By Elliott Fulton
Londoners are constantly craving new eating experiences. How many new restaurants openings are led by a concept or some strange new fusion. We can eat in the dark, at a kitchen table and even 100ft above the ground if we want to. Does any of it really improve the dining experience? I’m not convinced. I didn’t immediately get supper clubs, but in recent years they have exploded and are hard to ignore. Without as many of the financial constraints of a restaurant, chefs have more freedom to cook how they want, and so it has become a hotbed for both aspiring new talent, as well as chefs from some of the best restaurants in the city who are using it to experiment and hone their style. This doesn’t mean that the food is secondary to what you’d get in a restaurant though, far from it. Instead it’s some of the most exciting and creative cooking in London at the moment, with the added bonus that it doesn’t always come with the expensive restaurant prices.
The Sicilian Collection is right at the forefront of this exciting new trend in supper clubs. Created by three British-born, Italian-descent sisters – Emilia, Nina & Sofia Strazzanti – it is inspired by fond memories of food from their childhood and the rich culinary culture in Sicily. When I think of Sicily, I imagine families sitting in the early evening in a cobbled street at a long table, bottles of wine being passed from grandfather to child and huge bowls of pasta and fish being mopped clean. Hackney Road on an early February night doesn’t immediately conjure up these images. But Strazzanti have somehow managed to capture the intimacy and communal essence of a real Sicilian feast. Add to that the combination of ingredients sourced from small farms in Sicily and some of the best local East London produce, and you have a recipe for delight.
Running for three nights inside the ultra-hip Hackney Coffee Co, the exposed-brick backspace was transformed by McQueen’s Flower School into a stunning Sicilian almond grove. Long sharing tables were set for a communal feast, with the blossoms hanging overhead. Any worries that you might not get on with those sat beside you are soon eased by the three cocktails and two glasses of wine paired with the menu.
After an Aperol Spritz and bites of deep-fried milky Primo Sale cheese, just like that Sicilian street scene, hearty sharing dishes were placed in the centre of the tables. An antipasti of wild fennel, pork belly and mozzarella croquettes was polished up with wild bread from E5 Bakehouse, and followed by a generous portion of Pasta e Basta’s fresh conchiglie pasta with aubergine, mint, almond and shavings of fresh Ricotta. To finish was a trio of the too-edible Strazzanti Sicilian almond, pistachio and hazelnut cakes – all washed down with a Negroni.
Emilia came out during the dinner to introduce the dishes and interact with the guests, which for me added a real layer of authenticity to the story behind the food. The meal was filled with noise – happy, chattering noise – as strangers became friends and, apart from the few standard Insta-shots before each course, phones were hidden from sight. The whole experience was social, communal dining with excellent food to go with it. With supper clubs running throughout London, and The Sicilian Collection’s next one at the end of March, it won’t be my last.
You can keep up-to-date on upcoming their supper clubs over on strazzanti.co