• 24 Bath Street
  • Montagu, Western Cape
  • 6720


Posted by Mareletta Mundey on 03 March 2020 1:15 PM CAT
Mareletta Mundey photo


Underground Supper Clubs

“It’s a community of people who are connected to each other and come together to eat good food in a home setting.” - Sunday Dinner Club

Welcome to the wonderful world of Underground Supper Clubs, mystical little food-fuelled gatherings that are popping up all over the world! These 'clubs' are for people interested in culinary experiences that are more community-minded, the event consisting of a 'pop up dinner' in a new location, with new people, trying new foods. These dinners are typically in a home setting with a mystery chef and mystery menu, though sometimes you will get the menu beforehand. The beauty about these clubs is you typically never know what to expect; you can have gourmet burgers and beers prepared by a celebrity chef in his home with a group of 30 strangers, or you can enjoy authentic exotic Philippine food flavors in a 'hidden restaurant' somewhere in your city. Some of the most popular clubs and restaurants within the United States include the Naked Lady Room in NYC, Hush in DC, and our personal favorite, the Sunday Dinner Club in Chicago.

It’s like a dinner party with strangers. Closed-door restaurants, also known as underground restaurants or supper clubs, are private eateries tucked away in a chef’s home. And though they’re not widely advertised, they are often some of the most sought-after tables in town.

For travellers, these clandestine spots offer a unique opportunity to step off the tourist track and dine like a local. Inside the home of professional chefs and enthusiastic cooks, diners can sample local flavours and unique dining styles at an easily digestible cost. The locations too, from hidden gardens to private living rooms, add to their unique charm.

The concept of closed-door restaurants is not new. With its roots in small family-run restaurants in Cubapaladares, underground eateries peaked in popularity over the past few years.  And though the buzz has subsided the trend is here to stay.


History of the Supper Club

The roots of this recent phenomenon were believed to have taken place during the early 20th century; in particular, during the prohibition era in America. Roadhouses became commonplace in an attempt to cater for travelling gangsters who were transporting Canadian-label contraband across the border (Bredahl, 2011). It wasn’t until after the end of prohibition that supper clubs gained a food hold. Many roadhouses became legalised and the supper club became a more refined affair. Bredahl (2011, p.4) describes the traditional supper club of the 1930’s/40’s, in Wisconsin, as an evening of ‘linen table serve, liquors, entertainment, and dancing – a destination for a night out’. Bredahl’s description of the clubs makes it clear that the focus of the evening was not purely about the culinary delights on offer but that the entertainment and social aspect the clubs provided was of equal importance. Not only were underground dining establishments popular in America at the time but it is also known that they also were in existence, to a lesser extent, in London. According to The University of East Anglia (2010) ‘The Half Hundred Club’ was founded during the 1930’s by a group of likeminded individuals with the purpose of combining good food with good company. As Hayward (2010) explains, members of the club were keen to break rules and would occasionally experiment, having their meals in strange places such as London Zoo, a Chinese restaurant and at the cinema. It was usually the case that members would take turns at hosting dinners, under a strict budget, to which each member was expected to pay 10 shillings towards. Similarly, many other clubs existed in other countries during the later period of the 20th century. Known as Si Fang Cai in Hong Kong, these Supper Clubs were a very traditional type of home restaurant whereby secret recipes were handed down through generations and served up to private parties on an adhoc basis (China – Cultural.com, 2010). In Cuba, however, the Clubs were much more commonplace. Paladars, according to Mishan (2008) became a popular alternative to state-run eateries. Private restaurants, although illegal, operated successfully. However, due to the multitude of illegal restaurants operating on the island, the Government decided to legalise the restaurants in 1993. The hidden restaurant industry is also deeply rooted in Latin America history, explains Romme (2007). Puertas Ceradas operate throughout Argentina, the oldest of which, Mis Raices, which operates in Buenos Aires. Juanita Posternak has been serving up in her large dining room that seats up to 40 people for the last 23 years. Likewise, the scene has remained strong in Paris. Jim Haynes’s Parisian apartment has accommodated over 100,000 diners over the past 30 years+ (March 2011)

Since we’re Back in the 20’s – now might be the time to strongly re-live the Supper club!!!


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