Welcome to my website. I am the author of ‘Vietnamese – Simple Vietnamese Food To Cook At Home’. I am a photographer and film maker. You can book into my supper club, Vietnamese cooking classes, buy my book, check out my photography and lots more here.
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Elizabeth Shepard, co-owner of Green Onions Secret Supper Club and I have been corresponding via Twitter about tea, Radio 4, dinner dates and such things like “not liking today” for a couple of months now.
I felt like I had found a fellow human who knew what we were going through with the trials and tribulations of the supper club world. Despite only seeing a tiny Twitter picture of her in yellow and purple and a large hat covering her face, I took an instant liking to her. She looks like lots of fun.
When I had heard on Twitter that there were some cancellations for their event last Friday night, I told Simon about it and we decided to go because our Fish Tales menu for the next day did not require us to work late into the night or to do any prepping the day before. (We like doing Fish Tales)
We cycled in the winter wind along the dark streets of Hackney. It definitely beats driving and one of us not drinking. As we arrived on their street, we found Elizabeth, also known as Claire, wondering around in her apron, trying to locate lost dinner guests.
We were welcomed by Lucy, a hunky blonde with a very husky voice, took our coats and offered us some sparkling something that I could have had a litre of. It was lovely. Claire lives in a council block on the ground floor with a garden that I wish I could have seen (as it was dark – I didn’t).
As I grew up in a 70s council block (in Hackney), I always feel like I somehow belong there. I love the unique warmth that hits your face when you enter the door that you do not get anywhere else. Is it because the ceilings are lower, the people are closer that this special heating occurs? Its not too hot, its just right; comfortable and homely.
Claire’s dinning room is simple but inviting with fairy lights crawling across mirrors and the book case. Flowers on every table. But most importantly, the guests who have already arrived are the welcoming part – saying hello to new arrivals, greeting us with their friendly smiles.
Supper clubs rule when it comes to social interactions. We spoke to our table companions about their weird dates, trips to China and whatever anyone felt like chatting about. It was like meeting some old friends you hadn’t seen in ages and getting to know them all over again.
It was difficult to answer, ‘what do you guys do?’ the inevitable question that always pops up – ‘O – … We also run a supper club.’ It’s the dread of justifying why we were there in the first place. No – not to spy, not to poach customers or even check out the competition. Just to eat and take part in the supper club movement. We answered all their questions and really liked telling them too.
Simon & I spend so much time talking and working on Fernandez & Leluu – we never really get any time to ourselves and not work. Going to a supper club is just better than going to a restaurant because then at least we can talk to other people who occupy the world too.
We were seriously hungry! Claire introduced herself to her dinner guests and announced that sadly this weekend may be Green Onions’ last suppers because – Billy – chef of Green Onions is leaving for Sweden.
A flux of terrible sadness swept all our faces but a sense of happy-go-lucky smirk curled at the edge of our lips to be lucky enough to take part in their incredible journey, after ten months, after hundreds and maybe thousands of mouths fed, comes to a stand still – we could be the last but hopefully just the last at the interim.
Claire announced that they were making what they believed to be their most successful dishes for us tonight. Typical Yorkshire favourites – where they are from.
We were lucky enough to sit with some vegetarians because two salad bowls came to our table! There was the black pudding salad – which I was totally unsure of but upon entering my mouth and sitting on my tongue for a while, my taste buds were dancing MC Hammer style in unison.
There must have been some pesto dressing on the sliced black pudding with fried bread as croutons and watercress. We shared the vegi-option of Jerusalem Artichoke – it was really one of the best salads I have had.
As the chit-chat continued and the wine flowing, we were served two pies- one with chicken and one with mushrooms. They were both huge pies sitting on our table for six when it should have been for 10. We were very lucky. They tasted delicious. The generous filling of chicken was ever so succulent and full. The crust is buttery, crunchy, crispy and everything you could expect from a great pie!
This was served with kale which they cooked to perfection, with perfect seasoning. We loved it. We ate it all – pinching off the poor vegetarian’s pie who were fighting over their fabulous mushroom pie full of the perfect balance of mushroom and cream. Exquisite!
Claire, Billy & Lucy got the food, the service spot on. They left adequate time in between courses and they changed our plates and cutlery (more than what we do sometimes he he). After ten months, they were like clock work.
For dessert, we all got a generous amount of Yorkshire Parkin with Rhubarb. Simon nor I are fans of rhubarb so left it but the parkin was great. It was not a good idea for of mine to eat everything! I really pushed myself over the edge that night. Was so stuffed and kept pouring cream over my dessert like it was good for my waistline.
Claire joined us for tea and coffee, it was really the first time we met. We gave each other a big hug. For three seconds, some weight had been lifted off Claire’s shoulders. She looked ever so tired and exhausted as she has to work all week at her ‘day job’ then do three nights in a row in the evening.
“I feel gutted.” Claire answers in response to it maybe being the last weekend, looking down at the edge of the table. We are gutted too.
Guests began to disperse and we were the last ones sharing our experiences, getting to know Billy and Lucy.
We were really lucky to have been to Green Onions. They sell out within minutes of putting their dates on Facebook. Although I would curse those who cancelled in the first place – it meant that we went.
It was a true supper club experience – whatever that is. What I really like about Green Onions is that this is just what they do, and they are good at it. There isn’t any gimmick, pretentiousness or press hyperactivity with their place and them. And they are ever so nice.
What a brilliant night!
Please join their Facebook group and rally for more supper club dates. We need Green Onions!