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.