MSF's Talking Drums review
A lovely review from MSF's internal magazine for staff, Talking Drums, written by their press officer who visited as a guest:
Saturday night dining for a good cause.. MSF!
Press Officer Sandra Smiley has been out east - east London that is - sampling some MSF-friendly culinary delights.
When Alicia Weston, 42, left her job as a stockbroker in 2010, her options were open. She could have spent her obligatory non-compete period sipping cocktails on a beach somewhere; instead, she founded a charity supper club. She would cook high-quality, multi-course meals for guests in her Dalston home; of the fee diners would pay to attend, a fiver would go to covering costs and the rest would go to MSF. In just a couple of years The Parkholme Supper Club has become an East London institution, with some of its Saturday night events booking up in but a few hours.
By now, Alicia must have served feasts to hundreds of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers in her capacity as founder and head chef of the supper club. The themed dinners she has hosted have ranged in style from Malay feasts and mung bean banquets, to the Syrian mezze-style smorgasbord your author attended last month. At each event, fourteen guests gather at Alicia's impressive Victorian abode; they have a glass of wine, get to know each other a bit and finally meet around the dark wood table for grub. Dish after delicious dish, prepared by Alicia and a handful of volunteers, stream out of Alicia’s sunburst-yellow kitchen, and the evening commences.
Supper Clubbing – people running ersatz “restaurants” out of their homes – is now a bona fide trend in London. Indeed, some would even call it a cottage industry, with more listed online than your author, being on a tight deadline, has time to count. Once someone worked out that yes, it can be done legally, in spite of this country’s hunger for Health and Safety regulations, supper clubs started cropping up in even the most far-flung corners of London. They’re generally run by people who have a passion for cooking and entertaining and fancy making a bit of money off their pastime. But Alicia had motivations beyond her interest in cooking and baking. From the outset, the goal was to raise money for charity – and it’s an objective she’s met, having collected over £30,000 for MSF already.
Parkholme Supper Clubs are lavish events with multiple courses, quality ingredients and generally, a great mix of guests. It’s enough to make you forget that you’re contributing positively to society rather than having a totally self-indulgent Saturday night. When your author went to see the Supper Club for herself on a damp night in February, the company dined on fluffy homemade falafel, fresh fattoush and a number of other small dishes; a high point, to my mind, was a hummous so rich and velvety smooth you could slip into a hotel room with it and lose an afternoon. Though the food is spectacular, your author would wager that a large part of the added value is the diverse people one meets. Chit-chatting round the table that evening were a continent-hopping events organiser, an interior designer just back from the Middle East, and a retired industrial negotiator with a tale or two to spin about the old days in Dagenham. There was a touch of drama at the end of the evening when Alicia realised she had forgotten to serve the beans, having set them aside to cool. The guests were all too stuffed with delicious food to mind and laughed it off good-humouredly, picking at the Assabih b'Sutlaj dessert piled high on plates before us.
Parkholme’s pulling power clearly lies in the fastidiously prepared food, cool atmosphere and the prospect of meeting new people. It’s a great opportunity to kick back and have a laugh, as well as to enjoy a meal that you wouldn’t otherwise – unless you’re planning on swinging over to Malaysia or the Middle East sometime soon. Many of Alicia’s meals are inspired by her trips around the world, like her Nasi Ayam Kerabu for March’s Malay Malam night, which features azure-coloured rice dyed with blue sweetpea flowers. Though most of the ticket price goes to charity, the food at the Parkholme Supper Club is well worth the £45 on its own. But knowing that you are giving generously, while enjoying great food and company – it still makes you feel all warm and falaffely inside.
Those of you with the luxury of a decent internet connection can read more here:
Supper clubs are held in Hackney on a regular basis. To join the mailing list, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Price is £45 per head (of which £35 goes to MSF)