Before the invention of the supper club, my only experience of communal dining in London was being poked in the sides by the elbows of a chopstick wielding stranger sitting on a cramped bench at Wagamama. I would like to believe that this seating arrangement is designed for people to make new friends but I fear it’s merely a way of cramming more people into the damned place. I like to chat to the people next to me, but only if they want to chat back. Otherwise it’s pretty awful.
And that’s why I love supper clubs. Where else can you start dinner with complete strangers and end up eating off each other’s places, sharing family histories, dirty jokes and social media details?
London has become a place where eating out is less expensive than eating in, where chains have the same permanently chalked on specials boards at all their branches and the glamour of eating out has pretty much died. Supper clubs have come to the rescue, offering fuss-free delicious food from a menu that has been set by the chef, with the vibe of a family run place in an environment that’s more like a living room than a restaurant.
I’m embarrassed to say that I heard about Pickled Pig Grub Club whilst stalking London foodie Rosie Birkett’s instagram profile. At the press launch she posted a picture of the main course and I thought ‘Jesus Christ, it’s only 7am and I’m already starving!’
Pickled Pig is set in a 19th century villa (The Woodlawn’s Centre.) The low lit, high ceilinged function room was done out simply. We were sat at a long table with a white tablecloth. Place settings were made of ivy leaves with the diners name written on them (nice touch.)
Mark greeted us mid meal with an introduction and brief story behind his supper club. It was really refreshing to hear him talk about his food inspiration. I love the simple concept of locally produced and foraged good quality ingredients, cooked well but with no unnecessary frills. Mark’s passion and food ethos really translated well into his dishes and the overall atmosphere of the night.
Let me just say that it was the menu of this one that really convinced my other half to come along. Anything with the words pig, pork, or sausage instinctively has his vote and Mark Breen’s menu had all three. It’s refreshing to know that you aren’t sitting next to any vegetarians when you plunge into a locally sourced pig’s cheek and gnaw on it’s tail.
To start the pigfest were little crostini of locally produced black pudding and cherry tomatoes – nice, simple, very well seasoned. Mark had also made homemade parsnip crisps with blobs of blue cheese cream on top that were as moorish as pringles (I’m waiting for the invention of the blue cheese and parsnip flavoured pringle.)
The starter was seared scallops with pea puree (always a winner) with soft spicy ‘nduja sausage that oozed a delicious hot red paprika oil and an earthy cumin foam. The combination was perfect with the sweet scallops and you could still taste their delicate flavour.
The party of pig for main consisted of soft melt-in-your-mouth cheek, crispy fried tail, buttered veggies and a rich pork sauce that trickled into a pool on a mound of powerful mustard mash. The dish was glossy and elegant. The whole meal was perfectly indulgent and the sharp rhubarb puree really stopped the whole thing from being too rich.
The dessert was a tart with the best pastry I have had in a long time. Crisp, buttery sweet shortcrust that I could have eaten on it’s own as a biscuit. The filling was egg custard and Tooting foraged blackberries, a wonderfully comforting pair of Autumn flavours that took me back to my childhood for the 45 seconds it took me to finish. I wish now that I hadn’t stood and watched as the glut of blackberries in our back garden slowly shrunk away in the cooling weather.
Post dessert we went for a glass of the fantastic white port to pair with the post dessert dessert of brown butter and ginger madeleines. They were light and nutty with caramelized butter and hot ground ginger.
We would highly recommend booking tickets to the Pickled Pig. Tickets were £29, which for 5 course tasting menu with a welcome G&T is pretty hard to beat.
Go to alwayshungry.co for upcoming Pickled Pig Grub Club dates.