Whether you are a wine geek or not, if you love good food, and the company of others who love good food, I would suggest you seek out a local supper club. If you are not sure where to start looking, try following a few local foodies on Twitter.
In addition to good food, you will have the not inconsiderable bonus of being able to eat out with your own wine. BYO may sound like a mere money-saving advantage, but it is much more than that for a week geek. It means you have full control over the wine selection, and you can make sure it is served correctly which is a detail many restaurants manage to cock up.
I am sure there are almost as many variations on supper clubs as there are clubs, and I do not propose to give an overview of them all here. I am just writing from my limited recent experience of two in Manchester. Although I have only been to supper clubs on 4 occasions in total so far, most of our fellow diners were on their first so I am starting to feel as if I have a wealth of experience to share.
Speaking of fellow diners, meeting new people around a shared table is one of the great pleasures of this form of dining. I suppose the corollary is that if you are after a romantic dinner or an opportunity to catch up with a long-lost friend, you should probably be booking a table for two at a restaurant.
Below are the two supper clubs we attended recently in Manchester…
Wendy’s House Supper Club
Wendy Swetnam started her Manchester supper club only this year, but she already seems to be more serious than most supper club hosts in terms of growing it as a business. I would describe Wendy’s House Supper Club as being professional in the very best sense of the word. But do not expect cold professionalism; expect a warm welcome, an informal atmosphere in a cosy house with an intimate table that seats eight, and an unassuming chef. The professionalism comes through in an attention to detail that would be overlooked in many restaurants.
I feel rather inadequate when it comes to describing food, but it is good – very good. Certainly well towards the top-end of what Manchester has to offer in terms of restaurant food. But in a way that is to miss the point. Wendy offers an overall dining experience that is very different to that provided by restaurants, and in many ways better.
Oh, did I mention that only vegetarian food is on offer. But if, like me, you are omnivorous, don’t let that put you off – good food is good food. I have attended two of her supper clubs so far, and do not intend to stop now.
For supper club bookings, pricing, and information about Wendy’s other ventures see wendyshousesupperclub.co.uk, or follow her on Twitter @wendyswetnam. You will find descriptions and images of her supper club food in both places. For the views of other people I met at Wendy’s see blog posts by RoseBudAnnie and GreedyGuzzler.
If Wendy is professional in the best sense of the word, the Manchester Foodies are amateur, also in the best sense. Anna and Jamie host supper clubs for the joy of preparing excellent food and meeting others who enjoy eating it. You can try to find out about plans for future supper clubs on their blog Manchester Foodies or Twitter @mcrfoodies, but do not expect them to be as frequent or regular as Wendy’s, and they will most likely not all be held in their home.
We went to a Manchester Foodies supper club based on Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem. The feel was more like popping round to friends for dinner than the more carefully orchestrated evenings at Wendy’s. And the food was placed in the centre of the table on large plates and boards – again more informal than Wendy’s carefully arranged individual plates, but also truer to the style of Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern food. One of the big pluses of the less formal approach was that not only did we get to interact with other supper club guests, but there was plenty of opportunity to chat to our hosts too and get to know them a bit better.
What I remember most about the food was the subtle yet fresh and interesting use of spice in the dishes, and the textures. All mouth-watering stuff, and a mere £25 for a Middle-Eastern feast. I’d love to return for another Manchester Foodies supper club given an opportunity, but when (and indeed where) will it be?
Here’s what FoodGeek had to say about the evening. To prove I was there, you can see me in the second image of the post, just behind the bottle of Musar 99
And the next one for us?
It is looking very much like it will be hosted by seasons eatings @seasoneatmcr. The food looks great and, it is highly recommended by GreedyGuzzler, which is good enough for me. Maybe I’ll see you at the Fig and Sparrow one in December.