Last week I was eating Afternoon Tea on a London bus, this week I enjoyed my dinner on an Underground Tube Carriage which actually happened to be above ground. It’s funny how the world works.
There’s only so many scarfs, pairs of earrings, sets of cufflinks and bottles of whisky you can buy your parents for Christmas, so this year I bought dining experiences for each of my favourite people. And the great thing about a gift like that is I get to enjoy them too!
At the weekend my old man and I jumped on the Victoria Line and ventured to a tube station we’d never been to before (Blackhorse Road) before jumping in an Uber and whizzing our way to a dining experience i’ve been wanting to try out for years.
Created by friends Tom and Alex who set out on a mission to bring friends and strangers alike together over interesting food over 5 years ago, The Underground Supper Club in Walthamstow is one of the best known innovative dining experiences in the capital.
Dinner is hosted on an out-of-service 1967 Victoria Line tube carriage, complete with the original advertisements and upholstery, but adapted to seat guests around a mix of sharing tables and “first class” private tables.
We arrived for dinner just before 7pm and were seated in our luggage rack seating; the sharing tables. Tables seat 8, and a lovely couple celebrating their recent marriage were already in their seats enjoying their welcome cocktail; an Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. I adore an Old Fashioned and this one was particularly delicious. Really smooth, void of that sometimes biting intensity provided by a whisky, and with a sweet twist from the orange rind squeezed into the glass. I sank mine long before our appetiser arrived.
The appetiser consisted of a combination of dehydrated & whipped yoghurt, and a small celebration of fennel: both porter pickled & roasted. The dehydrated yoghurt were like shards of snow sprinkled over the freshly whipped dollop which sat aside the fennel. The pickled fennel had a tangy bite to it with with an al-dente crunch, while the roasted fennel was soft and tender.
The starter consisted of caramelised grapefruit, roasted hazelnuts, camomile syrup, cured salmon with dill. The presentation was beautiful, and obviously incredibly appetising because I was scraping the plate clean before I realised I hadn’t snapped a quick picture, so the one below is taken from the Basement Galley website.
The flavours were fresh; the salmon wasn’t too fishy (much to the delight of one of our table companions who isn’t the biggest fan of fish) and the colour combination created by the salmon and the grapefruit made the plate look like a sunset. I really enjoyed the addition of hazelnuts which provided an enjoyable crunch. My dad has an allergy to grapefruit and they were kind enough to replace his with segments of orange.
This is one of the tube carriages you can still drink on without getting a stern telling off from Boris’ men, so we ordered a bottle of red (a snip at £16 a bottle) but with my Dad driving later I actually drank the majority of it and was sporting some pretty unattractive red wine teeth before long. Luckily it went really well with the main course; barley, lentil & mushroom ragout, braised rabbit leg, toasted brioche and caper mayonnaise.
I really enjoy rabbit; its tender and juicy – isn’t too heavy but has more substance and flavour than chicken, but less than a meatier furred game like venison. This leg of meat was particularly tender and was really enjoyable with the soft lentils and creamy mushrooms. The brioche was sweet and crisp and the caper mayonnaise added a jolt of acidity.
I washed it all down with more red wine, and while I felt extremely satisfied I wasn’t feeling full as I usually would be by this stage and was looking forward to the dessert of sweet smoked mascarpone ice cream, sugared rye & almond crumble, with Pimm’s gel, fresh raspberries and lemon balm.
It would appear that mascarpone is the ideal addition to a scoop of ice cream; it was thick, gooey and indulgent. The sugared rye and almond crumble provided the crunchy texture while the raspberries were refreshing and gave a spring-like burst of sweetness. The puddles of Pimm’s gel had a sapidity that made the mouth water and combined the flavours well to make an enjoyable mouthful.
The food, every single course, was delicious and light. We all scraped our plates clean and didn’t feel like we’d over indulged. It was balanced and refined with some clever techniques and elegant presentation. Chef Alex Cooper knows what he’s doing with his french (and apparently Scandinavian) inspired menu and his classical training shines through on the plate beautifully.
The service from the two waiting hosts Dave & Charlie (I *think* that was their names, but the bottle of red had taken effect by the time their names were mentioned and my memory is ever so slightly fuzzy!) was attentive, friendly and prompt. We were never waiting long to order drinks and they were very patient when we all individually handed over our phones for him to snap a group shot of us.
But ultimately what made the evening so enjoyable was the company we were in. Sitting with strangers can ultimately seem quite daunting. The risk is that you’re going to be sharing your dinner an unpleasant group of miscreants who chew with their mouths open and have the conversational capacity of a teaspoon. But we were lucky in that every couple at the table had interesting stories to tell, amusing anecdotes and a shared appreciation of fine, innovative dining experiences.
I would recommend the Underground Supper Club to any who enjoy inventive and quirky dinners consisting of wonderful food and enjoyable drinks, in a unique environment. And while a seat on one of the private booths may bring you a caraffe of wine and a glass of fizz with dessert, it doesn’t bring you the enjoyment of speaking with new people. After all, this is the one place that it’s acceptable to talk on the tube, and you should 100% take advantage of that!
Places on the Underground sell out fast, but you can find availability for their special upcoming Whisky Dinners and Guest Chef evenings as well as what to expect from their monthly changing menus on the website. A four course dinner is priced from £45 a head, and the carriage is even available for private events.