The shape of things to come
Starry cooking at bistro prices, from student chefs running an ambitious supper club
Dublin Popup Supper Club chefs Cuán Greene and Harry Colley. Photographs: Lynn Rothwell.
Dublin Popup Supper Club’s slow cooked beef shin with soba noodles, tomato heart, burnt ginger broth and rainbow chard.
Who knows what big Jim Larkin would have made of it. Two young chefs have turned his crowd-beseeching hands statue into a waiter holding plates aloft for their Dublin Supper Club logo. A supper club is something between a dinner party and a restaurant, a hybrid third space and I’m interested in what you might eat at one.
Tonight it’s a seven-course menu served by these two final year culinary arts students, Cuán Greene and Harry Colley. I am late, getting no answer to the doorbell of an apartment in the Docklands (turns out I’ve forgotten a zero) and finally announcing myself to the man who answers the intercom. These are three things that push me out of my comfort zone. Arriving anonymously into a busy restaurant, taking my seat and getting on with things, is how I like to do it.
Upstairs sofas have been pushed back to create a large dining room with a long narrow table running down its spine. Nosy types like me can scan the owners’ bookshelves. There’s a much niftier kitchen than I would expect in an apartment. And there’s a familiar face beside my chair, Clare-Anne O’Keefe, cook and former MasterChef contestant.
Mingling is part of the mix. If talking to strangers isn’t your thing then supper clubs could be a circle of hell with canapes. Here guests are encouraged to bring one friend. The one-friend policy is to discourage people who know each other chatting together all night.
The apartment has a blackboard wall with the menu written in chalk down its middle. One course is called Umami. Another is called After Eight.
The aproned chefs and their helpers are doing serious-looking things in the kitchen and there’s a finger-sized crisp curl of something called poppadom on a beach stone covered in salt. It’s got a buttery yellow blob in one end and a white one in the other. We are told to eat it in a certain order but I’m sure it would have been delicious in the other direction as well.
Then the circus act begins. Slowly, over the course of a long, enjoyable evening these young men show us what they can do. There are clams in a tomato water jelly with fennel snow and wholegrain mustard. This one comes on on glass plate balanced on some chicken wire with carrageen and beach stones in one rolled-up end.
Our next “plat”e is a folded plastic scoop a little like a document folder holding creamy sauces, a tiny asparagus spear and a poached egg yolk that’s been magically put into an onion membrane (that annoying skin-like bit of the onion that you flick off your fingers when preparing an onion).