Sunday, 6 February 2011

Dinner at Charlie & Evelyn's Table

When I tell some friends that I'm going to visit Edinburgh's only pop up supper club, Charlie and Evelyn's Table, I find myself having to explain what a supper club actually is. Supper clubs have been around for a few years and have had some exposure in press and television but due to their nature they gain publicity primarily by word of mouth and by social media.  A supper club is basically a restaurant in someone's home - eating out in.

When I booked a place at Charlie and Evelyn's, we were asked by owners Rachel and Chris Rowley if we had any particular dislikes and emailed the menu in advance. Each supper club can operate differently and my only other visit to a supper club has been the Underground Restaurant in London for an Elvis themed night which was very different indeed. It was far more of an intimate, fine dining experience at Charlie and Evelyn's, but still a perfectly relaxed evening with none of the formality you'd usually get in a venue where each diner has six pieces of cutlery set out for them.

The night we visit their central Edinburgh flat, the weather had taken a wild turn and we're grateful for a warm welcome. The evening takes place in a large living/dining room and when we arrive, introductions are made to the other diners. We were grateful and relieved they were a friendly group, as we all sit together at a large 8 seat dining table. Dining at a supper club is more of an experience than just visiting a restaurant as really you're invited into someone's home as part of a dinner party. Although you're likely not to know your fellow diners, you are likely to be visiting Charlie and Evelyn's Table as a bit of a foodie and this helps as it was a unifying topic of conversation as each course arrived. 

Rachel acts as a perfect hostess and creates a lovely atmosphere, making everyone comfortable.  Chris is mostly confined to the kitchen as chef, but emerges to announce each course for us. After pouring a glass of G&T for us (it is BYO), we're relaxed and chatting in the comfy seats and couches and sample some canapes - a pea and pecorino bruschetta and a tandoori mushroom (a button mushroom stuffed with breadcrumbs, tandoori spices and coriander). After we sit down at the beautifully laid out table (complete with candles and fresh flowers) we have an amuse bouche of celeriac soup served in teacups and topped with crispy bacon.

Us diners giggle at using the bacon as a spork to eat the soup and we alternate between sipping teacups and using a spoon. It's a delicious beginning to the meal, creamy but not too rich. Next up is a starter of pheasant with winter leaves, with beetroot and roasted tomatoes.

The serving could easily have been main meal sized and the earthiness of the beetroot matches the flavour of the pan fried pheasant wonderfully. There is also a piece of freshly baked sour dough bread to accompany. It was clear by now that Rachel & Chris put in a lot of attention to detail in every dish and it was a beautifully presented and balanced dish. I'll also note that the service was faultless and unobtrusive - we all chatted the night away without feeling rushed and without our glasses being empty. I'd been feeling a little bit under the weather so I kept drinking a lot of water and never had to ask for a top up once which is more than I can say for a lot of fancy restaurants I've been to.

Next up was the main of brill with creamed cabbage, with carrots, bacon and crispy potato. Not being a great lover of cabbage, I was surprised at how well the springy savoy worked with the brill and it was a innovative wintry dish, satisfying but not at all heavy.

Our dessert was toasted buttered brioche stacked with ricotta and griddled oranges, topped with rhubarb and orange zest and mint leaves. I'm not a huge brioche fan so this missed the mark for me a wee bit however I did finish my plate! The rhubarb was perfectly cooked and provided a light sweetness to the dish, matching the creamy ricotta and tangy orange very well. I'll also note that for all courses, every plate was enthusiastically cleared and everyone seemed to enjoy the food hugely - for 7 people of varying tastes that is quite some achievement!

We finished up with tea and coffee, served with delicious macarons from Patisserie Madeleine. Envelopes are discreetly placed for payment and guestbooks are handed out for any feedback. It is unsurprisingly overwhelmingly positive. As mentioned, Rachel and Chris put a huge amount of effort into every detail at Charlie and Evelyn's Table and it shows - it is homemade fine dining served up with charm and style. It's an amazing achievement by itself, never mind the fact that Chris works full time and Rachel is six months pregnant.

As it is the only pop up supper club in Edinburgh, they have paired up with the only pop up afternoon tea parlour, Queen of Tarts for an alternative Valentine's weekend, with a singles dining event planned on Friday 11 Feburary at Charlie and Evelyn's Table and an afternoon tea at Queen of Tarts on Saturday 12 February. Dates for Charlie and Evelyn's Table are announced on their website, facebook and twitter pages, and you need to email your chosen date to confirm the booking. They sit eight people in an evening and their current dates are fully booked but check back after summer for any news.


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