Media savvy foodie duo and queens of the London supper club circuit, Laura and Alice give their advice for entertaining in style
How did your supper club idea first begin back in 2012?
We both met at a charity fashion jumble sale and hit it off talking about our mutual love of food. We then started hanging out, trying new London restaurants (at lunchtime, as it was much cheaper) and we tested out new recipes on each other at home. We wanted to write about food but felt we needed to put our money where our mouths were – we couldn’t write about cooking or restaurants if we weren’t involved in the food scene ourselves and that’s where the supper club idea started from. Supper clubs were then quite an unknown entity but our basic idea was to open our homes and have paying guests over for dinner. We love the supper club concept as it’s an evolving idea – it can ebb and flow catering for 10 people or 70 people, in ever-changing locations to really keep it interesting for guests. Our ultimate aim was to bring people together to have a great night with good food and drink.
For a last-minute dinner party with friends what would be your fail-safe menu ideas?
We have a menu in the book which is a Mexican brunch, but you could have it at any time of the day. It’s great for entertaining at the last minute as everything is made to order. You can also divvy up the jobs – have someone on tacos duty and someone else on quesadillas – and everyone can customise their own.
What are your top two kitchen tools you can’t live without?
The microplane graters are so brilliant – we freeze chillies whole and then grate them onto soup or into dressings. We also both have a silicon spatula which is essential; not a sexy appliance but we wouldn’t be without it.
Have you ever had a dinner party disaster?
At one of the early supper clubs we had to make 12 lemon tarts to get one that we could serve. We hadn’t made that kind of pastry before and it was the hottest day of the year. It just kept collapsing. We had to keep running to the shop to get more ingredients. When the final one worked, and the kitchen was covered in lemon skins and every utensil had been used, we could have cried with joy.
What’s the inspiration and intention behind your new capsule collection of linens with Habitat?
We both love Habitat and have done for many years, so for us it is really nostalgic. It was really important to us that the fabric we used had an obvious hand-spun quality to it, so we decided to work with khadi fabric from India which is hand-spun and hand-woven in a traditional weaving village with one of Habitat’s oldest suppliers. The fabric has a wonderful loose quality that gives a relaxed, informal feeling to it and means that each piece is entirely individual and not machine perfect. These are products with a story to tell which is what we wanted to achieve with the collection. In terms of colour, a cool, neutral base stripe underpins the whole collection and then we’ve added an accent in the form of hand-printed botanical motifs, (illustrated by Habitat’s patterns designer Martha Coates) giving a nod to the foraged herbs that we use in both our cooking and table decorating. We didn’t want to create a collection that was ‘for special occasions’ as we don’t feel that’s what hosting should be about, we wanted something informal that could be used every day but that had real personality about it. The collection features lots of botanical prints.
What’s your advice on decorating an entertaining space with greenery?
We both believe that hosting a dinner party is all about attention to detail. While the food and drink will always be central to an event, making sure your dining table is a calm, enjoyable space for guests to relax at is so important to making it a success. Greenery on a table immediately softens a space. We tend to incorporate herbs on the table, such as rosemary, thyme and lavender, that look fantastic and also give off a great aroma. Think outside of the box with the way you use plants and flowers; they don’t just have to sit in a vase in the middle of the table. We have hung alliums from the ceiling, laid a uniform row of single hydrangea heads all the way along the window sill in jars and, most recently, entwined a nautical rope with seasonal flowers and hung it from the rafters. Our favourite florists are Worm London we are constantly looking at their pictures for inspiration.
What are your top tips when it comes to styling linens and crockery on the table?
We designed the table linen collection around the principle of starting with a neutral base upon which you can then layer colour and pattern. This then allows you to be more experimental with bringing in visual interest through glassware, crockery and foliage on the table. The napkins can be folded to show different amounts of the print which we liked, so each look can be different. In terms of crockery, we like to collect mismatched items and pick up big oval platters from the charity shop. Pieces that don’t go together don’t have to look messy, if you keep one thing the same, be it hue, shape or era there will be something tying them together.
What are you hoping people will get from your book ‘Round to Ours’?
Our dream is for it to be splashed with sauce and dog-eared; we want it to be a useful book for those times when you need entertaining inspiration and menu ideas. We spent a lot of time thinking about how it would look, so it would be the ultimate compliment for it to be on a coffee table too.
What are both of your kitchens like at home?
Laura - I moved last summer into a lovely Victorian house which hasn’t been decorated for over 40 years, it has William Morris wallpaper everywhere. However, my kitchen looks like a Portuguese grandmother kitchen. We have open shelving for all our dry stores and I collect drinking glassware, so that’s all on display too. On the walls are light green patterned tiles, with teak work surfaces, teak back boards and hooks where I hang my ceramic tea and coffee cups. It all feels very eclectic. Alice - My kitchen and dining area are open-plan with my living room and it’s the heart of my flat. I have a big range cooker and open shelving with all my glasses and plates on. My units are a dusty grey green that I saw in a Danish kitchen and copied.
How would you describe yourselves in three words each?
Alice - An introverted extrovert. Laura - I’m consistently inconsistent.
Photos by Kristin Perers
Article by: Lucy Macdonald