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Uyen from Fernandez and Leluu’s supper club is back with another great guest post. This time, Uyen tells us the ups and downs of having an underground restaurant and what really happens when you let strangers into your home. Read on to find out about hair set on fire, the man who had a noodle hanging off his eye brow and marriage proposals.
‘How do you feel about having all these strangers in your house?’ everyone queries, ‘have there been any incidents?’ Prepping and doing supper clubs is like living in a little capsule – we are in the kitchen, chopping, peeling, slicing, marinating, cleaning, cooking, tasting. It takes all day and we don’t stop, sometimes there isn’t even enough time for lunch or to eat dinner!
And then all of a sudden, at 7.30pm precisely (rarely are people too early or late), the door bell rings and enter a bunch of strangers, none you have met before but they all start to have a good time, downstairs in our living room! So far, no one has rifled through my knicker drawer or hidden in the cupboard overnight. The amount of people who have been to our supper club and respected our home is a true testament to how honest and kind most people actually are.
Guests are told to get their own water, lick their spoons because they are not getting another one, and to quiet down after 11:30pm. Some guests help with clearing plates or getting tap water for everyone. When someone can’t finish their plate, I encourage others from the table to take the last bit and they do, because it’s a house dinner and you are not in a restaurant – the boundaries are completely different.
Some people are really polite, thanking us to the ends of the earth for the dinner. We are ambushed with compliments and gratitude. We get dinner invites and make new bonds and friendships with some of the most charming and charismatic personalities. There have been a handful of bad stories, such as people not donating (not the ones who forget – the ones who forget are traumatized and come back straight away). And some people don’t eat anything because they’d come for a birthday party and don’t like food in general. Or there’s that couple that just had a blazing row at the front door and burst into tears. Once someone even got their hair set on fire (by accident – that was quite funny)!
Of course, there are many annoying last minute cancellations but that is to be expected at any eatery – underground or over-ground. If you book to eat in our home, you shouldn’t really cancel on the day, but sometimes things happen and it’s understandable. We’ve heard of a lot of excuses; the dog chewed up my homework sort of thing. Once, we had a no show which we were really worried about because we never heard from them again. There hasn’t really been a nightmare guest, just the noodle guy who had a noodle hanging off his eye brow and threw all his food everywhere because he was too drunk. Simon ejected him after we found him urinating in the street.
Drunkenness is not uncommon, because people get to bring their own wine; but even so, people have been very respectful.
Some people stay on really late. Sometimes, we don’t let them go and stay chatting to them into the early hours. A few times, people have slept over and we’ve started all over again at breakfast. Many of our guests are fantastic, we have so much in common. A few weeks ago, I met someone who had been to school next door to mine, then went to Central St Martins during the same years – in the same building – in Long Acre! The greatest thing and the most valuable thing is making all these new friends. More than anything, there have been some great nights, singing, dancing, marriage proposals, birthday songs, jokes and stories told.
We always want to join the party but we have to work and cook so sitting down with guests for dessert is a godsend! To be honest, sometimes I feel completely exhausted and just want to crawl up like a baby in my bed. Once, there was a couple who were really funny but it was getting very late and I was at my last tether, so I was really rude to them. I’m still so ashamed about how I lost it with them, stamping my feet around the room, making lots of noises, and slamming doors! They were a little unhappy upon departure… Simon is always happy to talk to everyone and is so patient. Feeling so bad having upset my guest, I will never do it again no matter how tired I get. We don’t expect people to treat our house like it’s a home as well as a restaurant. You can’t have the best of both worlds and decide which one you want to pick when it suits you. The truth is, people will cancel, some people will take the piss, some people will be a little rude – but that’s because it’s just the way some people are – if we are to welcome people into our homes from all walks of life, we have to deal with what all walks of life involve.
The 30-year running supper club owner Jim Haynes, rightly says: “there’s no point in trying to understand people; we have to tolerate people and accept them the way they are and welcome everyone equally and with open arms.”
To find out when Uyen and Simon are offering their next supper club evening, click here. If you want to be in the know about food activities going on in London, check out Ooh.com.