A recent gloomy Friday evening found myself, the GF, fellow food blogger FoodUrchin and his wife making our way South on a train from Waterloo to an unfamiliar, to me at least, East Sheen....Food Urchin had booked a table at an underground restaurant called 'Sheen Suppers' run by Lara, and had invited myself and the GF to join him.
After a brisk 10 walk from the train station, stopping on the way in a handily located pub for a quick pre-dinner sharpener, we arrived in a darkened but obviously attractive street lined with Victorian houses located just off the High Street. Our anticipation was heightened somewhat by FoodUrchin forgetting the address and knocking at a bemused neighbours door.
Finally, after profuse apologies we were stepping through the threshold into 'Sheen Suppers' being greeted warmly by Lara and gazing curiously around her beautiful home as coats were taken and we were ushered politely into the dining room proper. This is a large part of the attraction of the whole underground restaurant vibe, especially for my GF who could politely be described as just 'slightly nosey'....the chance to look around a strangers home.....we've all done it almost unconsciously, walking or driving down a street at night, and glancing up briefly into a brightly lit picture of someone else's domestic life through an un-curtained window, a brief instant - a momentary snapshot, but this is the motherload....a snoopers charter amped up on crack.....your in a complete strangers home, and they're cooking dinner for you!
At this point we were introduced to Lara's partner Iain, playing the part of the friendly and obviously very knowledgeable wine waiter for the evening...he had matched all four courses served with different wines (included in the price) - and very successfully too I should add.
Of course, we had brought our own wine along too to supplement the supply.
The table was beautifully laid, with a bowl of olives and jug of water and a printed menu for the evening.
Whilst we were settling in, other friendly diners were arriving in a steady stream, sixteen in total and were being shown to their tables and offered a pre-dinner drink. The lighting was subdued, the room extremely attractive and interesting from an interior design point of view, Lara obviously having something of an eye for it. A subtle jazz soundtrack provided the backdrop for the constant murmured chatter, punctuated every now and again by laughter from our fellow diners. It all felt extremely relaxed, and incredibly professional - like a de-facto restaurant in fact.
Iain arrived to pour us a glass of Pulenta Estate Chardonnay, Mendoza 2007 which he had matched with the first course which arrived shortly after, a steaming bowl of Celeriac and Potato Soup, draped with a slice of smoked Salmon and topped with a fried Quails egg, a couple of slices of soda bread for dipping offered at the side of the bowl. rich, creamy, slightly sweet - it was a beautiful starter, I really enjoyed it. The wine worked very well with it, complimenting the flavour. Having had my own recent traumatic experience matching, in my case, proesecco with food, I can appreciate how hard it is to get right. Kudos to Iain.
Bowls cleared, and settling back easily into our chairs, with that contented glow that good food and wine provides we didn't have to wait too long for Iain to appear again proffering a bottle of Te Mania, Nelson Pinot Noir 2008 with which to accompany our main course, Braised Belly of Pork with Crackling, served with a BlackPudding Faggot (notable by it's absence - more about this later), Roast Potato, and autumn vegetable puree. Gorgeous, once again beautifully cooked and tender Pork Belly, the perfectly crisp crackling, the vegetable puree and roast potato combined to make a cracking plate of food. The matched wine, again, full marks for a great choice. A quick note here about how much I admired the restraint shown with the portion control, this being something I struggle with myself. I always cook way too much, and heap food on my guests plates - Lara's food was perfectly portioned in just the right size servings for four courses, I couldn't have eaten more if I'd tried. It's something that's quiet hard to get right.
Relaxed and chatting, nicely composed individual cheese plates arrived with Iain in tow this time bearing a more than welcome bottle of Taylors LBV Port.
A note here about the toilet located under the stairs in the hall - it's a fantastic, crazily decorated space with hundreds of photos, adverts, pictures......really unusual and fun.
Exiting from a brief visit to admire said toilet, I spied through the open kitchen door, co-diner FoodUrchin speaking to Lara, her assistant Kim and Iain in the Kitchen and invited myself in to have a drunken chat. The wreckage of every dinner party you've ever had magnified tenfold littered the worktops and sink. Successfully cooking three courses for sixteen in a domestic kitchen must be a study in the art of kitchen management. Despite this Lara and Co. looked relaxed and fairly happy about the way the evening had gone, although understandably self critical - (aren't we all when cooking for others?) The mystery of the missing black pudding faggot was solved, Lara, frank with her statement that they weren't upto scratch - so didn't get served. We chatted for ten minutes or so about all things foodie related, and then made our way back to our table to finish up, collect our partners -and leave our payment for the meal on the table.
Emerging into the suburban night from Sheen Suppers, to make our way drunkenly, back to the station and home, we were all extremely happy with the whole experience. I really enjoyed myself, the food and drink were great, the atmosphere first class, the people - both our fellow diners, and Lara, Iain and Kim, our hosts incredibly friendly... I couldn't recommend a visit to Sheen Suppers and in fact the whole underground supper club experience enough.
Our meal, four courses with matched wine, was £25 per head.