The trend for supper clubs continues unabated in London, but Brixton was one of the first off the marks. It has a plethora of now well-established supper clubs and last summer I went to three of them. Better late than never, here are the reviews:
Warning: supper clubbing doesn’t come cheap.
Our top pick: The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is run by Rachel Manley from her tiny flat in the centre of Brixton. It is the most unpretentious of them all. Two tables and twelve people are crammed into her kitchen, where she also prepares the food. That means you’re not just encouraged to share and chat with all the other guests – you have to. Rachel is generous with her food – you can ask for seconds and there are constant refills of coffee, tea or home-made elderflower cordial. And the food reflects that generosity. We start off with coconut toast and lime marmalade. The coconut toast is just about the Best Thing Ever, buttery, packed full of coconut and not too sweet. It’s followed by Turkish baked eggs on sourdough with sausages from Brixton farmers’ market. That might look like a small portion below, but it was plenty given how much we still had left to eat and Rachel even offered up more sausages for anyone still wanting. The brunch ended with ice cream sandwiches – again not too sweet – and a beautifully wrapped take-home gift of pistachio macaroons.
Rachel doesn’t just do breakfasts anymore either. Her suppers are £25 and her brunches are £17.50. See here for booking details and photos.
A supper club in the market: The Salad Club
Ellie Grace and Rosie French together make the Salad Club. They write a food blog of the same name, charting their experiments with food, mainly from Brixton Market. The recipes all look lovely and they deservedly won the Observer Food Monthly Best UK Food Blog award last year, but I am going to be controversial here – the food at their supper club, hosted by Cornercopia in September 2010, was not worth the £25/head we paid for it. I was a demanding customer before I’d even reached the table – I forgot that one of my guests was a vegetarian until the day before and then another guest cancelled, so I had to change my reservation. All very annoying for the supper club host who has to do everything on a tight budget and plan meticulously ahead. That said, it didn’t much change how I felt about the food. The starter, smoked haddock and sweet potato chowder, was certainly delicious – warm and hearty. But the main – rare roast beef with beetroot, horseradish and dressed rocket – was a rather dull, limp dish. The beef was a little cold and the vegetarian option merely replaced the beef with lentils, which bizarrely tasted strongly of mustard – a dish of lentils, raw beetroot and not much else. Fun. The plum, pistachio and almond tart which followed was tasty, but overall the meal just wasn’t special enough for the expense (remember that doesn’t include alcohol, because it’s BYO). I could have eaten much better at Bellantoni’s around the corner for £10 a head.
The Salad Club are now available for hire, cooking everywhere from private homes to festivals. See here for details.
Design foodie heaven: Saltoun Supper Club
Saltoun Supper Club is the big daddy of the Brixton supper clubs. It’s notoriously difficult to get a table there but it’s worth the wait just to see Arno Maasdorp’s flat. Maasdorp, the creator of Saltoun Supper Club, is a food stylist and a design obsessive. The white-washed stairs leading to the dining room are lined with well-placed objects, from brightly coloured plastic bears to a single bucket of perfectly sharpened pencils. The dining room itself is like a magic den – lit only by coloured lamps and tealights, strange objects sit artfully on the walls and a chandelier made from a branch hangs above the main table.
The food is mostly beautiful too. We started with a very simple dish – stuffed peppers and roasted beets with hummus. In fact, it seemed a little unnecessary given what was to follow. The star of the show was the next starter – Truffle Infused Cauliflower Gnocchi with Pecorino. Then we were instructed to troop upstairs to the living room, to digest and prepare for the main course. And the living room wasn’t lacking in design novelties either:
Saltoun is different to Rachel’s Breakfast Club in that you are not especially encouraged to mix with the other guests – we remained on our table of two and even in the interval (for it was like being at a show), no-one really talked outside of their own group. Arno himself makes a real effort to chat to everyone, but it lacked the down-to-earth easiness of the Breakfast Club.
The main was Pork Fillet, Celeriac with Pea & Bean Salad. Delicious again – although the beans were on the chewy side. And then it was time for the stunning pudding – chocolate in various different guises – and a beautiful array of petit fours and fruit. Yum.
£30 a head. BYO. See here for booking details.