On a soggy Saturday in September I attended the first outing of ClandesDine, a pop-up supper club for a group of foodie friends. The ‘Secret Eaters’ were given a mobile number to call for directions to the hush-hush meeting point, which in this case was a portable bar on a wooden river jetty overlooking a picturesque weir in the lower Don Valley. Actual ownership of this spot is uncertain but it probably belongs to some musician friends whose warehouse studios back wall supports the jetty.
All day bursts of strong sunshine had alternated with brief but heavy showers which threatened this wholly outdoor event with potential ruin. Nothing could dampen the spirits of this jolly gang though who were prepared for any eventuality.
Thankfuckfully, after one last shower at the beginning, the rest of the evening was dry and quite warm.
Sheffield’s favourite landlord, Mr Okie Dulo, was in charge of pouring the wine and mixing the Attitude Adjusters, basically a Long Island Iced Tea (equal measures of vodka, tequila, gin, rum, triple sec, sugar syrup, lime juice and mixed en masse) but topped up with cava rather than cola. It was a moreish but very heady mix!
The food was provided by Nikki Harris, former proprietor and chef at Kumquat Mae, a much missed local vegetarian restaurant. The most visually stunning canapés were the mini-Yorkshire Puds with Soured Cream, Spring Onion and Lumpfish Caviar.
The first tray of titbits to be finished were the Rolled Pancakes with Cream Cheese and Sundried Tomato Tapenade.
My personal favourites were the Bouchees of Chicken Liver with Marsala Wine.
After demolishing all available supplies our by now very merry crew made their way a few minutes down the road, past aging warehouses and factories, for the main event in yet another industrial setting. Again the actual whereabouts were kept secret until the last minute which made the surprise of arriving in the canal boat yard all the more special.
A line of picnic tables in banquet formation awaited us under gazebos on the towpath while Nikki cooked up a storm in the kitchen of one of the long boats. As dusk fell in this pretty spot, candles and lanterns made from brown paper bags were lit up giving the yard an ethereal yet cosy atmosphere.
Round two involved an earthy ‘Grande Mezze’ of twenty different dishes, including starter nibbles of Roasted Nuts…
…Hummus and Tsatsiki…
with Crudités and Breadsticks…
…and homemade Sunflower Seed Bread.
A seemingly never-ending bombardment of dishes ensued as Nikki kept the obliging servers constantly busy with a stream of plates coming out of the hatch.
I particularly liked the Briouats (filo pastry rolls of spicy Merguez sausage and butter beans) and Spanakopitta (filo parcels of spinach and feta) which came with a tangy Sour Plum & Balsamic relish.
The vegetable side of things was well covered; Beetroot & Pomegranate Salad.
Also Tabbouleh with Fresh Herbs & Lemon.
Stuffed Vine Leaves with Roasted Lemon & Garlic.
Roasted New Potatoes with Lemon, Green Salad, Tomato & Basil Salad, Garlic & Rosemary (really loved these!), Broad Beans stewed with Lemon Fennel, White Wine and finished with Truffle Oil, Ratatouille-stuffed Aubergines in Tomato & Cinnamon Sauce and topped with melting Gruyere.
For the meat heads flavoursome Lamb Meatballs with Ras-Al-Hanout and from the open-air grill; Barbequed Sticky-Pork Ribs and Char-grilled Chicken Thighs Marinated in Yogurt, Chilli & Garlic.
To finish, dates and grapes, and Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Fresh Raspberry Coulis.
All this went down with a fine selection of French and Spanish reds and whites gathered from the organiser’s trips abroad. Digestifs were on hand for those so inclined and several of us retired to the sofas by the wood stove to let digestion commence in comfort.
I had the best time but to be honest, the drink had started to take over from the food quite early on! The excitement of being with a great bunch of people in such an unusual spot meant that I did not do everything justice. Too busy tittle-tattling!
Hopefully another ClandesDine won’t be too long away so we can all get another helping. Make sure you keep your ear to the ground and your taste buds in training for the next secret feast, somewhere in the Sheffield twilight zone.
The Gannet September 24th 2011