FOOD • February 2020
Forget about booking the smartest tables in town and seek out communal supper clubs instead, says food and travel writer Rachel Truman. They’re the best place to strike up conversations with strangers and mingle with locals over a shared love of great food and wine
Secret supper clubs are part of the cultural fabric of food lovers’ favourite San Sebastian (a new BA route for the summer), and the best way to experience real Basque food. But few get to experience a txoko (pronounced CHO-ko and translating as cosy corner), the notoriously secretive private gastronomic societies where members convene to cook, eat, drink and chat. The communal meals are usually cooked by a small brigade of members and costs split between everyone afterwards. However, some local guides can get you in to see exactly what goes on behind closed doors. Sebastián Pintxos Tours can arrange for guests to cook dishes alongside a society chef before joining members to eat, while Eat San Sebastian can organise a shopping trip to La Bretxa food market with the chef, before you learn the secrets of traditional dishes.
Forget scanning the Michelin Guide – a meal at Resident, weekly curated dinner parties for 10 to 20 people, is the New York dining experience you’ll want to put at the top of your foodie hitlist. The series is led by emerging talent, chefs keen to test out new ideas on an intimate group of diners, and hosted in private residences across the city. Expect plenty of interaction with the chef, high-end restaurant-style food, excellent wine pairings, lively conversation and serious property envy as you dine in a cool New York residence.
As supper clubs go, Thyme is an old timer. Launched in 2010 by English-born Caroline Grinsted and Tobias Zeller in their own flat in Berlin, it was a huge hit and blazed a trail for the city’s thriving supperclub scene. Now, the duo has a dedicated restaurant, Muse. They haven’t abandoned their supper club roots however, as one Saturday evening a month they invite special guest chefs to curate one-off menus for genial communal dining events. They also host their own occasional Thyme Supperclub events, both of which have to be reserved in advance.
London is another city that has embraced supper club culture, with convivial amateur hosts opening their homes to cook and dine with food-loving strangers. Former journalist Martha de Lacey launched her supper club #Muffdining in 2016 and it is now one of the capital’s most sought-after events. They’re held in her lovely home in Victoria Park, east London, and are BYO. Previous events have included a special festive edition and a Japanese-inspired menu. If you miss out, consummate baker Martha also hosts sourdough classes and fermentation workshops.
You’ll feel like you’ve been invited to dinner at friends with a fabulous house at this supper club-style restaurant in New Orleans’ Milan neighbourhood. Inside the beautiful 19th-century building, chef-owner Melissa Martin cooks up a Bayou Cajun feast three nights a week for just 24 diners. Sitting down at a set time at communal tables and tucking into a menu that celebrates local fishermen, farmers and bakers, you’ll soon bond with fellow diners as you share heaving platters of stuffed crab, crawfish boulettes and big pots of shrimp and okra gumbo. The generous puddings won’t disappoint either – Southern specialities such as strawberry pie or blackberry dumplings come served with dreamy buttermilk ice cream. It’s also open for brunch on Sundays.
Did you know you can pre-order an exclusive meal prepared by Club World chefs even if you’re not travelling in a premium cabin? Find out more here