Pop-up restaurants and supper clubs in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 11:34 02 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:58 19 May 2017

Max Baker creates Spanish inspired suppers at Velo Domestique

Max Baker creates Spanish inspired suppers at Velo Domestique


From beaches to church halls and bike shops to old chapels, unlikely dinner venues are springing up around Dorset. Sue Quinn finds some supper clubs and pop-up restaurants that offer food lovers deliciously unusual places to feast

A bunch of hungry, sociable people are gathered around one long dining table at Velo Domestique, a cycle café in Southbourne, Bournemouth. The wine is flowing and everyone is happily chatting between mouthfuls of delicious Spanish tapas. They could be mistaken for good friends gathered for dinner, but the truth is that many of them have never met before. What’s brought us together is a love of good food and our hearty, novelty-seeking appetites.

The occasion is a supper club, a collaboration between Velo Domestique’s Dan Armstrong and chef Max Baker from pop-up tapas company Patas Arriba. The evening works like this: Dan hands over his cycle café, which is normally closed in the evenings, to Max, who turns it into a temporary restaurant for the night. Dan earns a share of the profits, Max cooks for the public without the financial burden of running his own bricks-and-mortar restaurant, while customers enjoy fantastic food in a unique location (surrounded by bikes!) and the chance to make new friends.

Supper clubs are nothing new, of course. Kerstin Rodgers, aka @MsMarmitelover, launched the concept in the UK in 2009 with her supper club The Underground Restaurant. It spawned a new way of eating out, led by home cooks who opened their homes to strangers and cooked them a meal for a modest charge. Since then, professional chefs have joined the party (some argue they’ve taken over the concept) by setting up temporary gastro-dens in a range of venues. Max Baker says the concept has huge advantages for chefs. “The benefit is that we can raise the profile of the cafes or venues we hold the supper clubs in, as well as cooking our food and promoting what we do,” he says.

Baker visits Spain frequently – his mother runs a restaurant in Andalucía – for inspiration and to pick up authentic ingredients. Dishes he might serve include creamy Spanish tortilla, stew with jamon, saffron and morcilla (traditional Spanish blood sausage) or vegetables with Romesco sauce made from hazelnuts and almonds. Baker has ‘popped up’ at a number of Dorset venues including Deli Rocks in Southbourne, South Coast Roast in Bournemouth, The Petit Prince in Wimborne and the Forum Café in Blandford.

Visit patasarriba.co.uk or Velo Domestique’s Facebook page for details of future events

Dine at Mystery Venues with BearKat Supper Club

If you quite like your dinner dished up with a side order of surprise, it’s worth checking out BearKat Supper Clubs, a new venture by Dominic Brown, the chef behind Bridport’s BearKat Bistro. The venue is kept secret until the day, when you’ll be told the address by text or email, but wherever it is, you’re in for a treat: previous locations include an old chapel, a barn, an old theatre and a disused mill. Each night has a theme to match the location, and guests can expect cocktails and canapés on arrival, followed by a decadent three-course meal using local, seasonal produce, and then dancing until late. Dominic promises “other surprises” throughout the night.

Visit bearkat.co.uk for details about future events

Sri Lankan Spice with Speciality Teas

Supper clubs can also offer diners the chance to enjoy cuisines that might not otherwise be available locally. Illana Smith, creator of Hari Hari, an award-winning range of Sri Lankan spice mixes, runs supper clubs at Comins Tea House in Sturminster Newton. Customers can graze their way through her three-course Sri Lankan feast served with a ‘flight’ of specialty Sri Lankan teas specially chosen to complement the flavour profile of the food. “The driver behind it was to share my love of Sri Lankan cuisine,” Illana explains. “It is also an opportunity for me to show a Sri Lankan dish that may not be commonly known here in the UK. Many people say to me that curry is curry. This was my opportunity to demonstrate that Sri Lankan curry is like no other curry in the world.”

Follow Illana on Twitter at @HariHariCurry or @cominsteahouse for details of future events

Social Suppers in a Squash Court with Flaming Peaches

Shrinking violets might resist the notion of eating communally or sitting next to strangers at the dinner table, but it really is worth considering, as the food can be seriously good. Matt Davey, who previously headed up some of Dorset’s tastiest kitchens and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants like Chewton Glen, set up Flaming Peaches in 2014, a street food catering business that specialises in “social supper evenings”. Most Saturday evenings Matt dishes up top-notch seasonal, locally sourced food at the Squash Court cafe, part of a converted 1930s squash court complex on the stunning Dean’s Court estate in Wimborne Minster.

Like most supper clubs, Matt offers a set menu served ‘family style’ on platters and boards in the middle of the table for guests to share. He does much of the cooking in his natty vintage 1959 Citroen H Van, which he parks in the café driveway. Dishes might include polenta, rosemary and sea salt focaccia, wild fish ceviche or hot smoked beef with caramelized onions and almonds.

Matt often collaborates with local producers and businesses; a recent supper club featured a guest appearance by Steve Farrell of 8 Arch, one of the finest brewers in Dorset. “People are really interested in connecting with family businesses who are passionate about their products and care about their customers,” Matt says. “Having worked in kitchens and restaurants, supper clubs offer an alternate style of service that people really appreciate.”

Visit flaming-peaches.com for details of future events

Wild Suppers with Foredventure

For a truly magical night of dining under the stars and by the sea, try a Foraging and Feasting event with Jade and Dan Scott, founders of this incredible outdoor adventure company based in Studland. Feasts are set up under a fairy-lit canopy right on Studland Bay and often use ingredients foraged or caught in the vicinity, such as wild herbs, freshly caught mackerel, sea bass, mussels or even lobster, and salads made of sea beets or other wild greens. Their Spring Feast on 6 May involves a foraging walk and demonstrations to show how your supper, trimmings and wild cocktails were created.

Visit foreadventure.co.uk for more details

Veggie Heaven in Tansy’s Kitchen

Tansy Austin dishes up a tasty selection of wholesome, hearty and eclectic food – with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan, but not exclusively – at events around Poole and Bournemouth, including South Coast Roast.

Visit Tansy’s Kitchen Facebook page for details

Mike’s Supper Club

With stints at Chewton Glen, The Museum Inn and The Tickled Pig under his belt, Mike Aggett now runs supper clubs from a church hall in Ferndown. Expect to BYO booze, sit at shared tables and enjoy dishes like herb crusted fillet of lemon sole with cauliflower puree, white chicory and hazelnut salad; slow cooked beef with braised red cabbage; and pear and almond tart.

Visit mikessupperclub.co.uk for more details

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