I can’t remember having been that excited since I was 8 and my mother would come back from work early on Christmas eve, ready for our long family summer holiday, with the Christmas hamper where I knew I’d find panetonne, torrone, and lots and lots of chocolate, eat the whole lot, and then be continuously sick during a 6 hour car journey on the way to my grandparents. Ah, fond childhood memories. My parents were lucky to have me.
The measured start I had planned for the supper club, at home, with maybe 6 or 8 diners, somehow turned into a 35-guest evening hosted by the fabulous Café’ of Good Hope in Hither Green, South London. In a moment of folly, I agreed to join forces with the Hither Green Wine Club and deliver a feast of food, wine and live music to a lot of people. We called the evening The Wrong Side of The Tracks, hoping to rid North Londoners of the outdated notion that we don’t have fun south of the river.
So, how did it go? Well, the menu worked just as I had planned. We described it as a Latin American inspired dinner, and built a very summery menu. Not strictly Latin American, but then I am from Sao Paulo, and we had so many different food influences there that it would be impossible to be a purist about the menu. I went with the food I knew from growing up in a city built by, just to mention a few, Italians, Lebanese, Portuguese, and the migrants from the North of Brazil, with their rich African heritage.
As I long suspected, the big winner of the night was the pao de queijo, the chewy Brazilian cheese bread, a bit on the lines of French gougeres, but with fresh cheese and a very Brazilian cassava starch. My poor niece serving the canapés kept rushing back to the kitchen to report that people were hunting her down for more. People also went wild for the bacon jam empanadas, and the watermelon Pimms granita went down well too, although it didn’t resist the heat for more than 2 minutes – we had to serve it with straws in place of spoons.
A very happy surprise was to have some guests bringing me flowers and small presents. Given that the evening was not free, I had not expected that – but hey, keep them coming! Presents are ALWAYS welcome! I like islands, gold mines and exotic animals.
So, was it like a dinner party, then? It was louder than even my dinner parties and certainly had better conversation and entertainment. That suited me very well, since I was able to revert to my natural bellowing voice and go completely unnoticed. How I enjoyed screaming SERVICE, PLEASE every 5 minutes! We also had the highly entertaining Matthew Robins with his band and stories in between courses. I won’t mention names, but there were a few tears in the room during his beautiful Wicker Cat tale. Musician Scott Slocombe kept the joyful atmosphere going with his acoustic guitar, soulful looks and dreamy voice.
Did it run like clockwork? Er, no. We were very lucky to have the most gracious bunch of mostly friends and family attending, and they all showed buckets of tolerance for the delays, for the fact that I forgot to introduce the menu properly, and for some other mistakes – every single one of them easily attributed to me. Generosity was the word of the day, and help just turned up before I even asked for it. In the end, we got all the food out, but only thanks to the many helping hands and a great improvised team. Judging from the constant chatter and laughter and an obviously happy atmosphere, we did deliver a fun night. For me, the great reward was to see clear plates coming back to the kitchen and people raving about the food. Now it’s a matter of ironing out the imperfections and making this better next time.
Was it worth it? Hell, yes! Even though I was up at 06:00, did not stop once until I went to bed at 03:00, I couldn’t possibly describe it as hard work. I had the most fun time ever! I was on a high that still did not subside on Sunday morning, when my husband gently suggested I went for a walk to give him 5 minutes of peace and quiet reflect on the previous night.
It was fun, people were happy and well fed, and the food received a lot of compliments. And I loved doing it.Everything else we can work on.
So, what’s next? More, please! We hope to run a second Wrong Side of The Tracks evening in the next few weeks. Date to be confirmed, but hopefully very soon. We’re going through a Lessons Learnt moment, and will make the next one just as fun, but more accomplished. If you’d like to attend our dinners, email me at email@example.com and I will keep you informed. Or check the Supper Club page on this blog for next confirmed dates.
Who made it happen? A great long list of Thank Yous is in place: First of all, the indefatigable Mizen brothers from the Café of Good Hope and the amazing work they do at the Jimmy Minzen Foundation. The Hither Green Wine Club for being the social networking butterflies of South London, and for the constant flow of wine. The 1st class free labour provided by our GORGEOUS waitresses. The Resident Vegetarian for tasting the veggie options on the weeks leading to the dinner, and for putting together a very tropical playlist. I swear to God when this came up I thought I was going to explode with excitement. And for supporting my ideas, having a never ending stock of patience and being an all-round outstanding husband. And above all, you, generous, beautiful, hungry crowd.
I can’t wait for the next one!