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Saturday, 10 October 2009

London Supper Club – MsMarmiteLover @ The Undergroung Restaurant

MsMarmiteLover @ The Undergroung Restaurant

Over the coming year, I will be visiting as many of London’s underground restaurants as I can get into, and will be posting my reviews here. I have been intrigued by this new eating concept in the London food scene, and am curious to find out where this will lead us. So watch this space, more reviews to follow.

MsMarmiteLover has been the driving force behind the increasing popularity of Pop-up Restaurants in the UK. Whilst juggling radio interviews and television filming of her Underground Restaurant, she regularly updates an excellent blog “The English Can Cook”, and is involved in many food events in the Capital. By far the most popular of underground restaurateurs, she still finds the time to devise and cook an excellent 4 course meal for about 30 people, twice a week. 

Booking at The Underground Restaurant was relatively painless via the WeGotTickets website despite the 10% booking fee. The site provides a list of dates & events and the respective number of available seats. Once payment is made, an e-ticket containing the venue’s address and other details is e-mailed.

On the night that I attended (a Quiz Night), the BBC was filming for a BBC Breakfast feature which was aired last Saturday, 3rd October 09. The food served at the Underground Restaurant is very good, but it is MsMarmiteLover herself, the theatre and delightful atmosphere that she creates which give her evenings a real sense of occasion.

On arrival we were offered a glass of Kir Royale, and shown to our table. We shared it with two other couples, all in their mid to late twenties, young professionals and real foodies. We teamed up as “The Meat Loving Vegetarians” for the evening’s quiz.

I was pleasantly surprised by our first course – “Steamed Artichoke with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette” – one of my favourite vegetables; I sometimes cook them at home when they are in season and found in my local market. 

Accompanying our first course were some delightful homemade small bread rolls studded with green olives or sun blushed tomatoes. These were delicious and had a nice bite and chewiness to them.

Our second starter, a “Salad of Pears, Walnuts and Gorgonzola” was nicely presented and with some good flavours. The balsamic dressing married well with the blue cheese and the mild acidity of the pears.

To my astonishment, our main course was served by none other than Mat Follas, this year’s Masterchef winner who happened to be MsMarmiteLover’s kitchen help for the evening.

The “main course” was undoubtedly the best of the evening – “Cannelloni Stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta & Topped with Ragu, Béchamel and Edible Flowers”. Our table set about it with gusto, and some of us even had seconds. It was rich and cheesy, with the right balance of tomato and white sauces. We ordered the robust biodynamic red wine @£12 per bottle which we felt partnered well with the rich Ragu. Guests can bring their own wine @ £5 corkage per bottle, I felt this was not in keep with the supper club movement.

I liked the elegance and simplicity of our dessert - “Warmed Figs with Chocolate and Homemade Candied Orange”. The figs had been oven roasted with almonds and honey, and worked well with the chocolate and slices of candied orange peel. It was served with a fat dollop of thickened double cream. I wish I had brought a small bottle of Pedro Ximenez to go with it!

The results of the quiz were announced after dessert and to our surprise, our table, The Meat Loving Vegetarians, won. Our prize was a bottle of red biodynamic wine.

We were encouraged to visit MsMarmiteLover’s kitchen after pudding. I had a lovely chat with Mat Follas about smoking food, about Andy Oliver, whose blog “The Cook’s Broth” I have followed for some time (see Blog List), and also about his newly opened Wild Garlic Restaurant in Dorset.

Verdict – At £35 plus 10% booking fee and £5 corkage, The Underground Restaurant is not in keep with other similar supper clubs which in my opinion can provide better food, location and value. I will not return.


  1. Nice post and what a small world - we were there the same night!

  2. Thanks Luiz, I was there too that night, and you captured the evening perfectly! I really enjoyed it too, although I thought charging £5 corkage went a bit against the underground restaurant philosophy.
    Mr Truffle

  3. Thanks for the review Luiz but there are inaccuracies. It's a 10 per cent booking fee, not £5. Therefore for £25 you pay £2.50p which goes to wegottickets.com not me. This is £27.50 in total.
    Nobody is obliged to come, the price is there on the website. There are no hidden costs here.

    I did this because I was spending several days a week answering emails. It was impossible to find the time to do the admin, ordering food, devise menus, cook, prep, blog, clear up, do the laundry of the serviettes and tablecloths and all the other things I do. I'm a one woman operation opening up my home to strangers. I can't do everything.

    As for the £5 corkage fee. I used to not charge it. But I have to buy new glasses all the time. It really adds to my work load to provide glasses, wash them, dry them, ect. It's the most fragile thing and if I'm not selling wine then I need to make some money from drink.
    Please remember I also do cheaper places for the unemployed, something that nobody else does.

    I rely on the corkage and the tips to make any kind of profit.
    I think for small scale business, everything home cooked from scratch in an intimate atmosphere, £25 a head is pretty good for 5 courses, a cocktail and coffee.

    The wear and tear on my kitchen has been incredible...I've just had to buy a new washing machine and will soon have to buy a new fridge and dishwasher. All this is done in a domestic kitchen not a professional kitchen able to withstand that kind of hard work and pressure.

  4. @ Neil - Indeed it is a small world mate, funny that I met you again at Dose Cafe just a week later!

    @ Mr Truffle - I don't think the £5 charge is excessive, as you are getting a pretty good deal at £25 a head for the delicious 4 course dinner. Some of the other underground BYO restaurants tend to charge a little more for their food, so it all balances out!

    @ The Underground Restaurant - thanks for pointing out the 10% booking fee by WeGotTickets. I paid £5 for booking two places hence the misunderstanding. I have now corrected my posting. I did not suggest that you would be keeping the additional booking fee or criticize your corkage, which I completely understand. I felt however that I should not censor the comments of others who view and respond to my blog.


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