Upon researching the definition of Bacchanalia and discovering that it refers to a riotous or boisterous festivity laced with aspects of drunken tomfoolery, I was somewhat unsure of what to expect from this particular foodie foray. Yet, as the newest addition to the diverse line-up of Bristol-based Supper Clubs, I was curious to see how it measured up…
Date and Time: Saturday 10th December 2011, 19:15 for 19:45
Name of Event: Bacchanalia Supper Club
Location: The Clifton-based home of Chris Jarvis*; our chef for the evening
Reason for visit: Bristol’s newest supper club required willing (and hungry) attendees for its ‘Trial Run’…as fitting candidates; the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) and I were keen to participate!
Arriving as we have become accustomed, via a scrawled address on a scrap of paper and the navigational genius of ‘Google Maps’, The BFF and I were warmly welcomed into the smartly-decorated basement flat of our host, Chris. On this occasion, he was joined by his ex-housemate Bryn* who, as a wine merchant and blogger with operatic tendencies, had agreed to lend his expertise to the 'front-of-house duties'. After our coats had been whisked away and an aperitif of crisp Prosecco set before us, we settled into our allocated seats in the intimately-arranged makeshift dining room, (whereby a view of the chef at work told a story of calm and control) and at once, any preconceptions of typical ‘lad-pad’ disorder became entirely redundant. Sitting communally, The BFF and I befriended our fellow diners; many whom, as neighbours, had previously sampled Chris’s culinary creations and subsequently, shared with us their high expectations of the evening ahead. This, coupled with the distinctive smell of festive fare (which teased us from the nearby kitchen), whetted our appetites for the courses to come and initiated the intended dinner party-style etiquette – an etiquette which gathered momentum as the starter made an entrance; succulent goujons of Cornish Whitebait with dill mayonnaise and a garnish of fresh parsley which was served in a large bowl and passed around the table in a friendly help-yourself fashion.
Further courses equally wowed the group; a wonderfully flavoursome spiced Roast Celeriac soup featuring the sweet notes of amontillado sherry and to follow, Bitton Farm Roast goose served with quince compote and roasted winter vegetables. The latter could have been a little more imaginatively presented but there was no question that the quality of the ingredients bought-in and facilitated as well as the execution of the dishes themselves was spot on. We also learned of the locally-sourced nature of the produce; with ‘Reg the Veg’* (a family run green-grocers situated in Clifton Village) and St. Nicholas’ Market’s Source Food Hall and Café* both playing a part in the top-notch nature of the cuisine. Similarly, the arrangement of the cheese board had been thoughtfully determined and featuring the likes of Dorset Blue Vinney, Brie and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheddar, complimented the Sloe and Cranberry Fruit cheeses and constituted a real treat – in fact, the concept of taking one's plate to the head of the table and discussing the varieties and combinations on offer was, for me, almost reminiscent of a festal family buffet – great stuff! Fluffy Clementine Pudding completed the bill and correctly encompassing a fluffy top and creamy clementine base, as per the recipe followed from Irish chef, Darina Allen's cookbook, (which Chris assured us is a treasured possession), this proved both warming and homely without possessing a heavy disposition...heavenly!
It has to be said that service was impeccable throughout the evening – Bryn was on-hand to ensure that each course was well received and the overall ambiance was relaxed and chatty. The BFF was even treated to an alternative starter due to her aversion to seafood; a momentary issue that was seamlessly remedied with a tasty mushroom dish which she described as 'delicious', (especially given its quick turnaround at such short notice).
I think there were certain aspects of the evening that either lacked a little polish or, arguably, could have benefited from a degree of female intervention (given, of course, that this Supper Club is delivered in a predominantly male domain) - come on, we all know that women are drawn to aesthetics and men, the practicalities of a situation! We’re talking minor details though such as; antithetical crockery, brown office-y looking envelopes in which to leave your contribution (a suggested £30 if you're wondering) and the presentation of certain dishes which left little to be desired – yes, regrettably on the large part, I'm referring to the pudding! Yet, that aside, as a trial run, the evening ran smoothly which resulted in a laid-back and wholly enjoyable atmosphere. Guests were fuelled with a number of complimentary tipples including the aforementioned Prosecco, a beautifully rich fortified wine to compliment the cheese board (Pineau des Charentes) and an after-dinner brandy – all of which put our B.Y.O contributions to shame, (that is, apart from the superb Morello Cherry Eau de Vie that one of the guests allowed us to sample!) Furthermore, although Chris himself is not an established chef, having inspirationally abandoned his nine-till-five desk job to peruse a number of ventures more suited to his interests with his passion for cooking at the forefront, his food is unquestionably of a commendable standard. He mentioned that the next two Bacchanalia Supper Club evenings, (scheduled, at present, for Friday 27th and Saturday 28th January 2012) will comprise more of a themed approach and, with plenty of ideas in the pipeline thereafter, perhaps these will channel more of the untamed revelry that I was anticipating. Alas however tame this particular evening proved (which I have to say, for me, was quite a relief), Chris certainly achieved what he set out to do; he showcased his ability to host an evening of great food within comfortable surroundings and alongside a range of like-minded souls – Bacchanalia may well be a hidden gem at present but with time (and possibly a little practice), it will undoubtedly prove a real contender in the growing tradition of the Bristol Supper Club….
And now for the second opinion…
The BFF gave the Bacchanalia Supper Club a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described the evening as 'cosy', 'tasty' and 'buzzing'.
|Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat...|