Ten tempting supperclubs from around the world

May 8, 2013



London, early-2011.  Four trends explode: Dalston, pop-ups, ping pong and supperclubs.  As befits an exploding trend, they all immediately implode, and are mostly now, two years hence, officially ‘over’.  To the point where Harry Styles is partying in Dalston, pop-ups are as exciting as press releases and table-tennis bars are ten-a-penny.

Suppercubs, though – supperclubs are different.  Sure, they’re no longer the height of cool, but they do continue to prosper.  The best ones worldwide still easily sell out; like the very best hot new fads, supperclubs – and I mean them in the truest sense: occasional, fixed-menu dinners for groups of strangers in closed-door domestic homes – have gone on to become permanent fixtures.

After going to various London clubs, however, I personally now yearn to attend exotic overseas versions.  There’s no shortage, but here are ten that especially tempt:

Thyme, Berlin
As befits one of the coolest cities on the planet, Berlin is rich in kooky private dining clubs.  Running since 2010,   is helmed by an amateur chef from Bristol and expunges the virtues of good old-fashioned English fodder across expansive seven-course menus.  With room for up to 18 visitors, the venue is a large third-floor studio apartment in a 120-year-old building in Prenzlauer Berg. (Monthly on Fridays; approx. £34)

Brooklyn Fork & Spoon, New York City
The same applies to NYC, where, of course, the coolest-sounding supperclubs are all in Brooklyn.  I like the sound of Brooklyn Fork and Spoon, in which co-founders Rebecka and Mardi dish up omnivorous food to be eaten with the eponymous cutlery in a Greenpoint apartment.  In a 2012 interview, Mardi explained: “I actually don’t like using the word vegetarian to describe our club because I tend to associate the word with a lot of fake meat and soy products, which is not the kind of food we prepare.  I want to share my love for vegetables, grains and legumes, and to show people how a meal can be incredibly satisfying without leaving you in a ‘food coma’.”  (Suggested donation £26)

Jim HaynesJim Haynes’ Sunday Dinners, Paris
The classic supperclub.   From Louisiana and raised in Venezuela, Jim Haynes has been hosting up to 100 guests (more in summer, when the garden can be used) every Sunday evening since the ‘70s in his 14th arrondissement atelier, a former sculpture studio.  A chosen friend does the cooking, while Jim tells how he started a theatre and used to hang out with Ginsberg, and somehow remembers everyone’s name.  All are welcome – any age, any nationality; you just have to call or send an email. (Approx. £21)

Cocina Sunae, Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires abounds in puertas cerradas, and one of the best-sounding is Cocina Sunae in the Colegiales barrio.  Inspired by host Cristina’s Korean, Flipino and Japanese roots (as well as her time in a Thai restaurant in New York), it focuses on pan-Asian cuisine.  A typical meal begins with a ginger kamikaze cocktail, and goes on to include Thai hot & sour soup, Vietnamese summer rolls, a tasty Thai curry and Key Lime Pie – all topped off with a signature green-tea ice cream. (Approx. £23)

Cobra Ottawa, Ottawa
Is Cobra Ottawa still running? True to form, the answer’s a bit of a mystery, but I think so – a tweet in January suggests as much.  The project works like this: Cobra is a nomadic restaurant run by a collective of talented young Ottawa chefs, and held in different houses with the menu wholly dependent on the chosen cook’s whims.  You express interest by submitting your email: then, after answering a food questionnaire, your name is added to a list.  Six winners (all with a +1) are randomly selected each time, and issued with instructions on where to meet.  In the most recent account I could find, the attendee was told he’d see “a person with hangers” at an innocuous intersection.  (Donation approx. £66, all of which goes to charity)

La Cuisine Secrete, Montevideo
Elsa Manelphe’s eccentric Le Cuisine Secrete parties come with a fun geographical theme: former examples have seen her Ciudad Vieja home decorated in the style of Casablanca and Shanghai.  The spicy nosh has French, Creole and Asian accents thanks to Elsa’s exotic background: she was born on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, and raised in Marseille, before settling in Uruguay’s exciting capital city.  As well as taking LCS on tour, she also runs a pop-up restaurant around Montevideo.  The official manifesto reads as follows: “NO ADDRESS.  NO MENU.  NO CHOICE.  NO SHIT.  IT’S A SECRET.  IT’S LIVE.  IT’S FRESH.  IT’S La Cuisine Secrete.”  Brilliant.  (Approx. £35)

First on the Right, Copenhagen
This one’s verrrrry exclusive – and very expensive.  Just 16 people get invited to try First on the Right’s nine courses and seven wine pairings (plus sherries), all created and chosen by celebrity chef Mettesia Martinussen.  Informed of the address via post, you head to a quiet street round the back of Charlottenborg Palace, locate the relevant apartment building and hit the buzzer marked 1.th (‘first floor, on the right’).  Inside a glamorous drawing room awaits with scarlet wallpaper, Royal Copenhagen china, an antique turntable and a crystal chandelier… (Approx. £109)

Mama Isa’s Supper Club, Padova
A short train-ride from Venice, Padova’s a walled university city known for its Giotto frescoes.  It’s also where the legendary Mama Isa hosts guerilla dinners in her modern apartment.  Labelled an ‘anti-anti-restaurant’ in reaction to more stylised affairs, her supperclub offers more home-made fare, with all the recipes created by Isa’s mother and grandmother.  The set, multi-course menus always include hot and cold appetizers, a mid-meal sorbet to cleanse the palate and wine throughout.  A maximum of six guests can attend, and Isa’s family are also present, rather charmingly.  Book via the website or Mama Isa’s blog; she also offers cooking classes. (Nominal donations expected)

Down The Rabbit Hole, Ghent
Once a month in Ghent – a Belgian coastal port known for bicycles, beer, cobbles, cathedrals and canals – Down The Rabbit Hole hosts a secret supper for 12 lucky diners.  Both menu and venue constantly change, but both are always unusual – the picture to the right is of a boat-based event from 2012, for example.  I especially like how relaxed it all sounds: they promise “culinary delights and matching drinks without the high price tag, the cool setting and sometimes strict etiquette.”  (Approx. £26-£43)

Middagsklubben, Gothenburg
We represent the West Sweden Tourist Board, so I felt obliged to include a Gothenburg option.  Luckily, Middagsklubben sounds as cool as you’d expect a Swedish supperclub to be: it’s run by Jasmine Soufi, a “travelling bon vivant who thinks it’s a wonderful idea to get people together and make them experience something special together, especially on a boring weekday.”  In her candlelit flat, strangers mingle during a three-course dinner with wine, welcome drinks and coffee.  (Approx. £41 incl. drinks)

For more suggestions, see SaltShaker’s ever-evolving list of worldwide supperclubs, or use Find A Supper Club.

(Richard Mellor)