18-24 June, 2018
The tree is growing more leaves from the stumps daily. I’m taking a Monday photo each week to show its progress.
On Wednesday we walked to Shikumen in Aldgate. It was a long, meandering walk and sometimes it felt like we looped too much and came back not so far from our last point. I should try to map it. Just behind Broadway Market there are some interesting art pieces. I know I’ve seen this area before but not sure if the art is new. Probably not.
When we reached the top end of Brick Lane, we bumped into Rosie from Krish’s volunteering. We had a brief chat and then moved on.
The walk was a bit of a struggle and, at the end, our favourite dish at Shikumen the crispy prawn with garlic, chili and cashew.
Friday after the Falls Prevention exercise class, Lisa and I went to Palm Vaults, which is a vegetarian/vegan coffee shop. It’s so girly in there! I had an iced coffee and sweet-talked my way to getting half a salad. At Palm Vaults, which also has a Soho branch, there are absolutely no dairy milks for coffee and it’s card only. This is becoming more common – shops that don’t take cash. And the drinks are inventive and trendy – beetroot, lavender, rose, turmeric, teas I’ve never heard of….at a steep price!
When I was a teenager, my parents were in a supper club. In those days it meant that a group of friends, and friends of friends, got together in one person’s home once a month or so and that person would cook the meal. It seemed a great idea at the time. In London the concept of supper club is somewhat different.
Supper clubs are run by people who have a special interest in food – often ethnic – and at regular intervals advertise suppers that anyone can attend. For a price. Quite often they are run to raise money for charities. The chef takes money for the food and the rest goes to a specific charity. There are many kinds of supper clubs in London. I got involved with one that has an extremely high rating (often ranked first in London) and is run out of Hackney. The chef of Parkholme Supper Club is Alicia. She has a financial background and worked in a frantic job in The City before starting the club. Alicia has travelled a lot and has married her love of food to her love of travel. Her most common themes are Georgian and Chinese/Malaysian. She also has a team of volunteer helpers (I was one) and regularly invites one to cook a meal from her own home country for an evening.
Saturday night was warm. I had paid to go to a Palestinian Supper Club. I met Nisreen when I was a volunter for the Parkholme Supper Club. She cooks middle eastern food and did a guest spot. Then she left to create her own supper club. Nisreen lives in Southeast London and it’s quite a trek to go to one of her regular supper clubs or the intriguing cooking classes she holds. But we keep in touch and she recently shared with me her amazingly good falafal recipe. When I found out she was doing a pop up near me, I didn’t have to think very long before booking myself a single seat.
Supper clubs are usually intimate gatherings. A dozen around a dining room table often in someone’s home. Bring your own bottle. Shmooze, meet new people, and eat food you might otherwise never have discovered.
I’ll confess to some uncomfortable moments during this supper. It was held in a church basement and there were about seven tables, seating six people each. I eventually realised that this was a benefit supporting MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians). The speakers did their best to not slam Israel (explaining that they understood the reason why ‘these things’ happen) but I did feel a bit vulnerable listening to the short speeches. I am usually appalled at the news out of Gaza but it’s harder hearing it from others. And, sadly, I feel that too many equate Jews with Israel and Israel with Jews, which stirs up antisemitism. So I sat and ate the lovely food, ‘kept my head low,’ and escaped when the last bit was eaten.
My favourite dish of the night was Crispy chickpea Fatteh (soft chickpeas smothered in tahini sauce with crispy pita).
The supper club I most want to visit next is run by a chef called Guan Leong . I’ve been reading his blog for years. It was exciting when he was chosen to be on a now-cancelled cooking reality show, The Taste. He was thrilled to be mentored by Anthony Bourdain, who was really taken by Guan’s take on Malaysian food. Guan’s tribute to Tony was touching. I digress. Supper clubs are not cheap and I wouldn’t go to one ‘just like that,’ but I will make the effort for ‘My Malaysian Supper Club‘ one of these fine evenings. It sells out quickly so I’ll have to jump on one.
Hackney has such a bad reputation and people in west and south London can’t understand why anyone would live here. I find a lot of variety, though. From very urban to almost rural, the new blocks of flats to the crumbling estates, the ethereal artisan areas to the blunt reality of the shoppers in Tesco. And sometimes in this hazy city, there’s a hint of a little village.