Do you remember that town in Holland that took away all its traffic signs overnight so that nobody was quite sure what to do when they drove through? Supper club at The Swan at Chapel Down, near Tenterden is a bit like that. First of all there is no menu to choose from. Second there is no price tag. That’s right; you pay what you think is right. We tried it out this week.
Charlie took our coats and organised a drink at the bar while we settled in to the spirit of the evening. Chapel Down sparkling wine, an absolutely delicous start to the evening.
“The chef has been to the market today and bought a few things that appealed to him, tonight’s meal will be based on those ingredients. Is there anything you don’t like?” and that was all the information we got. What fun!
At the table we got a wine list and some water. That at least was familiar ground. We chose a red Italian labelled as "wine of the month", a lovely light wine. Then the food started to arrive. My oh my!
The starters came on a large round plate perched up high on a stand, very impressive. Mackerel, carrot and beetroot salad with chicory, mustard dressing. Pork terrine and long thin salamis. What a taste, delicious but exhausting to your jaw, and so spicy that the side dish of radishes seemed refreshingly “quiet”. Then kidneys with little white onions in a sauce. I must admit I would have liked a flame to cook my kidneys a bit more. Lobster and crayfish with avocado, tomato and potato how yummy, and chutney. We were smiling all the way through the starters. We didn’t choose which one we wanted; we had a taste of all of them!
There was a time in the dim and distant past if a diner in a restaurant had asked "what variety of pototoes are these and where are they from" they would have been met with a gaping mouth! Not these days, and not at the Swan. The answer came back from Charlie as quickly as I asked the question. "Pink firs" from local Tenterden company "The Potato Shop".
Then straight onto the main dishes. We had no idea what was coming next but we got hot plates and serrated knives so we had an inkling. A huge tray arrived: fish and 3 meats plus some veg. Calves liver, very creamy, like warm pate. Cod with a beautiful buttery sauce that smelled of the sea, absolutely delicious, without doubt the best dish, I loved it. Ox Cheek with creamy mustard seed mash. Loin of pork with cooked apple and delectable crackling with savoy cabbage. And broccoli, carrots and potatoes on the side. The Latino music was permeating through our veins by now, the tables around us were beginning to fill and the buzz of the restaurant all around us made us feel very comfortable.
One more course to come. “Oh no” we thought. An enormous plate arrived making the inviting deserts look deceivingly small. Lemon and thyme sorbet, Chocolate ganache, Banana cake, warm Pistachio cake, blood orange jelly.
It wasn’t supper, it was a feast. We had fun, ate a bit too much. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and judging by all the jovial noises coming from all around us, other people were having fun too with lots of oohs and aahs. It was the antithesis of nouveau cuisine, generous portions maybe an overabundance for some unsuspecting diners who might have been expecting steak and chips and a salad. I think “supper club” should be renamed “Supper Club Feast”. Then all we had to do was decide on the cost…