Keen cook Nicola and her boyfriend Andrew open up their garden shed (think fairy lights and artwork on the walls rather than rusty tools and tins of paint) as an informal underground restaurant every month. Unlike at many supper clubs, the hosts eat with their guests, giving dinner at The Shed much more of a relaxed dinner party feel.
My fellow pescatarian friend Rachael and I arrived at The Shed on Sunday afternoon, with first-time supper clubber R feeling unsure of what to expect and me feeling like a relative veteran with one previous underground restaurant attendance under my belt. However, I realised instantly that The Shed would be pretty different to my last experience, with just 11 diners (including our hosts) as opposed to 28. All seated around one communal table topped with a cheery gingham tablecloth, conversation was instantly easy. Two brave souls had turned up without the social crutch of an accompanying friend which, along with a glass of wine or two, certainly helped to encourage chat.
The style of Nicola's food also added to the convivial atmosphere, with a mezze-style sharing theme going on. First up was a platter of yummy dips: tzatziki, a chunky lemony houmous and a zingy beetroot dip which even managed to win me over after a lifetime's avoidance of the puce-coloured vegetable. Accompanying this trio of delights were dishes of crudites and home-made flatbread, as well as a stack of incredibly moreish feta, mint and courgette fritters which I'll certainly be trying to recreate at home. After a little digestive and conversational interlude, along came our main courses: a harissa, chickpea and aubergine stew, its spice giving a warming feeling which felt like a nod to the approaching autumn; a dish of meltingly-soft rice with onion, lentils and a yoghurt topping; a red cabbage salad and another of mixed leaves. With the sharing plates piled high, portions were as generous as we wanted them to be and second helpings positively encouraged - a definite winner in my book. As the plates were passed from guest to guest I was surprised at how much this felt like a dinner party among friends: apart from the odd inevitable lull in conversation, chat flowed freely beyond the realms of small-talk and even descended into comedy accent impressions as the afternoon wore on into evening.
Moving away from the Mediterranean feel for dessert, Nicola served up a proper English pudding in the form of a delicious peach and raspberry crumble with custard. This was a perfect conclusion to an afternoon of unpretentious but excellent home-style cooking in the relaxed atmosphere lent by The Shed, our friendly fellow diners and our lovely hosts. To add to The Shed's charm, Nicola only charges enough to cover the cost of ingredients - £10 each in our case, which makes it a positive bargain on the supper club scene. If you're keen to try an informal supper club with great food in a fun setting, get yourself on The Shed's mailing list. I promise there's not a beef paste sandwich in sight.
- The Shed Likes Food advertises its supper club dates through its mailing list. The price varies but will be advertised in advance. BYO wine (no corkage charge).