I love blogging because of the chance it provides to meet new people who are as passionate about food as I am. I always try to say yes to as many opportunities as possible, especially if they are a bit quirky or something I’ve never experienced, as these are the times when I learn the most. Two weekends ago I went to a Repast supper club hosted by Sam Bilton and it was one of those experiences.
The idea behind Repast supper clubs is to serve food with a historical theme, using old recipes as a reference point but putting a new twist on the dishes served.
Each of Repast’s menus takes inspiration from either a historical event, a traditional celebration, a period of history or, a famous chef or food writer from our past. The event I was invited to was ‘An Autumnal Feast Celebrating the Food of Jane Grigson‘.
I’d not heard of Jane Grigson before the evening, but after a bit of research I discovered she was an English food writer and long-time food columnist with The Observer. She was a lover of food and the culinary traditions of our past, just like Sam the host.
The event was held out of town and in Sam’s home in Haywards Heath and the supper club was my first experience of dining in someone’s home. Sam’s husband formed the other half of the Repast team, making us feel right at home as soon as we arrived and helping to serve welcome drinks and the five-course meal.
As Repast didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol we were invited to bring a bottle of our choice to enjoy (which I completely forgot to do!) Thankfully, we met some really lovely guests who were kind enough to share their Prosecco with us. We were also served a delicious complimentary cocktail on arrival as well. This was an ‘Autumnal Kir’, made with a homemade blackberry liqueur and topped up with Baby Cham and it was divine.
The first starter was ‘Locket’s Savoury’ inspired by Jane’s cookbook – English Food. A traditional dish which fuses two prominent English flavours – watercress and Stilton and soothed by the delicate, port infused pears served on toasted walnut bread.
What a way to kick off the feast – this was a serious taste sensation! Sweet and warm with a beautiful nutty texture. I could have eaten so much more of this.
The second starter was ‘Home Cured Beetroot Salmon with Blinis, Caviar and Créme Fraîche’, inspired by another of Jane’s cookbooks, European Cookery. The Bliny (meaning pancake) is a Russian cuisine traditionally eaten in the week before lent, known as Maslenits. It would typically be eaten with butter, sour cream, salted fish and many other delicacies before the Lenten fast.
I’m not a fan of any raw fish, by my guest liked this dish, saying that chunks of salmon worked well and the subtle smokiness added a lovely additional, layer of flavour.
Next up was the main course: ‘Confit of Pork Belly’ inspired by Jane’s very first book: Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. Served with a seriously smooth celeriac pureé, a deep claret red Damson sauce and seasonal greens with bacon.
The Damson sauce was an entirely new experience for me. It was sweet and rich and rather wondrous. Made from red wine, pork and orange juice, red currant jelly and sugar, it really brought alive this main course. The pork was beautifully seasoned too with star anise and coriander and topped with a yummy crispy crackling.
The recipe for the Damson sauce was given to Jane by the Victorian Chef Francatelli, although it is thought to be of German origin, owing its influence to the Hanoverian kings, or perhaps Prince Albert.
Dessert was the show-stopper. An ‘Apple Crumble Tart & Cinnamon Ice Cream’ inspired ‘The Fruit Book’. Both my guest and I agreed this was the best Apple Crumble we’ve ever tasted! The apple was firm, the crumble crunchy and complemented beautifully with a delicate hint of cinnamon through the ice cream. My favourite of all courses.
For the finalé of the evening, we were brought tea/coffee and a selection of petit fours. These were Quince Comfits – a sweetmeat that can trace its origins back to the Medieval period and, Pruneaux Fourrés de Tours (prunes stuffed with pistachio pastes).
At this point I was completely stuffed and could barely manage another morsel. I also found these very sweet, so after one bite I decided to leave these and end the meal more that satiated.
I was amazed to discover that Sam is not a qualified, professional Chef. Mostly self-taught with a few amateur cookery classes under her belt, she delivered a stunning historical feast cooked entirely by herself. Two full days of preparation goes into the supper club and you can really tell, as what was delivered was restaurant quality but with a really unique twist. I would book an event again at her home and encourage any real foodies or historians to too.
RATING: Must Go | Worth a Try | Give it a Miss
*Disclosure: I was invited to dine on a complimentary basis and I paid for my guest to join me. However, this has not affected my review which is an honest and impartial account of my dining experience.