My friend Emily from Sheffield had been banging on about these secret supper clubs for ages, and finally convinced me to go to The White Room for a Christmas meal this December.
Not to be confused with the Supperclub in West London, these top Secret Supper Clubs are underground restaurants hosted inside people’s homes like a cosy, friendly dinner party.
Of course, the one significant difference is that the host is not your friend so you have to pay.
Claudia, the host of the White Room Supper Club, refers to this payment on her blog as a ‘suggested donation’, no doubt so the taxman doesn’t come and find her, and the damage is £35.
Upon seeing this I tried to persuade my friend Emily to go to a nice restaurant or even to the other Supperclub instead of this scary-sounding White Room.
Why go for dinner with a load of strangers in a stranger’s house when for the same price you can eat at The Oxo Tower or be served four delightful courses while reclining on a double bed quaffing cava and watching dodgy cabaret in the actual Supperclub with your actual friends?
‘Why, why, why?’ I asked my friend Emily. But on the premise that I will try anything once, off to the White Room Supper Club we went.
The friendly aspect of these secret supper clubs seems to be their USP. People are encouraged to turn up alone specifically with the objective of ‘mingling’ and making new acquaintance.
As somebody who has a natural suspicion of strangers and hates networking with a passion, this sounded like my worst cup of tea but at least four of us were turning up together. Safety in numbers.
All of us were a little apprehensive about what to expect and stopped by the offy on the way. Of course, these secret supper clubs are not licensed to sell alcohol and we all over-estimated how much booze we would need, emerging with about 8 bottles of wine.
We were running late by this point and it was all a bit taxing as we raced through Angel to the White Room. Claudia had stressed we mustn’t be late.
My first impressions when she opened the door were:
- She didn’t smile
- The other waiting guests did not turn around or acknowledge us
- She took our wine, all of our wine, and placed it somewhere unknown
Despite wanting to run away, I politely downed my thimble of cider punch and ate my Carr’s water biscuit with paté and gherkin and tried to smile encouragingly at the other people who all seemed to be making a point of looking in the other direction.
I sound negative and I don’t mean to be. There definitely were positives such as the fact her small flat was done up beautifully with an elegant, white Christmas tree and two big tables with delightful decorations.
Two young women arrived soon after us (hooray we weren’t the last!) and it was time to be seated for the meal.
Our table consisted of our gang of four ladies, a large, unhappy looking red-haired lady, a couple in their 20s and the two female latecomers. I joked to the one male on our table about him being the only guy and he returned my friendly smile with an icy glare and didn’t say anything. I decided not to talk to him or his girlfriend again.
The red-haired lady was quite a long way from me and was staring into her lap as if she was about to burst into tears so I decided not to talk to her either.
That left the two, female latecomers to bond with and to be fair they were pretty cool. Both 24, Cambridge graduates with the confident air of the privately educated. I liked them.
Meanwhile, our host Claudia was busying herself in the kitchen but there was STILL NO SIGN OF OUR WINE.
First course was a spoonful of cod ceviche with pomegranate. Down the hatch. Yum.
Conversation on the table was stilted and we reminded Claudia of our wine. Mercifully she filled our glasses, yet the bottle was not allowed on the table. Her flat was pristine so perhaps she was concerned about spillage.
Next came chestnut and sage soup with homemade bread. It was pretty tasty but I noticed the red-haired lady hadn’t taken a single mouthful.
I was beginning to relax by this point. We had been there over an hour so surely the end was in sight. I attempted to talk to the Cambridge graduates about highbrow, intellectual matters but was a little bit relieved when they turned to speak to each other and I could chat to my friends instead.
When the main course of Goose arrived, I noticed the red-haired lady only ate a few mouthfuls and left all of her spicy carrots.
As our main course was cleared away the red haired lady stood up, dramatically declared she didn’t like puddings and walked out. She didn’t seem to be having much fun so I didn’t blame her and I admired her balls.
Poor Claudia was taken aback and rather offended and had to rush outside to her balcony for a cigarette.
Meanwhile I was having more great chats with the Cambridge graduates over my stollen muffin and Christmas biscuits, and enjoying every second of their charming company.
‘Let’s see if they want to come for a drink with us afterwards?” I said to my friend Emily as we passed each other on the way to the bathroom.
She looked at me in surprise, “Why would we do that?”
“I thought we were supposed to make new friends here?”
She looked at me as if I was crazy, shook her head and headed to the bathroom.
Finally it was time to leave, but I wasn’t quite ready. I was feeling an affinity with my new intellectual young friends and I wanted to go out for a drink with them or add them on Facebook or Snapchat or whatever the cool, young people use these days.
“So it’s been really great!” I said as I zipped up my coat, waiting for them to affirm they wanted to hang out again very soon.
“Goodbye” they said politely and smiled before continuing their conversation with the hostile man and his girlfriend.
So that was that.
We had only got through two bottles of our wine but it seemed churlish to request the other six back. Claudia smiled as she closed the door behind us and I wasn’t surprised. With lots of leftover wine, 18 guests all paying £35 and no tax or other overheads she must have made a tidy profit. Happy Christmas Claudia.
On the way home Emily enthused about booking our next Secret Supper Club outing. She admitted the atmosphere at Claudia’s had been a little sterile but was more convinced by a lady called Ms Marmite Lover who, from her blog posts, sounds more relaxed than Claudia and her perfect, yet intimidating White Room.
This time it was my turn to look at her as if she was crazy. It was kinda interesting but once was definitely enough.