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The expat has returned from voluntary exile and finds herself with a new domain to discover: London.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Eat Me Magazine's supper club: Not your average Monday evening

It's a Monday night in August. In an eccentrically-decorated converted pub in deepest Dalston, a model reclines on a chaise longue. The other models on the shoot are still having their lips painted, their hair fluffed and their clothes selected. 'Just move your leg a bit to the left', says the photographer. 'And now look towards the door...' No, this is not the latest Britain's Next Top Model photoshoot, but Eat Me Magazine's first supper club. And the model is me.

OK, let's rewind. As I made it very clear when the make-up artist asked 'Are you a model?' (you bet I was flattered), I'm an editor and writer. So what was I doing posing in an expensive dress for a magazine? A few days earlier, I spotted a tweet from new high-end food and culture magazine Eat Me (try asking for that in WHSmith and imagine what's going through the shop assistant's mind) asking for volunteers for their first supper club, which they would be photographing and filming. Always up for free grub, I applied. Although I didn't initially make the cut, I received a reply a few hours before the scheduled event: someone had dropped out, could I make it to Dalston that evening with a pair of black heels? You bet I could. At 7pm, new Peacocks heels in bag, my colleague Stephan (who had also been selected) and I turned up at aforementioned converted pub with no idea of what was in store. Two minutes later I had a Bloody Mary thrust into my hand and was whisked upstairs into hair and make-up.

Along with the 4 other chosen Twitterati, Stephan and I were groomed and styled in this season's finest (well, I think I got the better end of the deal in a sparkly Full Circle dress and Topshop jewellery) before posing for individual photoshoots. Desperately trying to decipher what Tyra means when she says 'Smile with your eyes', I grinned like a fool and hoped for the best. I had been to my first supper club just a few days before, but already turning up at a stranger's house for dinner seemed like a doddle compared with trying to conceal my double chin and appear alluring on camera in front of the magazine's staff and my fellow diners. The fact that we were all in the same boat and the two Bloody Marys I had gulped back helped somewhat though, and when the magazine turned up on my doorstep this morning I was pretty pleased with the result. OK, it probably wouldn't pass the Tyra test ('Girl, you look expression-LESS!' would probably have been her assessment), I could only spot one chin on the black-clad glamazon staring back at me.

4 of the made-over supper clubbers. I'm second from right.


Daunting photoshoots over with, it was time for dinner. We supperclubbers sat down to a vegetarian feast which kicked off with quenelles of feta and olive, poached peach salad, roasted aubergines and apple sourdough bread. It's a good job I made notes, as Eat Me's article focuses on the supper club phenomenon rather than our Dalston dining, which I think is a bit of a shame given they had a captive audience to observe. How will the supper clubbers interact? Which personalities will dominate? Will talk inevitably turn to food? Will awkwardness prevail, or will the guests move the party to a nearby pub once the dessert's been devoured? Once the ample starters were dispensed with, I'd had sufficient wine to share the story of how a tramp tried to sit on me on the Madrid metro. Always a crowd pleaser, that one. As most of the folk who'd spotted Eat Me's tweet were in the food industry somehow, once the tramp topic was done conversation did indeed turn to food, with a bit of borderline pretentious cheese chat and Michelin star bla bla I couldn't really participate in. However, everyone was pretty easy to chat to, and the sense of shared experience was even greater in this case than at your average supper club.

After our starter came a cucumber and citrus cooler, a violent green-coloured drink designed to cleanse the palate. Sophisticated stuff, this. This was followed by a reblochon and courgette tart accompanied with a broccoli and stilton gratin and roasted beetroot in a champagne reduction. Not being a beetroot fan, I'd rather have drunk the champagne to be honest, but the tart and gratin hit the spot and the peg holding my waist-cinching belt in at the back soon began to shift. The cheese theme continued into the next course: dessert was a whiffy cheese selection and stacks of sticky baklava. Preferring my cheeses in the Lancashire or manchego-type forms, I quickly moved the pungent plate away from me and tucked into the baklava instead.

And with that, it was time for the Eat Me team to get stuck into the washing up and the supper clubbers to swap their chic togs for their civvies. Sadly, I didn't get to keep the dress. I'm sure Tyra would have, but humble editors have no such luck. No lifelong friends were made, no pub visits ensued, but it was a fun evening with great vegetarian food and plenty of wine to wash it down with. And it's not every day you get to dress up, have your picture taken and get a free meal now, is it?

  • The results of the photoshoot can be seen in issue 3 of Eat Me, available to order here.

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