Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Wheatrig Farmhouse Supper Club - East Lothian Supper

I've been to a few supper clubs in Edinburgh and while they've all been a bit different, with their own quirks and personalities, they could all ultimately be summed up as "a nice dinner in a nice house". That's not to say the Edinburgh supper club is a boring or formulaic experience, far from it, I keep going to them because I love the sense of the unknown, the taste of adventure (once I got a bus!), the unforeseen alchemy of what happens when strangers get together in the intimacy of someone else's home. I've also had some great food, most of which was better value than a lot of restaurants I've visited. And I've had some great conversations, some awkward ones, and plenty of just plain weird. It's all been part of the experience and one I'm still eager to continue to try.

This time though I was leaving the city behind for the evening. We were attending East Lothian's first Supper Club, on a farm near Longniddry, a short journey outside of Edinburgh. Not far on a map, far enough to get utterly lost without said map and directions in the event - entirely my fault to forget these. As I drove around and around a dark landscape of flat fields and no sign posts we were getting embarrassingly late. Then it started to snow... adventure, I reminded myself, this is more exciting than catching the No.23 armed with only a wad of cash and a large bag from Oddbins.

Luckily we pieced together our memory of how to get there and eventually found our hosts' home. Outside of the city and you really notice the darkness, the cold, the quiet. As we parked up and struggled on the gravel we could have been 200 miles away not 20! Our hosts William and Anna live on their family farm, the farmhouse recently renovated and decorated with the potential to run a B&B, supper club and other projects including Scottish flour from their own fields. Their plan is to provide a farmhouse dinner experience of good home cooking and local ingredients, cooked honestly and without pretention.

Our table for the evening
On arrival we were shown into the drawing room (last ones there - the shame). Although supper clubs are about the food you can't escape the fact they are also about the host's home and that weird feeling of slightly intruding but still being invited in to do so. Like other supper clubs I've been to the farmhouse was exquisitely decorated with attention to detail throughout. On the food front there were still some canapes left for us thanks to our kind hosts and fellow diners, a duo of an excellent, well seasoned trout pate on homemade blinis and a meaty wild venison one, served on soda bread with onion chutney. The venison was quite crumbly, I dropped some on the cream carpet but we were assured the family labrador would finish it off. Our fellow diners were mostly local, from North Berwick or nearby. It was a friendly crowd and we chatted about home, work, food, then it was through to the dining room.

The table was laid out with crisp linen and slate place settings in the older part of the farmhouse with it's stone walls and old fire place. I had a swig of wine with the canapes then stayed on the sparkling grape juice because I was driving. I'd say that was one of the differences about hosting a supper club outside of a large town or city, it means more people have to drive. It doesn't necessarily put them off coming but might make for a different atmosphere if the drink isn't flowing as freely.

Blue cheese, pear and Ballencrieff tartlet
For our first course we were served a blue cheese, pear and Ballencrieff bacon tartlets. This made the most of excellent local produce, the cheese especially was delicious, the pastry crisp and it was fantastic to have some local free range bacon. The conversation around the table was in full swing and I never heard an awkward silence the whole night. Nor did I think I'd ended up at the 'quiet' end of the table, you know when you're convinced the people at the other end are having a much better time than you.

Our main course was pork again, Scottish Pork fillet en croute served with apple gravy, Dauphinoise potatoes and Chantenay carrots. I wouldn't normally eat a lot of pork at home, especially not loin so this was a treat. In fact I don't think I've ever had pork en croute anywhere and have never cooked it myself so relished every morsel. As a side a hefty wedge each of dauphinoise potatoes were served, and a rich apple gravy. The vegetables were tasty but the meat was the main event. It was a huge main course but well presented and everything had plenty of flavour and was cooked well.

Pork Fillet en croute
Two desserts beckoned, not some weird ladies/gents thing like you get at a wedding but a choice of what we fancied right there at the end of the meal. In the interests of research I chose the Plum Crumble made with their own plums harvested last year and preserved in the freezer, while my dining companion went for the Sticky Toffee Roulade with caramel sauce. In fact he went for it twice, snapping up seconds quicker than the labrador. The crumble was good, the plums sharp and the crumble mix included oats which I have never seen before. The roulade was more than delicious I'm informed but two portions were probably too much for my not-too sweet tooth.

Following the meal tea and coffee were served in some dainty china cups with thin shards of mint chocolate, made by our hosts. Despite the huge amounts we'd eaten these went down well. The cost was the usual 'donation', we gave £30 each, so with wine (one bottle!), pretend wine and petrol it was heading towards the £80 mark. Eventually taking our leave we and our fellow diners headed home, out into the cold, flat darkness. We'd been served and eaten a fine meal in a welcoming home, and while ye,s it was a nice dinner in a nice house, it was the friendliest, most talkative crowd of diners I've experienced at a supper club so far. I wonder if getting out of the city contributed to that. Who knows, it's that strange alchemical mix that makes me keep going back to these things.

We were welcomed to experience the first supper club in East Lothian and seeing our hosts go all out to make it a great experience for us, the attention to detail and stress on local produce made it an excellent night. Wheatrig Farmhouse Supper Club are hoping to host more suppers this year so it's well worth checking out. The scenery will be wonderful on the long summer nights and will really contribute to the whole experience, not to mention getting there on time! Book a taxi and enjoy some vino with all that lovely food!

There's a short article about William and Anna here
They are also on twitter @farmsupperclub

Plum Crumble with home grown plums

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