Put your glow sticks away – there’s a different kind of club night that’s the highlight of the week for the foodie fraternity. From secret venues to family homes, the rise of the supper club has taken the concept of eating out in a whole new direction. Here are some worth raving about
With secret supper clubs and gourmet guest spots popping up all over London, it was only a matter of time before someone brought the South West in on the action, and that’s exactly what Josh McDonald-Johnson and Jodie Sawatzki did in July 2014. The Michelin-trained chef and seasoned restaurateur launched Pickle Shack (pictured above) to a packed out church hall in Honiton, and today you’ll find the duo doing much the same (with a massive following of loyal local foodies), hosting grub clubs, catering for quirky weddings and throwing creative culinary events across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.
Noya’s Vietnamese Kitchen
You’ll need to invest in a 2017 diary before booking a spot at Noya’s Kitchen, as the word’s already out about this Bath-based supper club – it’s booked up until December. Moving from Vietnam to England (via Hong Kong), Noya Pawlyn embraced her mother culture through cookery, the fresh and fragrant flavours of which make the five course menus at her weekly pop-up at The Bear Pad Café rather special. On a mission to fill the Vietnamese void in the city, Noya also launched a cookery school from her kitchen in 2013.
Bishopston Supper Club
Anyone who holds a supper club at their home on Christmas Day must surely win top prize for dedication. ‘It did feel very different,’ says professional chef Danielle Coombs who started Bishopston Supper Club in Bristol five years ago. ‘There were some regulars, some people I hadn’t met before, but it was very relaxed,’ she says. ‘I like feeding people, but in a restaurant you don’t see the reactions, or people enjoying themselves – you’re a bit disconnected,’ she says. Danielle has never been bothered by people coming into her home: ‘I’m a tidy person, and I don’t have a lot of personal stuff around,’ and she’s recently been getting more bookings for private events such as work parties and special celebrations ‘where people book out the whole place’.
From cocktails to live music, a BearKat supper club event is ‘not just a meal, but a whole evening of entertainment,’ says its founder Dominic Brown (pictured above). Dom chooses unusual venues near to his home in Bridport in Dorset – the first last year was in the old Lyric Theatre and had a 1920s’ theme. He uses The Real Food Bus which collects and distributes produce from local growers, along with items gathered from his own foraging trips in the surrounding countryside. When not cooking, his other love is music, so expect live performances, along with concoctions created with the help of mixologist Lloyd from the town’s Venner Bar. ‘I love cocktails, food and music, so you get the best of everything,’ smiles Dom. If you can’t get to a supper club, fear not, he’s also returning to The Lyric to open a bistro, providing a permanent taste of the BearKat experience.
Hall and Hearty
The aptly named Hall and Hearty (pictured above) village hall supper club has been spreading throughout Devon and the South West, thanks to its founder, ex River Cottage chef Tim Maddams, who runs it with charcutier Robin Rea. Groups – usually village hall committees – book the team to come and run a supper club and then invite all the locals. As long as they can guarantee a set number of diners, then costs are covered, and through raffles and organising a bar, extra money can be raised for the community. Menus feature something wild and something local, and almost everything comes from the South West. Being the ecologically responsible chap that he is, Tim also uses what’s already at the hall, which means no bought in or disposable cutlery and plates.
There’s a converted Baptist chapel in the village of Swimbridge, not far from Barnstaple in north Devon, which holds a rather special culinary secret. Hidden Heaven is a monthly supper club run by husband and wife team Geoffrey and Kirsty EverettBrown who’ve been welcoming diners to their home for years. Kirsty’s the cook and Geoff does all the meeting and greeting and genially hosts the meal. Stepping inside the chapel – a beautifully light, airy space which the couple converted themselves – is a delight and adventure. You’re quite likely to be eating as part of a small group of strangers, but with Geoff guiding the evening’s events and the fabulous, rustic food, it’s an experience to savour.