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‘Can I have your business card please?’ – The rise of The Supper Club Corporation heralded by The Disappearing Dining Club.
In the age of the supper club, dining out is all about the experience with food joints locating themselves in alternative spaces from car park rooftops to disused warehouses with a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ vibe akin to the New York speakeasy. The Disappearing Dining Club bills itself as ‘great food’ with ‘likeminded people’ so I head over to a Dinner Dance (in a disused railway arch in Shoreditch) anticipating an enjoyable evening, dragging along my hung-over boyfriend.
On arrival we sip ‘Grey Goose Le Fizz’ cocktails and puzzle over the event design: a disco ball spins coloured lights across a projection reading The Disappearing Dining Club whilst generic DJ music thumps in the background. Everyone is well-dressed, awkwardly eyeing up their fellow guests. We try to avoid the pre-dining small-talk and instead munch on the canapes of asparagus with creamy ‘sauce mussoline’, mackerel tartare and chicken liver crostini (which are definitely on the tooth-cracking side of crunchy).
We head to one of four long tables, laden with white paper tablecloths and cheap silver candlesticks and are instantly joined by another couple. Ten minutes into the conversation I realise, this is a networking event and we are up against the pros. They talk at us non-stop for the next hour: he had been married before, they were buying a house together, her sister was being dumped by her boyfriend. We begin to feel a little embarrassed the more and more their personal lives are laid out in front of us. The girl explains that she always wants to connect on a social level before she does business with people so she tells them personal information. I panic: does she want to do business with me?
The crowd are in the corporate side of the creative world, say advertising or charity marketing. At £55 per head, excluding drinks after the arrival cocktail, this is not a meal suited to struggling writers. Wine ranges from a ‘Good’ bottle at £20 to ‘Really Very Good’ at £40. My bank balance is in a dangerous state so I sadly can’t tell you whether the ‘Really Very Good’ wine was indeed really very good or not. That doesn’t stop my neighbour asking if I could play the ‘journalist’ card and nab her some free wine. Shameless!
Despite being a food event, the meal is a series of disappointments. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m more excited by a glimpse of Paloma Faith, red hair piled high, tottering across the room in platform gold sandals. I wonder whether she’s enjoying the food… It is described by The Disappearing Dining Club as a ‘single source dinner’ with all food ‘supplied and produced by Emmmetts Farm in Buckinghamshire’; this seems unlikely given the menu includes ‘North Atlantic Prawns.’ The starter of smoked salmon and cod’s roe, hidden within a crème fraiche dressing, served on two pieces of dry soda bread is bland and unimaginative. The main of ‘Slow Roasted Pork Neck’ is (according to my boyfriend) undercooked as well and dry: no sign of the juicy marinade or crispy crackling which you would expect from a half-decent joint of meat. I am a pesketarian so am served a fillet of salmon. Given the salmon starter, this is an incredibly uninspired and unvaried choice of main, not to mention heavily over- salted too. We then share a bowl of lukewarm, gelatinous ‘Jersey Royal Potatoes, North Atlantic Prawn and Green Bean Salad’ which doesn’t go at all well with either of our dishes. Next: desert, a flavourless orange and black pepper pannacotta with watery poached rhubarb and a burnt oat and ginger biscuit. After long waits in between courses and obnoxiously loud music in the background (actually a good thing as I’ve run out of things to say to my dining partners) we arrive at the ‘Big Cheese Buffet.’ This consists of ‘Three Great Cheeses’ which is like calling a film ‘The Amazing Spider Man’, just setting you up to be disappointed. However I enjoyed Spiderman, it’s worth writing about which is more than I can say for the cheeses! I was equally uninspired by the bread and cracker selection, only one variety of each, and why no relish?
I stand up to nip to the bathroom and the organiser promptly snatches my chair. ‘Oh I’m not done yet.’ I inform her politely. She smiles patronisingly ‘Well now is more of a mixing period, go and sit over there if you like.’ She gestures to a space in the middle of the next-door table. I want to wail pathetically like a hounded celebrity ‘Please don’t make me mingle any more, I want to eat my cheese in peace!’ Instead I wait for her to move away then triumphantly steal my chair back.
There is then an awkward period where no one knows if they’re dining or dancing but I’m afraid we ran away before the party got going. The feedback from my bewildered boyfriend: ‘I feel used and abused. It was just one big networking orgy.’ The Disappearing Dining Club should disappear quickly. I want to forget the experience. They lied to me: no good food or likeminded people.
For more information go to www.disappearingdiningclub.co.uk
words Helena Goodrich