Food & DrinkindependentPortsmouthSouthseaSupper ClubVegan

Christmas Supper Club

Think of possibly the MOST stereotypical Christmas living room scene you can imagine: log fire, cosy rug, beautifully decorated tree and mulled wine in hand. That’s exactly how I was welcomed into the Hungry Herbivores’ Christmas Supper Club – I’d managed to grab one of the final tickets!

Settling down in this Winter Wonderland, guests started chatting and making introductions as we were served either mulled wine or a non-alcoholic kombucha option, whetting our appetites on Pigs in Blankets AKA: Warm, plump medjool dates wrapped in homemade seitan bacon. Delicious! Really simple, imaginative and definitely something I’ve never had before.

Some people came in pairs, family members of the Herbivores adding to the warm atmosphere and a few solo diners like myself were also present. Being my first Supper Club I was nervous but soon noticed everyone was incredibly friendly and up for chatting. A few regulars to the Supper Clubs were catching up since last time and I love the sense of community being created around these evenings and shared interests.

Ushered to the long table, our first course was a baked “Camembert”. I had no idea how the girls would be tackling this Christmas staple. Personally, I have a real dislike for vegan cheeses that are mass-produced, often finding them tasteless and much preferring the nut-based options. Rosie and Amor make everything from scratch so I was excited to try their take on camembert. Nestled on the table amongst the greener and crackers were large bowls of the cheese topped with rosemary and garlic cloves, pesto swirl rolls waiting to be torn apart and dipped in. I love a sharing starter because it gets everyone interacting. The rolls were full of flavour and the cheese was cashew-based, warm and not overpowering at all but definitely flavoursome. I didn’t expect the exact same flavour profile as a camembert, it’s a hard thing to replicate, but this was delicious and certainly a brilliant alternative. Quite a few of us had to take a step back and remember we had 4 more courses to go.

The Pate Trio was possibly my favourite course. Again, I’ve been disappointed in the usual mushroom pates available to veggies/vegans and had no idea how to create something myself or that there might be alternatives. Rosie and Amor delighted the table with three different pates, all uniquely flavoured and a total pleasure to eat with the lightly pickled sauerkraut and cracker breads (extra placed on the table – thanks girls!). The pates had been created using lentils, mushrooms, beetroot, Agar Agar for the strawberry terrine topping and served with burnt shallots. I loved the mix of textures and flavours, now a definite fan of sauerkraut and terrines. The presentation was beautiful too.

Conversation and BYOB drinks flowing, our main course was brought out. Again, a variety of textures and flavours on the plate with the most beautifully, garlicky celeriac mash hiding a beet mousse centre. The filo parcel was delicious and crispy with perfectly cooked sprouts decorating the plate and a thick, red wine gravy to bring everything together into a wholesome plateful of food. My favourite element of the main was the maple nut roast crumble sprinkled carefully around the edges – I’m a sucker for crumbles, savoury or sweet.

Pudding next! I’ll be honest, I don’t like Christmas Pudding … unless it’s crumbled up and swirled into vanilla ice cream (thank me later). However, we received a trio of mini desserts and I can say I really enjoyed the Christmas pudding for once! It was very light and fruity making it easy to move onto the chocolate cherry Yule log which was tart with berries and cut through the other flavours nicely. The mousse truffle was rich but there was just enough of it on the plate to add some decadence whilst the homemade brandy and orange ice cream was a triumph of flavours. It sounded heavy but the desserts were surprisingly light and a perfect finish.

I was so full by the time we got the cheese course I could only try the elements. We had a mille feuille with fermented cream cheese (again, cashew-based) with tart, fermented cranberries. It was incredibly savoury and so creative! The Not-Nog was one of my other highlights of the meal though. Driving, I had to turn down the alcohol, but using homemade almond milk, coconut cream and spices, the Herbivores created a simple but effective egg-nog alternative that I’ll be trying to recreate over the holidays.

Each course was presented with care and explained by our hosts with their friends/family serving the BYOB drinks and topping up water throughout the evening. Service was excellent and we found ourselves with the right amount of time between courses to chat, digest, race our cracker toys and get excited for the next dish.

I can’t recommend the Supper Club enough. Rosie, Amor and team created a warm and intimate atmosphere with some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. I left full, satisfied and inspired to cook over the Christmas period. Vegan, veggie or just interested in some truly delicious food I highly recommend going for an evening of good food and good company.

Their final event is New Year’s Eve, supported with jazz and funk from The People’s Lounge. Sadly (for us) they’ll then be taking a well-deserved break to travel and should be back in Summer 2020, full of new ideas to restart the supper clubs.

Although tickets have sold out now you can still get tickets to the afterparty and Jazz available via their Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/events/3107488029392087/

By Danny Alexander

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