A lot of people in Kerstin Rodgers’s position would be territorial. As the ‘grande dame of the UK supper club movement™’ she might have easily started to resent chancers and band-wagon-jumper-onners like myself. Instead she’s been doing all she can to turn this grassroots dining scene into a major and relevant force in food.
On Saturday she hosted the first ‘How to start and run a supper club’ conference at her gorgeous home in Kilburn. Speakers including yours truly, Lynn Hill of The Secret Tea Room, PR dude Andre Dang and general small business whiz Linda Williams spoke to a group of 20-odd supper club hopefuls about the nuts and bolts of supper clubs. It was fun. Kerstin cooked a delicious lunch and we sat in the garden like it was the best university ever.
And then I went to Streatham. For in Streatham there is a girl called Victoria Glass, and Victoria is cooking her way through the alphabet. Each of her supper clubs has a letter theme, and Saturday’s was T. I went for T in Streatham. Except it wasn’t tea – it was the biggest meal I have ever eaten in my whole life. Ever. Bar none. And God was it fun.
We arrived to Tanqueray gin and tonics and tequila sunrises. After sitting around and nattering for a bit, Victoria’s chap Richard produced, with something approaching a flourish, some tofu tempura with a dipping sauce that also began with a ‘T’. It’s hard to get that excited about tofu, but then most things introduced to batter and hot oil are pretty good, as was this. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is tripe. And that’s what came next. Tripe tempura with another Tdipping sauce. The batter was crisp and the sauce nicely sour. And then the unmistakable taste of turd struck. But that’s tripe for you.
Teriyaki turkey turned up – great dark, sticky, garlicky hunks of turkey that made me seriously reconsider my Christmas strategy. We moved to the table and ate tortellini with trompette de mort mushrooms and a touch of truffle. The mushrooms were jet black and like soft squid in texture, the pasta immaculately made.
Tomatoes, then. Four ways. Tomato tarte tatin – Victoria complained her homemade puff pastry was soggy but the rest of us thought it was a beautiful bit of cooking. As companions it had a toffee cherry tomato – like a toffee apple you see? So, so cool. Even better was a tomato and tabasco granita, which was necessarily light after all the food so far demolished (we’d yet to reach the starter and it was 11pm). Performing a similar job was a pee-sample of clear tomato soup. I’m running out of adjectives but it rocked.
The starter arrived, the only relatively dud note of the evening. A terrine of testicles, tongue, and tail. Alas, in our already overfed state it wasn’t zingy enough to keep you working through it. I decided to hold off for the main, which did, I think, arrive at around 1am, and thank gawd for the slow pace of the evening. My tonsils were swimming. Roast teal with tayberry sauce and – ye gods – tartiflette, which is basically a fat man’s gratin dauphinois. I ate it. I ate it all. And then I ate cheese; taleggio, tome de savioe, a few other bits beginning with ‘T’.
Pudding arrived. Well, three puddings arrived. Trifle, tiramisu, and a treacle tart with toffee ice cream. No complaints here, though I was starting to feel like I was part of some experiment.
It was approaching 3am. “I think we should order a taxi,” I eventually grunted between mouthfuls of trifle. “Oh but just one more thing,” said Victoria, a little hurt, like Uncle Monty when Marwood says they have to get back to London. “Oh OK then” I said. Out came tahini truffles the size of golfballs. Like the last pair of socks being stuffed into an overpacked suitcase I thumbed it in and we fell into a waiting cab and immediately asleep.
As Andre Dang said in his talk on Saturday afternoon, a new supper club needs to find a good angle. Miss Glass has found that angle. What Andre didn’t say, was that you also need to be able to cook. Happily she can cook like a dream. Had the food been crap or the company anything less than a total joy, then Alphabet Soup would have been hard work. But everyone was so lovely and interesting and chatty, and the food so fantastic (if occasionally challenging) that the evening skipped by in the most jolly of ways.
There are 5 letters left. I suggest you’re at one of them.