[P]REVIEW: TABL Launch Evening

by - May 15, 2014

Eating in a large group, around a large table makes the food taste better. Fact. Maybe it's a little Italian quirk of mine, but I find if the eyes and ears are engaged with noisy and lively company, ideally in a lovely setting, the taste sense is rewarded. Dining with strangers may not be the most appealing to some, but I promise you, in no time you'll be chatting away like old friends and kissing each other good night. Not like that of course (well maybe for some!)

But unless you have a keen eye on the local dining scene, knowing the details of these private supper clubs or special dining events can be tricky.

TABL is a new service that is essentially a community marketplace with the when, where and what. And I can't think of a better place than Brighton to launch this platform. Already listed are some amazing Regency homes, some very flash modern spaces and local queen of the supper clubs, Cantina. Although Brighton based for now, I bet it won't be long until other cites are listed as well.

What I personally appreciate about the service is the slick site. Community supper club listings have existed before but on the whole have been difficult to use, out of date and inconsistent. The TABL site is professionally (and well) built, making booking a breeze for the user.

For the launch they made us go though the whole booking and transaction system. The information was clear, payment really simple. You can see how qualified the host is, images of the dining room and style of food they cook as well. The menu is displayed and rough area of the location given. Plus it makes this sort of thing accessible to a wider audience, taking out the awkwardness of the unknown and fear of turning up at some weirdo's house.

The launch was treated as a typical event really, speeches aside. Hosted in a cafe in the North Laine area, which takes on an altogether different persona in the evening, we were treated to a meal cooked by chef Ed Heller who by day runs the kitchen at the Brunswick Pub in Hove and by night whips up his more inventive and refined work.

Although I find reviewing temporary dinners a bit pointless, Ed will be doing more suppers though TABL and this will give you a flavour of what his nights will be like and an idea of what to expect. Events by other people in other settings will of course be different but hey, variety and all that.

The canape deserves a mention. Pretty isn't it? Luckily it came with a dainty fork so I didn't have to put the whole thing in my gob. The only benefit of that awful Taste program on the telly was making people realise that canape spoons may as well be snow shovels. The Parma ham and artichoke were freshened up by clever little apple liquid spheres and given a zing from garlic aioli. An impressive start.

Never having tried a deep fried egg yolk (where have i been, right?), I was happy to see one on the starter with something else I don't think I've ever had and something of a rarity, UK wild asparagus. The yolk gave way with a tap of the knife and I really enjoyed the whole lot.

Next was my favourite fish, sea bass, with a homely, smokey chickpea and chorizo stew. A punchy flavour this fish can carry well.

But I think the stand out dish of the night was the pork. It's always the pork. This was a cider poached belly piece, perfectly rendered leaving us with moist meat and crunchy, toothsome fat. I loved the fact that the spinach was home grown (Ed has a small holding) and the pickled apple chutney added a nice acidic edge to the dish. I would have licked the plate but I'd only met the people around the table an hour before.

We finished this enjoyable meal with a gorgeous slab of chocolate cake and cheese.

I had a flipping marvellous evening, met some great people for some entertaining chat and a lovely meal to boot.

Experiences start at a mere £15 for informal, friendly home cooking up towards the well priced premium supper events. If you've never been to a supper club, are a seasoned guest but want a more professional platform to purchase through, or if you are thinking of hosting yourself, visit www.tabl.com/ I've got my eye on a few of the future listings already.

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