I had the pleasure of supper clubbing in Edinburgh this Saturday. Those of you who know me will be aware of the mild obsession I have with the Scottish capital. It’s my favourite place to visit, mainly thanks to its beautifully grand architecture and proximity to breathtaking, natural landscapes. I have a big desire to uproot and move there one day – I’ll probably have to win the lottery before I can afford that dream New Town apartment however!!
This year I seem to be going up to Edinburgh nearly every month and in the honour of good research I’ve been in contact with fellow supperclubber Aoife, of My Home Supperclub. Aoife recommended that I come along to the first night of a brand new supperclub Crescent Dining – run by friends Calum and Jethro in Calum’s Mum’s New Town pad. I jumped at the chance to visit as, apart from getting the chance to nose around someone elses house, it was a great opportunity to glean some tips from Aoife and meet some new people who love food
Crescent Dining Club was not far from where we were staying and so as it was a warm evening we wandered down, feeling nervous but also quite excited. The venue was in one of Edinburgh’s beautiful crescents (hence the name!) and was a main door apartment – quite a big deal in Edinburgh! We were warmly greeted by Calum’s mum Leslie. She immediately introduced us to everyone and made sure we had a drink. It’s important to get this first few minutes right – putting the guests at ease and ensuring that the atmosphere is upbeat and positive. Leslie succeeded! She was a very able host, who although obviously very nervous about having a house full of strangers, completely committed to supporting her son and his new venture.
Calum and Jethro, our chefs for the night, set up Crescent Dining having only recently finished university in Sheffield. They were likable lads who came round for a quick chat and to top up our ‘Ginger Sangrias’ for us ,before rushing off to put the finishing touches to the food. It was obvious that this was where their passion lay. As it soon became apparent the quality of the ingredients, the preparation and the presentation were all extremely important to them. They’ve set up the supperclub to gain some experience in the catering industry. Who knows, in years to come Calum may have his own restaurant and I’ll be able to say I was at his first night! This club will be running throughout August to take advantage of the Festival crowds.
The dining room was set up around two large tables, similar to how we will do it at the Manor. As it happened the majority of the guests present (as it was their first proper night) were friends and family. There were only a handful of us who were unknown to the family. As this was the case Leslie organised who sat where, to ensure everyone was sat next to someone new. I had the pleasure of being next to Aoife, from My Home Supperclub, as well as Brenda, Calum’s nan. Laurie, Calum’s Dad, also joined us on our table – which was a great way to get gossip and tit bits about the supperclub!
I cross-examined Aoife about the positives and negatives of being a supperclub host. She told me about some of her most difficult guests and over time we all exposed ourselves as being fussy eaters – the one thing I worry about in terms of my own guests! It was great to find out some of the practicalities of running a supperclub. Aoife has some very innovative ideas for her upcoming events. Check them out on her blog.
Crescent Dining offers two choices per course, I guess so that the budding chefs can try their hand at a number of different dishes and techniques. My starter was a warm goats cheese salad served with crostini and candied walnuts. It was a great mixture of textures and flavours and very obvious that the best ingredients had been sourced by the team. Everything was homemade – from the bread for the crostini to the poppy seed bread sticks on the table. There were appropriate breaks in between courses to ensure we could continue the good conversation and drink lots of wine!
My main course was monk fish that had been roasted delicately with saffron and served with a lovely salad of new potatoes and chorizo. I’m a big flavour guy (and according to Aoife a possible super taster due to my hatred of cucumber) and whilst this dish was quite subtle it was faultless. Every element was cooked superbly and it was very well presented. It was funny to hear about the saga that occurred around the monk fish – apparently Edinburgh had a monk fish drought this weekend and they struggled to find any!
The pannacotta dessert with a raspberry and tequila compote was a dish I was excited about. The pannacotta was smooth and softly set. It was perhaps not as sweet as I would have liked, but it was still a delight to eat. I was a bit jealous of the other’s mint choc chip ice cream. It was deliciously herby and refreshing. This was all finished off with some fresh coffee, more wine and Calum’s signature shortbread.
Calum is probably onto a winner with Crescent Dining club. He has a strong passion for cooking great food from well sourced ingredients and does not want to compromise on that. His food is already faultless, so it’s obvious that this is just the start of a promising career in food. I feel privileged to have experienced one his meals in such lovely and welcoming surroundings. When leaving, Leslie asked us to feedback anything constructive so that they can improve for future events. I’ve not been able to tell her anything – everything on the night was perfect. If I was to really nit pick then perhaps the room was a little warm, but we just opened a window. I also hope her neighbors don’t get too cross with her – we were quite rowdy after all that wine!
It was great to eat such a well cooked meal amongst such lovely people on Saturday. It’s made me feel quite excited at the prospect of having strangers round to the Manor in the autumn. I feel ever so nervous that our food won’t be as refined and faultless as Calum and Jethro’s, eek! If you’re up in Scotland this summer then do give them a look in. You’re guaranteed a gourmet experience in a friendly environment. Also, Aoife was a delight to get to know. Her supperclub runs all year round and I will certainly be getting there as soon as possible. In true social networking style I’ve hooked her up with our friend and ukulele star Jo Stephenson. Jo’s got a show (Can you Dig it) at the Edinburgh Festival this year, so fingers crossed she’ll be doing a turn at one of Aoife’s events. Watch this space!