The arrival of supper clubs in the London food scene a couple of years ago has changed the way many Londoners think about eating out. Supper Club dinners are I think more than just a meal out - they are about experimentation, meeting strangers and making new friends, and venturing beyond the comfort zones of most people.
Over the last two years I have visited numerous supper clubs - many have come and gone, but I am pleased to see that those I thought were consistently good are still with us, while others have morphed into restaurants. You may or may not be a supporter of supper clubs, but I hope you will agree that London is a better place with them around.
Two recent trends I have noticed are the appearance of famous/celebrity guests chefs at some of the more popular supper clubs, and the development of links between supper clubs and charities. Whether you regard these as positive or negative directions (I would be interested to hear from you), I have had the opportunity to attend a number of these events, some of which I will feature in this post.
Fernandez and Leluu with Yell for the Jamie Oliver Foundation
I recently went back to one of my favourite London Supper Clubs "Fernandez and Leluu" for an event sponsored by Yell for the Jamie Oliver Foundation. Yell has launched TrustedPlaces, a new platform where members can review the businesses listed on the Yell website and gain donation points. Every time a member writes a review, they'll earn 25 donation points (or 25p) to go towards a charity of their choice.
The Jamie Oliver Foundation is one of the many charities supported by the scheme. The foundation raises awareness (via practical teaching projects, training and employment ) of the importance of nutritious food and cooking and their impact on the lives of everyone, especially children and other vulnerable groups. As a food blogger I can't think of many other initiatives that are closer to my heart.
The food served on the occasion was among the best I have had at F&L. Simon and Uyen were in excellent form as delicious plates were brought out one after the other. We started with a platter of beautifully presented sushi (all the fish was supplied by Richard of Fin & Flounder of Broadway Market) washed down with a young but very agreeable 2010 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (Small and Small). Supplied by Naked Wines, this wine was a less restrained and easy going example of this varietal - fresh and grassy with gooseberry and other green fruit characters.
Other fantastic dishes that followed were a slow cooked oxtail stew with green beans (flavoursome and yielding) and a sea bream "ceviche" served with fine slices of tuna sashimi. Fin & Flounder's fish was impeccably fresh in this delicious dish - I loved the unusual addition of coconut milk to the marinade which gave an extra layer of complexity to an otherwise simple dish.
You can read my previous reviews of Fernandez and Leluu here.
Fernandez and Leluu with Unearthed for Action Against Hunger
Later last year, I returned to F&L to take part in an event sponsored by Unearthed & Campo Viejo in aid of Action Against Hunger’s Eat In Campaign. As part of ACF International, Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger. It works to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger.
The idea behind their current campaign is to encourage enthusiastic cooks to host dinner parties across the country, spreading the word of Action Against Hunger's charitable works while giving guests the opportunity to make their own personal donations. Action Against Hunger is another of the charities supported by TrustedPlaces and Yell.
On this occasion, the food was supplied by Unearthed, a fantastic company I had already come across. A young and dynamic company, run by a small number of people including Simon Day, who was present at the dinner. Simon is one of the buyers, and travels the world to unearth his foodie discoveries and bring these to the shelves of Waitrose, Ocado and Abel & Cole among others. What a fantastic job!
Inspired by his Spanish heritage, Simon Fernandez prepared an array of delicious dishes. Some of the most impressive included a simple selection of cold meats, duck rillette, tortilla and mushroom, followed by pears poached in vanilla & Champagne served with Serrano Ham, lettuce & watercress salad.
The star of evening in my opinion was Simon's "Baked Rice w/ Catalan Sausages, Pork Ribs, Pave, and French Saucisson Sec" - this was nothing short of outstanding. The rice was baked under a layer of thin slices of potatoes and cherry tomatoes, making it moist and deliciously flavoured by the cured meats. A triumph.
I cannot think of a more comforting dessert than Simon's Churros With Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate, Orange Zest, Chilli & Cinnamon. Deep-fried sweetened dough is dusted in sugar and cinnamon, then dunked into thick hot chocolate. Divine!
The wines for the evening were provided by Campo Viejo, the most noteworthy being the 2003 Rioja Gran Reserva - a blend of several grapes, with tempranillo predominant, aged in oak for 5 years. It was well structured, with a garnet colour reflecting its maturity, a good weight of fruit, soft tannins, and a long finish. It retails at around £13.
Friday Food Club with Anna Hansen for Fairtrade
Lee and Fiona's Friday Food Club is another favourite of mine. One of the more upmarket supper clubs in London, I have been lucky enough to eat there several times. The food has always impressed me, as has the hosts' charm and generosity towards their guests.
I have purchased Fairtrade products in the past, but was completely unaware of how wide ranging was their portfolio of certified products - over 3,000 products from coffee to flowers bear the Fairtrade logo! The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent non-profit organisation that licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE mark on products in the UK in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.
The Foundation’s mission is to work with businesses, community groups and individuals to ensure that vulnerable producers get a fair share for their produce, and to deliver decent livelihoods for farmers, workers and their communities. The Foundation is committed to tackling poverty and injustice created through trade via their FAIRTRADE Mark. Having grown up in Brazil, I am aware of the huge importance of the work this organisation carries out in Latin America, as well as Asia and Africa.
Anna Hansen, chef/owner of The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell (and Peter Gordon's former partner at Providores), took over the supper club to cook us a slap-up three course meal on behalf of Fairtrade.
We started with "spiced Burford brown hens scotch egg" served with yuzu tomato chutney, green pea purée and chilled curry sauce. I enjoyed this a great deal, particularly Anna's use of Japanese "yuzu" in an otherwise classic British dish. Yuzu is a Japanese green citrus fruit, which tastes like a cross between a lemon and a tangerine, and is incredibly aromatic and delicious. It is nearly impossible to find fresh "yuzu" in the UK, but small bottles of yuzu juice can be purchased at Japanese grocers. It is an expensive product even in Japan.
For the main course, we had "roast loin of venison" - another magnificent dish. The meat was cooked to perfection and tasted delicious served with chestnut and nutmeg puree, pomegranate and rhubarb jelly, and slow roast grape jus. I enjoyed the bold flavour combinations and creativity of Anna's cooking in this dish.
The "white chocolate, vanilla and green tea panna cotta" was ultra light and refreshing, and the classic combination of Japanese green tea and white chocolate worked really well.
Three Fairtrade wines were available on the evening - Percheron, a 2010 South African Sauvignon Blanc, Los Unidos, a 2010 Chilean Cabernet Franc/Carmenère blend, and Stella Organics, a 2010 Shiraz from South Africa.
You can read my previous review of Friday Food Club here.
Friday Food Club with Mark Hix for Chance UK
Mark Hix is something of a culinary institution in London, and I was keen to try out his cooking and meet him when I heard of his charity event for Chance UK at the Friday Food Club. Chance UK is a London charity which aims to help reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in 5-11 year olds, by providing mentoring programmes. Tickets were sold at £100 per person, with all proceeds going to Chance UK.
To start the evening, we had an amuse bouche, "Deep Fried Quail Eggs with Asparagus Puree" - the quail eggs had been coated in bread crumbs and deep fried, yet the yoke remained yieldingly tender, and the fresh asparagus purée appeared to be a witty allusion to mushy peas.
Mark's own De Beauvoir smoked salmon ‘HIX cure’ was served next with shaved fennel salad. A simple, delicately smoked salmon, served with a pleasing Sauvignon Blanc Domaine Pont du Livier 2009, Loire, France. The main course was Pan Fried Ling with Summer Vegetables (broad beans, peas, beans and pea shoots), paired with a 2009 Sancerre Domaine de la Rossignol, from the Loire.
Dessert was one of Mark's signature dishes - Perry Jelly with Summer Fruits and Elderflower Ice Cream. It was served with a Prosecco Rosé Follador Di Valdobbiadene 2009, Col San Martino, Italy. It was a light and refreshing dessert. This was followed by a selection of British cheeses with a 2008 Côte du Rhone Domaine Bouvachon Nomine.
This was an evening of simple but well-executed dishes. The opportunity to meet and chat with Mark Hix in such an intimate environment whilst supporting Chance UK made this a unique event.