Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Underground Restaurant.

I finally made it to my first supper club at the weekend. I've read about small restaurants run from private homes in places like Italy and Cuba, but more and more have been popping up around London in the last couple of years. I like the fact that the focus is on great cooking in a warm and more personal environment: it feels perfect for these more austere times and, if all supper clubs are as cosy as The Underground Restaurant, they are the perfect night out on a freezing winter's evening.

I've long had my eye on The Underground Restaurant, run by an enthusiastic home cook and food writer. Her blog The English Can Cook is a fantastic read, chronicling an obsessive attention to detail and sense of humour, which she brings to the table in the beautiful, huge, cosy flat from which she runs her supper club. What finally got me to get my act together to book a place was the special Thanksgiving feast she was hosting. (I always try to have a Thanksgiving feast, to celebrate alongside my esteemed American friends and, erm, eat a huge feast.) Staying true to her quest for authenticity, we were treated to several unusual dishes, some recipes given by friends and some taken from the Little House on The Prairie cookbook. This was marshmellows cooked with yams. Before...

...and after. It actually tasted ok, like a sweet puree.

This was a really odd combination of textures and flavour. Vegetables suspended in jelly. Americans really do eat jelly with savoury meals (my friend who went to college there confirmed this insane behaviour). I was really interested to try it but I can report that it was disgusting. Disgusting!

This, on the other hand, was delicious. Succotash, an almost soup-like corn and vegetable dish. Served with cornbread. I love cornbread and this was the good shit.

Visiting The Underground Restaurant was a unique experience; you are in somebody's home, which is odd, but in this case it is a huge, elegant flat with high ceilings and a luxurious bathroom, so it felt perfectly comfortable. The tables are mixed, so you're likely to get involved in some unexpected conversations with complete strangers. It was a really fun night out and nice to do something a bit different. Check The English Can Cook for upcoming events at The Underground Restaurant. I highly recommend it.

[Images with thanks to @MsMarmiteLover.]


  1. I've always been intrigued by those type of DIY pop-up restaurants too. Seems like a lovely evening. And I am definitely with you on the corn bread. Yum.

    Emily x

  2. Dear Caroline, I've long been a reader of Ms Marmite Lover's blog. I have wanted to go for ages and have been talking about it with a few friends.

    I must book it, although I'm not keen on a single dish on the Thanksgiving menu. I know there are plenty of other menus I will like xx

  3. There are similar places that do afternoon teas too. The vegetables in jelly look completely horrible, but the succotash looks fab - I would have been really obnoxious and said 'suffering succcotash' in my best Sylvester impression all night.

  4. ah i love the idea of a supper club - james and isa go to them quite regularly and i've been meaning to tag along for a while now.

    i think some of them take the micky a bit with pricing tho - be interested to know how much you paid for this?

    when i lived in america i went to a friends for thanksgiving dinner and was introduced to the joys/horrors of the traditional thanksgiving dish. the sweet potato i could just deal with (i saved it till last as sort of mini-pudding) but the carrots in jelly thing is WRONG. so very very WRONG.


  5. This place looks ace! By the way, where in America do they put carrots in jello? I'm from the Midwest and have never in my entire life heard of this before. It is just plain weird.

    Now, canned fruit cocktail in jello is a totally different story and I recommend :)

    The marshmallow/yam thing -- a Thanksgiving must!

    Glad you had such a lovely time!

  6. Christina - yeah, this menu was a bit gimmicky. Her French meals sound fantastic. Think she's half French and gets all the authentic ingredients, etc.. Reckon you would love it. x

    Kezza - It was £40. Kind've steep but what you spend on a night out anyway, so balances out. That doesn't include booze.x

    Abby - I don't know! That recipe had been supplied by Shelley von Strunckel (the astrologer) so I guess wherever she comes from! Where in the midwest are you from? Dying to go there on a thrifting roadtrip. My friend went to college in Minnesota, he said the college canteen had all different flavours of jello to choose from. W.T.F.? Hehe. xx

  7. thanks for writing about this. sounds intriguing and I will try to give this a go next year.

  8. Hi Caroline,
    Roaming around the internet and came across your review, I'm so glad you liked it.
    Abby: Shelley Von strunkel and Elvis suggested the salad in jello dish. Maybe my version was too healthy?! Believe it or not some people liked it!
    Kezza: in London a five course meal with cocktail would normally cost alot more than £40. Plus at my house you have the table for night, not just for 1-2 hours. It's a whole evening's entertainment, unlike in a conventional restaurant. Plus, it takes me four days at least to shop, prep, market, cook, clear up, for one night. Believe me, it's not something you do to make alot of money. I can only open one night a week, I can't buy in bulk, and most restaurants make money on the drink not the food. You know that mark up on your wine, and your coffee, that's where their profit comes from. I don't have that! I do a fixed menu, including coffee. People have to bring their own drink as it's illegal for me to provide drink.
    In fact I've now found out even the cocktail I give at the start is not strictly legal.
    It's a whole different approach to food, it's a special occasion, and I think most people expect to pay at least £40 for a night out.
    Before I did this home restaurant, I also thought restaurants were expensive, now I know better. You are never gonna get rich being a restaurateur!
    This particular evening was following recipes in the Little House on the Prairie cookbook plus some of the famous thanksgiving recipes like sweet potatoes with marshmallows.