Move aside dinner parties – the supper club renaissance is upon us.
For the uninitiated, a supper club is basically a casual dining experience, but with a strong social aspect. They can pop up anywhere: in underground restaurants, at events and sometimes just simply in people’s homes. To enjoy a supper club, you don’t have to be a culinary aficionado. You just need to love good food and good conversation.
It explains why they’re having such a moment right now. While supper clubs have been popular in the US and UK since the 1930s, their modern revival shows just how much we’re craving reconnection – especially when it involves food and friends. It’s exactly why the co-founder of London-based supper club Hands, Charlotte Forsyth, decided to start one with her husband Will Wastell and two of their friends.
During lockdown in the UK, we would spend our weekends making elaborate table spreads; spending the whole day proofing bread, slowly cooking a sauce, marinating vegetables. Two of our friends who are a couple were doing the same and, when lockdown restrictions eased and we could spend a bit of time together in our houses, we continued this as a four.
– Charlotte Forsyth
Documented By: @hands.london
Starting a supper club was as much an antidote to the intensity of lockdown as it was an excuse to get friends together around a table to share food. It’s evolved into something with real teeth, with the collective now hosting events and putting on spreads for brands like JOAN and Youswim.
The food Hands serves up isn’t exactly rewriting the recipe book: it’s classic, subtle in its decadence – but always inviting. “We all love Italian food a lot, so there’s definitely a lot of homemade pasta like pici cacio e pepe, focaccia and dishes like bagna càuda, maritozzi buns and tiramisu for pudding. We also love classic British dishes like jelly, prawn cocktail and sticky toffee pudding. Then there’s inspiration from French and Nordic cooking, definitely,” Charlotte says.
Other sources of inspiration include classic English 80s and 90s cookbooks (think Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson), and their favourite restaurants like St. JOHN and Sessions Arts Club. Even establishments like London’s iconic River Cafe, known as the place where many celebrated chefs have earned their stripes, influenced Hands’s menu with the group recreating its famous Chocolate Nemesis Cake for events.
A seasonal approach to eating and showcasing the benefits of regenerative agriculture is another important part of this supper club. “Before we started Hands, the four of us went to Flourish farm for a week in Cambridgeshire to understand how a regenerative farm works. They service some of the best London restaurants with their incredible produce,” Charlotte says.
“So we buy from places like Flourish, Natoora, the General Store in Peckham and Panzer’s deli. We prepare food a few weeks in advance based on what’s seasonal and then shop the day of or before. We make most dishes fresh on the day.”
A typical Hands supper club experience goes like this: a three-course meal with homemade bread, a cocktail to start and a few bottles of wine to finish. “We love a vodka martini with a lemon twist, so it has become the unofficial Hands cocktail. So we start with a martini and then move on to natural wine, pairing it with the food,” Charlotte explains. Once forks are down, it’s time for dancing: “What’s a supper club without a boogie at the end?”
The idea of hosting our own supper club has put a twinkle in our eye, so we asked Charlotte to share tips on how to nail a memorable evening around the table with friends.
Enter Your Supper Club Era With Hands London Co-Founder Charlotte Forsyth
back to story
Documented By: @hands.london
For menu planning
“Take inspiration from what’s seasonal first and foremost and check the weather; imagine making the ultimate ice cream sundae for guests when it’s really hot. It will be a crowd pleaser and a relief. Then think of making something lighter for a starter if the main and pudding are heavy. I love carbs but I’m aware not everyone does, so have a balance! Source good fruit and veg and cheaper dried herbs and spices will be forgiven. Good fresh produce will always win. Simplicity is key.”
For decor and getting the mood right
“A white tablecloth, white plates with gold accents and a big bunch of flowers in the middle. A silver candelabra, lighting the candles when the light starts to fade.”
For reducing waste
“Think of a clever menu: kimchi made from the ends of unused vegetables or use the egg whites in cocktails or make a meringue if the recipe only requires egg yolks. Fish bones and heads can be used for stock. Buttermilk from homemade butter is used for batters and in baking. Those are just a few examples! Aside from that, measure how much of everything you need so there’s not loads left over, unless you know you’ll eat it.”
For making it a night your guests will remember
“Get involved. Have fun and relax with your guests. They will absorb and mirror your behaviour, so it starts with you. Have a drink and make sure the bulk of cooking/prepping is done before everyone arrives. Music is also so important. We have a dinner party playlist [see below] which is more chilled – jazz music mainly – and then we switch it up post dinner with more funk/soul.”
Documented By: @hands.london
For nailing that Hands vodka lemon twist martini
Chill the martini glass.
While it’s chilling, in a cocktail shaker, add 60ml of vodka with lots of ice. Add 15ml of vermouth. Shake vigorously.
Strain into chilled martini glass.
Peel lemon and coat the rim of glass with a piece. Use this as your garnish by twisting the lemon and dropping it into the drink.