Sometimes I am asked – what is your favourite supper club?
I find this a difficult question as every supper club is unique, and this risks comparing apples and pears. There are, however, certain qualities which I hope to see in any underground restaurant – and for me, it is the combination of these which make some supper clubs preferable to others.
The food is obviously paramount. Having a BYO policy with no corkage is also within the spirit of this movement. Location/decor certainly plays a role, as well as the friendliness of the host(s). Most importantly, diners should be able to interact because this is what differentiates supper clubs from restaurants. This is a tricky one to get right - a good seating plan is crucial. Diners also need to find a supper club best suited to them – some supper clubs will offer poetry readings, quizzes or cross-dressing performers and consequently will attract different demographics.
If you read my supper club reviews over the year, you will probably guess I have one or two favourites. But now I have found another – the Friday Food Club. This gem of a supper club has ticked all the boxes for me:
Set in the Blackheath Arts Club, a most elegant, Blue-Plaqued building in the heart of the village and only 50 metres from the railway station, this amazing building was home to an arts club, a film studio, and a hotel before being converted into the most stunning set of apartments.
Lee and Fiona’s flat is spectacular. It has a spacious dining/living area, high ceilings and large Gothic windows which provide a very dramatic setting to their supper club.
It is also beautifully furnished, containing some interesting and tasteful art work, an exquisite 1960’s chandelier and restful, indirect lighting. Fresh flowers and white linen adorn each table, giving a refined sensibility to the room.
We started the evening with a complementary glass of “Cremant de Loire” sparkling wine, and Lee’s delicious “Tapenade and Jade Bakery Bread”. I was very impressed by this as Boulangerie Jade is one of the finest bakeries and patisseries in South London, and their goods are priced accordingly. Having lived in Dulwich for many years, I used to go there whenever I was in Blackheath.
Next we had “Potato soup with spinach, scallops and chorizo”. The scallops were diver caught and purchased from Borough Market that morning. They went really well with the combination of chorizo and spinach in this delicate potato soup.
The main course was “Spiced rubbed fillet of pork, served with Romesco sauce, paprika cauliflower & salsa verde”. The meat, from Ginger Pig, was beautifully cooked and very flavoursome.
I adore Romesco sauce but normally make it to go with fish or seafood. I was surprised to find how the acidity from the sherry vinegar and sweetness of the red peppers were the perfect accompaniment to the rich and tender pork.
The “Frozen berries served with hot white chocolate and white chocolate and cardamom mousse” was a beautifully presented and creative dessert and as good as any I have had at Michelin starred restaurants.
To round off a most delicious meal, diners were offered filtered coffee, fresh mint tea or Irish coffee. I went for an Irish coffee with a generous dose of Irish whisky - it was superb.
As the evening came to a close, Lee and Fiona gave us a homemade “breakfast pear and ginger muffin” to take home. It was a lovely touch and a nice reminder on Saturday morning of the evening’s event.
Talking to Lee, I discovered that his grandfather was a cook with the British Navy and his father was also a chef. Unsurprisingly, Lee read Hospitality Management and is also a classically trained chef. His Irish partner, Fiona, does a great job as front-of-house at the supper club. They both have full-time jobs in the advertising industry.
The Friday Food Club started as a food blog in 2007 and developed into a supper club when in January 2010, Lee and Fiona decided to open their doors to the public.
Dr G and I were lucky to share our table with a delightful couple, John who is in IT and his fiancée Liz, a vet. We had many conversations about food, their impending wedding, and also about Orlando my ageing cat, and dogs Tofu and Truffle.
I was also pleased to see some familiar faces, like Jill Hodges of Cucina Cinzia and her husband Cedric.
Not only was there no corkage charge, but a complementary glass of “De Chanceny Cremant de Loire” was served on arrival. The Friday Food Club advises guests on the most suitable wines to match their weekly menus.
We took a bottle of Australian Viognier, and since many of us had no red wine for the pork, Lee kindly offered us all another complementary glass of 2007 Roc de Lussac, St Emilion (available in Sainsbury’s for £13.99), as well as a glass of “Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois” with dessert.
The beautiful carafes of still water, flavoured with lime and mint, were constantly replenished.
The Friday Food Club is in the process of securing a date with Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker for June 2010, Mark Hix is taking over the kitchen in July for a charity event and Richard Corrigan will be putting his spin on the supper club in October 2010.
Cost: prices vary from around £26.50 to £38.50 depending on the weekly menu - ours was £32.50 per person.
Likes: Unfussy but sophisticated British food with the best ingredients available, generous, friendly hosts, elegant setting.
Verdict: Lee Behan is putting good quality, sophisticated British food back on the menu. His cooking, attention to detail and generosity are inspiring. Clearly not motivated by profit, his supper club is a real gem and I cannot wait to return. Very highly recommended.