slightly warmer beetroot soup. It was really enjoyable and a pleasant pointer towards the standard of the food to come.

The next course of country pate was meaty and rich, with a strong livery taste, nicely portioned and served with bowls of Melba toast. A heap of thinly sliced pickles and radishes on the side served to cut nicely through the fattiness of the pate. Lovely stuff.

‘E’ being a pescatarian (a brand of hypocritical vegetarian who eats fish), *hiss* was served a small plate of the frozen broad bean crème fraîche from earlier, decorated with thinly sliced radish. It looked surprisingly striking, and was apparently a decent substitute for the meatiness I was indulging in.

Beetroot made another appearance in our next course, a pile of artfully draped mackerel home cured in beetroot with pickled cucumber and horseradish sauce. Again, a really nice plate of food, light and tasty, looking around the table it seemed everyone else agreed, cleared plates all round.

The main of fried lambs liver with runner beans and onion mash, despite visually perhaps being the least attractive of the dishes so far was gorgeous. I’m normally not a massive liver fan, but this was really good and combined with the onion mash just the thing to soak up the bottle of fino I’d consumed.

‘E’s pescatarian option consisted of the same onion mash but served with a fillet of pan-fried pollock.

A bit of a palate cleanser came next in the shape of an elderflower granita, which set me up nicely for dessert proper.

A beautiful and rather complicatedly constructed trifle (cherry jelly, blueberries, strawberries, custard with vanilla salt, cream and almond brittle all making an appearance judging by my notes), served in antique cups was a great way to finish the meal, it was bloody gorgeous basically and looked great.

Finishing up our booze, and putting the suggested contribution of £20 each into the envelopes provided, we were waved off into the night contented and glowing from such a pleasant experience (and perhaps in my case, just slightly by the booze consumed). There’s no doubt that Sam is an extremely accomplished cook, in fact I’d go so far as to say his food is among some of the best I’ve eaten in a home cooked environment. And, what a bargain! £20 for six courses?!!
Get in there.

Here’s hoping Southville supper club goes from strength to strength, and that the whole supper club scene expands and prospers in Bristol. It’s such a refreshing alternative to restaurant dining and can only be seen as a positive additon to the city's dining options.

Keep an eye on Sam’s Twitter feed here to book a place at the next Southville supper club.


Lost in the Larder said...

I was intrigued to find out early on in this post that it was a Sam Leach, I had enjoyed his piece in the latest Fire & Knives just the other day. £20 for six courses is incredible!

Bristol certainly seems to be home to an interesting and growing food scene. Can't wait to come back up.

Unknown said...

Wow £20 - much cheaper than London supper club prices - looks great as well!

Fernandez & Leluu said...

How incredible - all food looks amazing!
all the best to them and hope if we are ever in Bristol to be able to come along!

Sam Leach said...

Thanks for the write up Dan, I'm glad you enjoyed it! The photos are fantastic, I'm really quite chuffed with how they came out. I will of course keep people updated on my blog or Twitter of any future events. I've got some ideas....


Anonymous said...

Annoyed that I couldn't make it! Sounds like a fantastic evening - and the photos are indeed great :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds amazing and I also love the pics.....I'm joining the twitter group now!

Green Onions said...

Great post - hopefully they will be doing one when I visit Bristol in August. Hope your settling into Brizzle life Dan

Dan said...

Lost in the Larder - I didn't know it was the same guy at first, and agreed £20 for six courses was a complete bargain. Yep, gradually finding out that Bristol has a thriving and growing foodie scene, hopefully I can contribute to it soon.

Gourmet Chick - I know, bargain eh? and no corkage too :)

Fernandez & Lulu - I'm still hoping to attend your supper club soon, Ive heard so many good things about it.

Sam Leach - No problem at all, it's easy to write about things you enjoy, the food was cracking - had an excellent evening and would love to come again next time you hold one. Glad you like the photos :)

BristolBites - hahaha thanks, we shall run into each other to say hello at some point soon I reckon.

Clarabows - It was superb, and thanks for the photos comment.

Green Onions - When you come to Bristol in August, you'll have to say hello. I'm settling in ok thanks, BTW, yours is another supperclub I've been planning to visit when Im next in London.

Hollow Legs said...

It all looks stunning, especially that beetroot soup. I'm not a huge fan of cold soups, but I'd slurp that right up.

Food Urchin said...

Wow this sounds great Dan, 6 courses for 20 quid, an absolute bargain and very good looking food at that.

Oh and "a brand of hypocritical vegetarian who eats fish" didn't arf make me laugh!

Dan said...

Lizzie - Beetroot fan then? I absolutely love a good gazpacho.

Food Urchin - Yeppers, does look real good for £20 doesn't it. Tres impressive. Pescatarian hahahah What? seems a fair description to me ;)

Northern Snippet said...

All looks fab esp the pudd in tea cup.How rude that some people didn't show.

PDH said...

Did you bring a bottle of Sherry? You legend! This looks really good fun, will have to try some of the London ones soon :^D

Green Onions said...

Your to Kind Dan - let me know you and @pearcafe want to come - will be more than welcome anytime. New venture in Hidden Dining kicks off on 30th and 31st of this month very nervous to say the least Be good to catch up when I come to Brizzle next month as want to pick your brains and thoughts about moving to the land of Briz - considering it myself

The Ample Cook said...

Fantastic value - what a great meal. Wish we had something (anything) like that around here. Perhaps I should start one ;)

Wonderful photos Dan.

Dan said...

Northern Snippet - Yep agreed, such a shame that people let them down.

Pavel - I didn't just bring a bottle of Sherry....I brought a bottle and a half of Sherry! and drank the frigging lot. Yep you'll have to try some of the London ones, there's quite a few to choose from.

Green Onions - Superb will do. I'll have to check out hidden dining, it sounds intriguing.
Let me know when you're coming to Bristol, drop me an email (link top right hand of blog) we can meet up for a drink and you'll be welcome to pick what brains I've got on the subject.

Jan - If anyone should start one in Essex, it should be you Jan :) Do it!!!

Employment in Restaurants said...

Nice article! All food looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing the pics.

Douglas Blyde said...

Clearly a huge amount of care has gone into this menu (as with the documenting of it, Dan). Fascinating.

sue K said...

I have been running a pop up resturant in Bristol called HUSH for about 6 months please come and visit see!/pages/Pop-up-Resturant-Bristol/120895014636227

Welcome Cava and canapés served in the lounge

Candle lit Dinner served in a beautiful private dinning room Max 12 dinners
Bring friends or meet new people .
Amuse bouche
Main course meat or Vegetarian option if ordered in advance
Coffee and chocolates

Spirits / Wine /Desert Wine/Brandy/Port

The evening will be finished off with live Jazz
If you are interested we can provide excellent customer feed back
its always fun, intimate and different.Try it but only tell you favorite friends.
The cost is from £20.00 per person for exceptional quality food cooked with lots of love and a great jazz singer