If you’re a foodie active on Twitter, then you’ve most probably been to or heard of “supper clubs”. It’s a growing trend, mainly concentrated in London, but it is quickly spreading to cities across the UK. Bristol in particular has attracted a wealth of well-reviewed supper clubs, the latest of which being Genevieve Taylor’s Egg a Day Supper Club, held at her home in Bristol’s St. Anne’s neighbourhood.
Genevieve Taylor is a food photographer, food stylist and cookbook author of “Stew!” recently published by Absolute Press. She also writes the excellent Egg a Day blog, a chronicle of recipes and stories that details her experience raising chickens, or “the girls” as she calls them. They are the creatures who inspired this memorable supper club.
I was a supper club virgin before Egg a Day. As much as I’ve been curious about the phenomenon, I was plagued by fear of the unknown. Could I go on my own? Would I sit by myself? Would people talk to me? How do I pay? How much wine should I bring?
Fortunately, Jo Ingleby, one of my cohorts from The Vegetarian Cookery School and co-chef of Egg a Day, urged me to come along and even suggested I come early and photograph the event. The knowledge of usefulness is always encouraging, so shyness be damned, I signed up, and showed up, with my camera as promised and a bottle each of red and white (simply because I couldn’t decide).
The plan was to dine al fresco, but as much as we willed the sun to shine, a strong breeze made outdoor dining a chilly prospect. So at the last minute, Gen moved the dining room indoors and saved the outdoors for pre-dinner nibbles and drinks. While Jo and Gen busied themselves with final prep – setting tables, slicing flatbread, cooking Spanish tortilla, garnishing labna – I busied myself in the garden, visiting “the girls” and admiring Gen’s peach tree and veg patch, sprawling with squash, parsley, peas and the promise of tomatoes and French beans.
The large garden, with its seamless transition into the open plan kitchen, makes Gen’s home the perfect place for a supper club. It has that nice lived-in feeling that seems to breathe family stories, long Sunday mornings with coffee and the paper and lots of entertaining. But as much as it’s homey, it’s also spacious and modern, with an open-plan kitchen bringing a wonderful element of “show and tell” to the supper club.
Of course, aesthetics are one thing, but what about the evening itself? Would my fears of sitting along in a corner come true? Looking back, it feels so silly that I even worried.
The Egg a Day Supper Club was less like a pop-up “restaurant” and more like an intimate dinner party, with 16 diners in total and a “mostly” Moorish menu. As guests arrived, we gathered outside around a table of enticing nibbles: labna with garlic and sumac, beetroot and walnut pate with coriander, parsley and mint; flatbread with caraway, nigella and black sesame seeds.
Corkscrews were plentiful and I shared a glass of bubbly with a young couple of generous Bristolians, one a caterer, the other a software programmer. Later I met another programmer, and two English professors, and a few other people new to the supper club scene. So you see, not all supper club goers are chefs, caterers, food writers or other members of the foodie elite. They’re just normal people who like good food and a little adventure. My kind of people.
That said, there were a good handful of veterans too, at least one of whom who hosted her own supper club (Bristol chef Danielle of the Bishopston Supper Club). All were extremely welcoming and helped ease us newcomers in with a bit of good chat and solidarity. Let’s face it – when you’re standing around a table of delicious food, surrounded by people who love food as much as you do, an appropriate amount of rhapsodising is inevitable. “Have you ever had anything quite like this beetroot pate? It’s gorgeous.”
After a healthy amount of nibbling, drinking and mingling, we decamped indoors for the main event. I shared my table with a lovely couple and their guest from Greece, and we all tucked in to course after course of edible bliss.
We started with chargrilled English asparagus with saffron aioli, appropriately eggy and deliciously aromatic. Then came the empanadillas, exquisite sweet pepper, tuna & egg pastries, and classic Spanish tortilla, with lovely smoked paprika ketchup.
The warm zucchini and carrot salad with cumin and garlic dressing was a favourite of mine, not only because I’m a vegetable fiend, but because the veggies were prepared so tenderly, still crisp, with a delicate seasoning. Similarly, the mograbiah couscous with broad beans, peas, mint & lemon was fresh and flavoursome. The highlight, though, was the chakchouka, a gently spiced dish of tomatoes, peppers, and onions with baked eggs. Outstanding.
Pudding was an impressive pistachio meringue with a heap of fresh strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream. We finished the night outside around an open fire with fresh mint tea and pastels de nata. It was close to midnight before we called it a night, and what a night it was. I went to bed full and happy, and dreamed dreams of Gen’s peaches, one of the few garden delights I didn’t get to try.
I asked Gen how many eggs it took to serve all 16 of us. “At least 50,” she said, “I’ve been stockpiling eggs for weeks and can finally go back to making eggs and pancakes for myself again.”
Not only did Gen supply the eggs, but many of the vegetables and herbs also came from her garden. Add to that the weeks spent planning and days spent cooking and you realise what a labour of love this supper club is. No wonder Gen felt so nervous about getting it right: She said:
“I have catered for many events and for large numbers of people, but I can honestly say that cooking supper for less than 20 people in my own home was just as stressful…By inviting people into your home you are opening up your most personal space, where you kick back after a hard day’s work, the place normally littered with the detritus and junk of family life. And I guess that leaves you feeling a little vulnerable and exposed.”
I believe I speak for all of the guests when I say that Gen certainly did get it right, and her generosity did not go unnoticed. Heartfelt thanks to Gen for welcoming us into her home and garden, and to Jo for inviting me along and helping Gen bring her menu to life. Thanks especially to “the girls”, Gen’s chickadees, who made everything possible. Hope to see you again soon on the chicken run.
Genevieve Taylor’s website: http://genevievetaylor.co.uk
Egg a Day blog: http://genevievetaylor.blogspot.com
Follow Genevieve Taylor on Twitter: @genevieveeats
Jo Ingleby at The Vegetarian Cookery School: http://www.vegetariancookeryschool.com
Monica Shaw’s website: http://monicashaw.com
Monica Shaw’s business: http://webstaurants.co.uk