Thursday, 30 July 2009
Saltoun Supper Club - The best place to eat in Brixton?
The Saltoun Supper Club is refined, urbane, slick and charming. From the moment we arrived we were set at ease and made to feel welcome. The fact that it is on my doorstep in Brixton is a bonus of Forsythian proportions.
Arno's house is a fabulous setting for dinner. If you had only 1 guess about what Arno does for a living you wouldn't opt for something boring like accountancy. The whole house was like being in a photo shoot. But rather than feeling forced or intense, it just made us feel very special to be part of Arno's world for the evening. In a nutshell, this is what makes "secret restaurants" so appealing. Restaurants rarely give you this feeling of intimacy and a direct connection with the person cooking your supper across the dining room.
Our starter of courgette carpaccio with barrel aged feta is something I wouldn't order in a month of snow days. But it was as if Arno had read our minds. At the end of a hot day, after a sweltering tube journey, we were dying for something light and refreshing. The edible equivalent of a gin and tonic. I could hear Cowie humming with glee as she reached out her fork to steal a slither of courgette whilst I was thirstily draining a glass of Douglas's prosecco.
A duck terrine then arrived, very photogenically, on the lid of an old port case. The terrine was wonderfully deep, tasting intensely of duck with a smooth richness that wouldn't be out of place at an ambassador's cocktail party. My tounge almost got splinters as I tried to lick the wooden platter.
A simple fillet of sea bass served with new potatoes and peas was a lovely piece of fish that was allowed to speak for itself. It wasn't the evening for fancy sauces, especially when you conider Arno was cooking fish for 14 people in a small kitchen.
Then, Arno hit us with one of the best surprises I've encountered all year. He produced an oyster the size of Belgium from his fridge and asked if we'd like him to cook it for us! Wow.
Arno battled with the blighter for several minutes before poaching the enormous oyster and serving it to his awestruck guests with a beurre blanc let down with the poaching liquor. It stands out as the best thing I have eaten all year by quite some distance. It was so good I wouldn't be surprised if he had laced it with opium. Unfortunately my photos don't do it justice whatsoever...
Sharing a gigantic communal oyster is a surefire way to get the party started. Whatever imaginary barriers existed between individual tables or with Arno vanished. The decibels went up and we all mingled between tables as if we were at a friend's dinner party.
Our eton mess with mango and salted caremel was simple and delicious, oozing style and caremel in equal measure.
The meal then officially finished with coffee and petit fours that put many restaurants to shame.
After a couple of tables had disappeared and Arno relaxed after a lot of hard work, we found ourselves being treated to a wine and cheese lock in with a bottle of wine that Douglas described as a "couth, cigar, hymnbook and distantly blackcurrant scented Bordeaux [which] turned out to be a vital delight." What a treat.
We left on a high; buzzing just like you should do from restaurants, but o so rarely do.
P.S. Here's what Douglas thought.