Sunday, 25 September 2011

Dinner at Kitchen Porter Supperclub

"How do you find out about a secret supper club?" This was the hot topic of conversation at my table at Kitchen Porter supper club. Being a food blogger and foody nerd, I 'fessed up that I usually find out about these type of events via Twitter and other food blogs. Everyone had a different story - some had been recommended by friends, some guests were friends of the hosts, others had read reviews online. This just goes to show how popular supper clubs are becoming in Edinburgh, particularly considering that a year ago there was just one, Charlie and Evelyn's Table. Now there is a small network of them with plenty to offer Edinburgh diners, such as My Home Supper who create a friendly dinner party atmosphere and new venture Chai Lounge, cooking Indian food. Kitchen Porter is run by married couple Mary and Mark Porter from their family home at a secret location in Costorphine, and began in March this year. Mark is an experienced professional chef and it was obvious from the sophisticated menu (emailed to us well in advance to allow for any particular dietary requirements) that this was going to be an exceptional culinary experience.

We were to arrive at 8pm and were greeted with a smile by Mary, who took our coats and guided us to the sitting room for Prosecco and canapes. The canapes were delicious and plentiful - a light Gruyere cheese puff and crisp bruschetta made with homemade bread. 

There were a handful of people already there and everyone was friendly and chatty. This is the beauty of supper clubs - everyone is happy to mingle and to enjoy the experience of dining together with a group of strangers. The room quickly filled up with other diners and Mark and Mary came in to hand over canapes and ensure glasses were topped up. We met up with our supper club buddies who we've dined with twice before (and are coincidentally starting their own Supper Club, Table for Ten) and some other friends. We were chatting and catching up until we were lead to the dining room, via a beautiful open plan kitchen. I've never viewed the working kitchen of a supper club, it smelled great and looked amazingly organised and clean considering the amount of work which had already taken place.
There were three tables set out in the dining room and our wine had been placed on the largest table, sadly away from our friends. Not a big deal for us as dining with strangers is part of the supper club experience and I quite enjoy meeting new foodie folk. I'm sure if I'd mentioned it we could have moved. There were nineteen people seated in the room altogether and to be honest, it was slightly cramped. Whilst it was manageable, it would have been nice to have had a wee bit more elbow room. Our table was a mix between friends who were happy chatting amongst themselves and others who, like us, were part of the wider group, blethering away about all sorts - travel, reality television, self help, education and bad toupees (as part of a wider discussion on Donald Trump). It was a lovely mix of folk.

Our amuse bouche of sweetcorn and chorizo soup soon arrived. This was a creamy sweetcorn chowder, blended smooth, with chunks of chorizo adding a salty contrast to the sweetness of the soup. I could happily have had a full bowl as a starter, but it was perfect as a taster as it would have been far too filling. It was served with a small toasted round and small bread rolls with butter already on the table.

The starter was a treacle cured salmon with pickled red onion and cucumber. It was beautifully and simply presented with four slices of the black edged salmon served with a sour cream quenelle and salmon roe along with the small pickled salad and leaves. The salmon had been cured for 24 hours and had just the right hit of sweetness, particularly when combined with the salty pearls of roe and vinegary tang of the salad. It was an impressive start to the meal and everyone's plate was completely cleared. 

Main course of roast breast and confit leg of chicken with asparagus, wild mushrooms and grapes had a lot to live up to by this stage, but did not disappoint. This was served with a shallot and white wine cream sauce, a tortellini and a cube of potato dauphinoise. The confit was extremely moist and tender and it was a delight to bite into the delicious softness. The accompanying asparagus and mushrooms were perfectly cooked and worked well with the roast chicken and creamy well-flavoured sauce. The interesting touches to the meal were the potato dauphinoise which was flavoured with thyme (and thankfully not too heavy), and the grapes which were an interesting contrast to the sauce, again working with the sweet and salty balance. I enjoyed the tortellini but am not sure it added much to the dish, however the meal was perfectly proportioned and the chicken confit was the hit of the evening as far as I'm concerned.

We were pretty full by this point but of course there was still dessert to come, lemon tart and marinated raspberries. I was grateful not to have a heavy dessert after eating so much and this was a great choice - light and fruity, but still with a bit of substance. The marinated raspberries were bursting with sweet flavour and Mark revealed his secret behind them - he had marinated them in raspberry coulis. Genius! They were delectable with the lemon curd tart and cream and it was a perfect way to end the meal. 

Coffee and chocolates were served at around 11pm, and unfortunately we had the dubious honour of being the first to leave at that point. The relatively late time combined with being a school night (literally in our case, having been subjected to a parents' evening and an early morning assembly back to back) meant we were boring, but sensible (and tired!). 

Mark and Mary are wonderful hosts and work hard to create a friendly atmosphere. Combined with their experience in the kitchen, plainly evident from the elegant presentation and thoughtful modern flavour combinations, meant we had a hugely enjoyable visit. My only minor quibble would be the number of diners on the evening which as mentioned, made the seating a wee bit cramped (and possibly could have led to minor mistakes, for instance my starter was not served with the rest of the table's and had to be asked for). It was an enjoyable evening and the food was excellent, certainly comparable to what top Edinburgh restaurants have to offer and for a very reasonable price. You can and should visit - for the adventure of visiting a supper club safe in the knowledge you'll be served with exceptional and stylish food.

For more information, sign up to their mailing list or follow them on Twitter. The price of the meal was £27pp, payable in advance, and was BYOB.


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