A dining trend embraced by London’s young professionals, supper clubs have arrived on the office party circuit. We hear from some of the industry’s leading players about why organisers should be taking note
Imagine devouring trifle in a tube carriage. Or feasting in a venue that feels like a flat. Doesn’t sound like your typical office Christmas party, does it?
Good, because it’s a fair bet that the typical Christmas party isn’t necessarily what your people want. Your colleagues are looking for something personal, something memorable and, let’s be honest, something that they can take plenty of photos of.
That’s where the supper club comes in. A growing trend in the corporate Christmas party market, it delivers all of the above – and more. You can choose your colleagues’ favourite chef, pick a left-field space you know they’ve never been to and create your own private dining experience.
How do you do that? To help, we’ve asked some of the best-known names in the field for their tips on bringing a supper club feel to the office bash. They explain exactly why this way of dining is so suited to the Christmas party and suggest their ideal supper club-style menu.
The party planner
Laura Jackson (pictured, right), one half of Jackson & Levine, says supper clubs allow organisers to make their own rules
When it comes to holding a supper club, you, the organiser, make the rules. It’s a real breakdown of formality and makes the whole experience more like a dinner party. It’s also really fun planning a supper club: you can personalise it for your company, meaning you can make it as silly (or as unsilly) as you’d like.
Just as with public supper clubs, the less formal setting can be tricky: when you have colleagues who don’t often work together, it helps to have an icebreaker. Sharing plates are great for breaking down the barriers. We often get people asking for shared desserts, like huge crème brûlées or massive lemon possets. Old-school dishes are definitely making a comeback, but in a more modern form: an oversized classic trifle, say, spiked with elderflower liqueur and decorated with edible flowers.
Old-school dishes are definitely making a comeback - but in a more modern form
As for service, staff should be attentive but not overly so – no hovering! Having them go around to see if anyone wants any more food is a really nice touch – it’ll make guests feel comfortable and at home.Christmas has been ‘minimalist’ in recent years but this year it’s about ‘more is more’. Lots of layers, textures and nothing too ‘done’. For table dressing, I love personalised crackers: you can have them made in your choice of material with big velvet ribbons at either end. Wild flowers are big too, and you could even have mini snow domes. If you have a theme, ask an illustrator to create your menus around it. Deep colours like mustard, red and royal blue are the hues to watch this winter.
The big-name caterer
Kieran Reilly, exec chef at Tom Kerridge’s Lush by The Hand and Flowers, thinks the Christmas party is the perfect time to take a break from tradition
Supper clubs are a way to experience something a little bit unusual: different cuisines, service styles and a more relaxed way of socialising, without the formality of a restaurant environment.
At Christmas, we at Lush really get to go back to our roots and tie in bold flavours with great cuts of meat. Last year, our guests were going crazy for loin of cotswold venison with baharat-spiced cauliflower, Moroccan aubergine and dukkah crumble ragu. This is a modern twist which you can add to a British Christmas dining table. We also found that pairing this with our hot buttered rum, which complements the North African spices (used to give the venison its extra layers), is a popular request.
Experience something a little bit unusual: different cuisines, service styles and a more relaxed way of socialising
We keep things quite simple, so the focus is on the food. Table designs are elegant and unfussy; flower arrangements would be greens and whites, but with festive foliage and berries as a nod to Christmas. Mini sparklers can be fun too.
Most importantly, we keep the food and drinks consistently flowing – it’s key to any successful party, especially at Christmas.
The TV chefs
Informality, fun and fine food are key to the best supper club parties, say MasterChef finalists Billy and Jack
At supper clubs you get the informality and fun of a great dinner party mixed with the quality of food and well-paired drinks you’d expect from a restaurant. It’s the best of both worlds. It also allows you to try
food from chefs who (like us) don’t have a regular restaurant or from those who are trying out new concepts and ideas.
With a supper club you can tailor the party to your needs. Everything can be tweaked as it’s generally a one-night event. It’s also great if you want something a bit more casual, where people feel free to be themselves and have a good time.
Supper clubs allow you to try food from chefs who don't have regular restaurants
We’re not overly fussed about what the set-up looks like as long as the food is good and there’s wine on the table. When we’re discussing projects with our clients, we work as seasonally as possible, talking through their favourite ingredients of that season and then creating the dishes around them. We’re definitely noticing a trend for big, bold flavours, as well as simple, unfussy combinations.
It’s important to make people feel at home, which also means trying to have fun ourselves – if people see us enjoying the night then it makes everyone feel good.
Q+A with... Siddarth Vijayakumar, UK managing director of Eat With (formerly Grub Club)
What is a ‘supper club’?
It’s an event where you host people in an unconventional setting with food.
Is it a popular corporate Christmas party concept?
The market has been strong for a couple of years now. When we were Grub Club, corporate Christmas parties were one of our biggest sellers. We’re seeing far more growth now, though, and we’re expecting to triple what we did last year.
Why are they gaining popularity?
From an event organiser’s perspective, it’s really fun to put together (and it can sometimes be cheaper). They and their colleagues already eat and meet in private dining rooms, so why not go somewhere more unusual? We’ve also noticed that CEOs of small startups like it – it shows that they are making an effort to create an evening that’s specifically tailored to their employees.
Fancy an off-the-peg party? We offer four of this year’s most talked-about supper clubs for your consideration
+ The Literary Hour
The team at this London-based company creates evenings around literature’s most famous works. Last Christmas saw guests enter a secret location through a wardrobe to arrive in Narnia, with punch to drink and a picnic to share.
+ The Little Blue Door
This fake flat in Fulham makes you feel as if you’re actually entering someone’s home. Choose from three spaces: The Study, The Kitchen and The Living Room. There’s dinner party-style cooking and
a prosecco vending machine.
+ The Art of Dining
‘The Toy Factory’ is the theme of this year’s immersive Christmas supper club from ex-Moro chef Ellen Parr and set designer Alice Hodge. Expect twists on classic festive fare served by impish elves, and toys and games galore.
+ Kino Vino
Cinema meets wine at this supper club, whose team can organise a bespoke night around a film of your choice. An upcoming evening will feature the Liz Taylor classic Elephant Walk, with a supper including Sri Lankan hoppers.