Supper clubs, the underground eating houses replicating the paladares of Cuba and Prohibition speakeasies of 1950s America, have easily captured the UK’s imagination. From mussels & prosecco to art-themed dining and bourgeoisie burgers the choices are endless.
But with the big corporates jumping on the bandwagon, and pop ups, supper clubs and underground eating houses now being diluted with manufactured, marketing-led concepts and entrepreneurs willing to cash in on their popularity they’re becoming less real, more gimmicky and not quite as pocket friendly.
To me, a good supper club is no different from a good restaurant. It should serve fresh, local, seasonal produce, come recommended and be more about the substance than the style. Though a little doesn’t hurt. So when I met Tina, AKA CanTina Brighton, at a foody event over a year ago and heard her speak passionately about Brighton’s produce, I knew I had to try her food.
Hosted in the long, slim dining rooms of her Regency apartment in Brighton, CanTina’s supper club is an informal, sociable affair.
Welcomed by a complimentary cocktail – strong, sweet rum and spicy ginger in our case – guests have time to chat, before a bell rings to signal the start of dinner. Time for guests to take their seats at the elegant, chintzy table, laid with vintage crockery, mismatched cutlery and antique glasses.
An amuse bouche of ‘mini cuppa soup’ (roasted tomato with coconut sambal) whet our appetites and got the chatter between 18 or so relative strangers going. A well travelled father mixed with a moustached hipster and local pharmacist, all bonding over a shared love of food and interest in people.
Next up was a smoked aubergine croquette with babaganush and a pomegranate dressing. Then a local line caught mackerel, which was a conversation starter and a half – bringing back memories of fishing trips from Brighton Marina and strangely, far flung Bosnian cold remedy involving soaking socks in vinegar (the mackerel was served on a bed on beetroot salad, with leeks and walnuts).
Any hopes CanTina had about keeping leftovers of the slow roasted Plantation pig were dashed as the table rapidly polished it off, not forgetting the dill pilaf with saffron aioli and seasonal leaves.
The rose and yoghurt creams, served with rhubarb and ginger compote, cardamom shortbread and pistachio praline were almost as popular, with just enough room left to squeeze in a chocolate orange petit four and a snifter of dessert wine.
Highly recommended, but get in there quick. Evenings book up well ahead of time.