The prospect of a night of communal eating with strangers can be a bit daunting. Especially when you’re not on holiday in a tropical village, sitting on the floor eating with your hands in an attempt to ‘live like the locals’, and instead in London, where if you try to start a friendly conversation on the tube you’ll probably end up on the front page of the Metro as: Creepy Welsh girl who made conversation with stranger on London Underground is sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for too-social behaviour.
But this week my boyfriend and I visited our first supper club and all our reservations were thrown out of the window. Michael Sanders (MasterChef 2014 Semi-finalist) and his girlfriend Naomi run their pop-up restaurant/ supper club every month in E7, underneath a railway arch, in The Wanstead Tap.
A table of 20 sat people from all walks of life, some locals, some from far away; but we all had one thing in common. We all just wanted to eat great food – that is the beauty of a supper club. And Michael succeeded in bringing people together with his food. Take the main course – a sharing plate spilling with rare slices of minute steak, which had a rich, beefy crust. This was served with gem lettuce leaves and sticky rice for us to form our own wraps; and bowlfuls of condiments that incorporated the staple flavours of Asian cooking: ginger, sesame and spring onions, spicy kimchi puree and sriracha sauce.
Around 5 of us per platter, we all dug in, fiddling with our own DIY wraps, smothering ourselves with Sriracha and instantly ridding of all our table manners and becoming very relaxed (the only other time you would eat like this is at 2 am waiting for the night bus with a box of chicken, where the guy standing next to you with a pint of beer submerged into his shirt becomes your best mate). The dish worked a charm . Michael wants to develop such sharing dishes in his own place one day and I think he’s on to a winner there.
This microbrewery/cafe/pub/bar has no kitchen, so everything had to be prepped in advance, transported and finished off on a couple of portable hobs and a table in the corner of the room. What our chef’s were able to achieve was pretty outstanding. The first two courses were equally as well thought out; slow-cooked quails egg with hollandaise, then sous vide salmon with wasabi and peas, were both exploding with flavour, but not so heavy that you couldn’t enjoy the dessert, chocolate brownie, salted caramel and creme fraiche. I think it’s fair to say that my other half will come with me to more and more of these types of events, as we finished the night chatting to Michael and Naomi (and our fellow supper clubbers) whilst polishing off a tray of offcut chocolate brownie dipped in leftover salted caramel, with plenty of craft beer (which the brewers offer as an extra to pair with the food).
It’s so refreshing not knowing what you’re going to eat, and then to have the menu introduced to you by the person who created the menu and cooked the food; something I think should happen in all restaurants if I had my way. For me, someone who is obsessed with food and trying new things, I usually hate that part of the meal where you are forced to pick just one dish, and then inevitably find yourself eyeing the dish of the person sitting next to you (whether or not they let you share is another hurdle). That wasn’t an issue here, as everyone was given the same meal, and we were completely in the hands of our hosts, who turned out some fantastically diverse, exciting and delicious meals as if by magic from their makeshift kitchen the corner of the room. Michael’s Supper Club is definitely something everyone should try.