Photo credit for feature image: Abi Galatia
I love knowing where my food comes from; of sitting down to eat a meal and know the people or stories of those who grew it or produced it. It makes the meal come alive. I can accomplish this when cooking for myself; I buy ingredients from farms and producers I know. However, eating out can be a little trickier. I feel fortunate in Bristol that there’s a number of places whose sourcing follows the same values as mine, but I’m always excited to find new places and people who are passionate about local food, so when I heard about the Homegrown Collective supper club, I got out my diary.
‘What on earth is a supper club?’ I hear you cry! Think of it as a cross between a restaurant and a dinner party. The venue is usually someone’s home, or a pop-up location, and you’re often seated at big tables with the other diners. The feel and set up varies, but expect multiple courses of delicious food and a BYO booze policy.
The Homegrown Collective is based in St Werburghs, nestled just round the corner from the Duke of York. The supper club started just over a year ago, but spun out from a festival that’s been running for 3 years now. Its founder Samantha explains how it came about; “A few years ago I ended lived in community in a big 16th Century house in Wick, just between Bristol and Bath,” she tells me. “While living there, I was keeping chickens and my friends who I lived with were rearing pigs to make sausages, so I decided to put on a small festival in the grounds featuring our various bands, an exhibition by the resident artists and a feast of our very own sausages. It was a celebration and sharing of all of the food, music and art produced from our community and I decided to call it Homegrown Festival.” Following encouragement from friends that she should start taking her cooking more seriously, when she moved to Bristol, she connected with Will and Pip (who she had lived with in Wick), now renovating an ex-pub in St Werburghs into a hub for food and sustainability, and the supper club was born. “It’s evolved into a regular event that incorporates my loves of food and music,” she explains.
As I arrive, Will greets me at the door and presents me with the first item of the evening; a rhubarb roulette. A mixture of rhubarb and prosecco, the roulette part comes in that some of the drinks also contain a bonus shot of gin. I got lucky. I mingle outside the house, chatting to friends and other guests as they arrive. Some are regular attendees, others are here for the first time and, like me, not quite sure what to expect.
Before long, we’re all ushered into the kitchen, where a long table stretches down the middle of the room, covered with mismatched cutlery and wineglasses. An olive tree sits in one corner, instruments adorning the walls. I find a seat next to the 25 or so other guests and set about opening bottles of wine and getting to know the people sat around me. The evening starts with some music; a couple of beautiful accapella songs sung by Samantha and one of the other hosts, Lou. Ears ringing with delight, we’re introduced to the first course; a sorrel soup. The sorrel is grown less than a mile away by Mary from Purple Patch and sourced through the Easton Food Assembly. The flavour is delightfully citrusey, and is perfectly accompanied by some seeded bread from Hart’s Bakery. Samantha’s principles of “local, organic, small scale and, if possible, relational” are the perfect match to my own values, and I’m delighted to see so many familiar names on the menu.
The lemony tang still on my lips, more music follows from the guest artists for the night, local troubadours Firewoodisland, the pause allowing another glass of wine to slink by and my appetite to be whetted once more. “The atmosphere is really ripe for some really magical performances, and I think the equal weighting and quality of the music and food is something really unique about the supper club,” Samantha points out. Bowls are whisked away and we’re presented with sharing platters of the main course; a perfectly cooked lamb moussaka made with spring lamb from Stream Farm, a UK grown quinoa salad and a mix of tasty salad leaves from Humphrey at Edible Futures. “We specifically work with Stream Farm, an organic farm in Somerset who have a shared farming model, helping people to get into farming and combat rural poverty,” Samantha explains. “Their produce is also, in my opinion, the best and I love fostering a type of community supported agriculture model where we can be in relationship with a particular farm and showcase the produce to guests helping to expand their market in Bristol in a creative way.” It was as delicious as it sounds, and I couldn’t resist going in for another helping.
Fortunately my rather full stomach was granted a brief respite by another round of music before the dessert of a rhubarb and rose creme brûlée was served. With each course, Samantha carefully introduced us to the ingredients and the producers, highlighting the seasonality and locality of the produce with an evidence passion for provenance. “I love telling people stories and how, where and who the food on their plate was produced by, and even better introducing someone that was part of the process. It think it puts the personal back into food and hope that that is one small, but perhaps powerful way to inspire people to make some different choice around food sourcing which could potentially help to establish a more local food economy.”
We’re treated to a final round of musical performance as we munch on slivers of chocolate and cradle mugs of coffee and mint tea. I’m struck by the simple beauty of the cup I’m drinking out of, and am happy to discover they, and the bowls we ate our soup out of, are made by Will under the banner of Jubilee Pottery. Another thing to add to the wish list.
All too soon, the taste of bitter coffee still on my lips, it’s time to head home. “One of my favourite things is seeing people say goodbye to each other at the end of the night,” Samantha tells me. “People have genuinely loved each other's company, had really interesting conversations and just have that sparkle in their eyes that is priceless.”
For more info and to book for their July supperclub, visit www.thehomegrowncollectiveuk.com