Organic supper clubs, a feast for all seasons
Anna Louise Batchelor - 27 November 2012
The first time I visited an ‘Underground Restaurant’ was in Cuba’s capital city Havana. These eateries or ‘Paladares’ are run in people’s homes as an informal and cheap way to get a good hot meal. Eating in a Paladares not only allowed me to sample the local cuisine but it also fuelled the travels of two hungry and cash strapped 'pasty' female backpackers.
Back in Britain I was pleased to see Underground Restaurants becoming fashionable and gaining notoriety. I did the rounds of London’s top spots from the poshest, held in the grand former hunting lodge home of Jo Woods, to London's most renowned - the 'Underground Restaurant' in Kilburn. Whilst each venue is different what is always the same is the cook’s motivation to serve food they feel passionately about. That is why I was really pleased to find organic chefs getting involved in, what has evolved into, the 'supper club movement'.
This year I have been really fortunate to visit several organic supper clubs held at the Sheepdrove Estate in Lambourn, Berkshire. With mixed arable and livestock farming Sheepdrove produces a wide range of organic products; from farm grown wheat for baking to animals sold through their butcher's shops. Sheepdrove is also home to an 'Eco Conference Centre' which holds events from AGMs to weddings and hosts school eco education visits. It's this beautiful and environmentally sensitive building that provides the back drop to the supper clubs hosted by head chef Suzi Wintle.
The gem of the Sheepdrove supper club is its location. Not just the stunning views but the farm itself which provides the supper club with the fresh and sustainably produced food that Suzi prepares into a seasonal dining menu. From the first of the season's salad leaves to hearty Cumberland sausages, I have eaten my way through the seasons at Sheepdrove. I even enjoyed a Halloween night with a menu packed full of delicious pumpkin and squash dishes, grown by head gardener Martin Wood.
Leaving the credentials of the food aside for one moment, what I really love about organic supper clubs is the fun. It's nice to put the sack cloth and ashes away for the night, sit down with the people who have tirelessly grown and reared the food I'm eating and to enjoy it. I think organic supper clubs showcase what is best about the organic movement; the food and the camaraderie. I can only hope that more organic supper clubs will start appearing across the country so everyone can enjoy them.
Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.
Anna Louise Batchelor
27 November 2012 15:06
Thanks for your comment Elisabeth, I definitely recommend you visit the supper club next summer.
27 November 2012 12:33
I so agree, Anna Louise. The joy of eating home-cooked food made by a passionate cook is a mighty memorable experience.Really looking forward to checking out a Sheepdrove supper club when the weather gets better for returning late at night to Bristol! And way-impressed by your visit to Cuba! Viva Cuba! Viva supper clubs!
27 November 2012 12:32
Now the cat is out of the bag ... I'll never be able to book on to a Sheepdrove supper club again :-( they are so good.
27 November 2012 11:56
Yum Cumberland sausages, I will have to visit the Sheepdrove supperclub :-)
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