In just a few short years supper clubs have increased in number from a mere handful across the whole of London to many more than I can keep track of; every week I hear excited talk about another one that sounds well worth a visit. The range available is enormous, and I think it’s a particularly great way to try home style cooking from other cuisines.
Prices now are higher than they were just a few years ago, and you can expect to pay anything from £25-50 per person. Of course, like regular restaurants, supper clubs vary enormously in quality and price – some are a little stingy on portions and seem very overpriced for what you get; others are so fantastic you want to shout about them from the rooftops. It’s worth doing your research, and reading reviews to make sure you book the best ones.
Recently, I attended a supper club that has been at the top of my wishlist for quite some time – Jason Ng’s Peranakan Palace. After a sabbatical of several months, Jason announced a date to celebrate Chinese New Year and I jumped on four tickets faster than you could say Peranakan Palace! With three friends in tow, I made my way to Jason’s East London and was happy to discover that I already knew 4 of the other 7 guests attending.
If you’re considering booking your first supper club, however, don’t let that put you off. You absolutely don’t need to know the other guests or the host beforehand – part of the fun is getting to know everyone during the course of your meal.
The communal seating around a large table in Jason’s living room made the experience much more like a sociable dinner party than a meal out in a restaurant and those of us who hadn’t met before were quickly chatting away, united by our shared joy in Jason’s cooking.
Jason and menu; decorative corner – image courtesy of Jason Ng feasttotheworld
Jason introduced the meal by explaining the origins of Peranakan cuisine – Peranakan Chinese is a Malaysian term used for descendants of the Chinese who emigrated to the Malay Archipelago in the 15th, 16th and 17th century. Peranakan cuisine combines Chinese methods, ingredients and dishes with Malaysian spices, a true fusion of two culinary traditions. I asked Jason if this was like Nyonya food, which I’ve tried only a few times and he explained that the terms Peranakan and Baba-Nyonya are often used interchangeably; these terms are honorific titles – baba means man (or grandfather) and nyonya means woman (or grandmother) – and the food is often labelled as Nyonya cuisine because it is traditionally cooked by the women. So his food should rightfully be called Baba rather than Nyonya cuisine!
Photo collage courtesy of Insatiable Eater
Over the next two hours, Jason bought out dish after dish, generously piled with tasty treats. Seconds (and thirds) of beef rendang, pork belly and herbed rice were offered, delivered and devoured before desserts were brought out, and a bowl full of mandarin oranges offered, for good fortune.
Each dish was introduced as it was served and a few tips gleaned about secret ingredients and techniques for some of the dishes; a few Jason kept close to his chest! You can find several of his recipes on his blog, Feast To The World.
- Achar (Nyonya vegetable pickles with fragrant spice paste)
- Sambal Belacan (super fiery chilli and shrimp paste sauce)
Top row, left to right
- Kueh Pie Tee (crispy ‘Top Hats’ pastries filled with vegetables)
- Nasi Ulam (Nyonya Aromatic Herbed Rice)
- Jason’s signature 16 Hours Slow Braised Ox Cheek Rendang
Middle row, left to right
- Itek Sio (Nyonya braised duck with tamarind and coriander)
- Babi Pongteh (Nyonya braised pork belly with fermented bean paste)
- Chai Buey (Nyonya tangy mustard greens stew)
Bottom left to right
- Pineapple Tarts
- Kueh Bingka (flourless tapioca cake)
- Kueh Dadar (pandan pancakes with coconut and gula melaka filling)
Everything was utterly, utterly fabulous and at £35 a head, this feast couldn’t be beaten for value either.
Feasting guests – image courtesy of Jason Ng PeranakanPalace