Monday, April 12, 2010

The original supper club comes to town: Jim Haynes @ Fernandez and Leluu

Last week I was invited to go along to a very special Qype event in conjunction with After Eight. First thing they told me was that, for one night only, they had managed to get their hands on Jim Haynes. Recognisable as the rather debonair man fronting the new After Eight commercials , he is widely known as "the Godfather" of supper clubs. A softly spoken American, he has hosted parties every weekend (bar the weeks of the Edinburgh Festival, of which he is a great fan) for the last 30 years in his Paris apartment. Originating from an impromptu offer to repay his goodwill with food, his supper club continues to sell out every week and has fed over 130,000 people in its time.

The second thing they told me was that this was to be hosted by Fernandez and Leluu. Having met Simon and Uyen at a largely enjoyable wine fuelled evening not so long ago, I was keen to go and visit their supper club. I am rather lazy and am yet to secure a booking, but this was a perfect opportunity to try out their well lauded food and hospitality.

Shying away from a more formal sit down affair, 40 people from Qype and the blogging world mingled and chatted and drank a variety of cocktails made by the rather fantastic barman. I'm a big fan of sitting down, but as Jim says in the adverts, this generates much more of party feel and certainly didn't take long for everyone moving from person to person for a quick chat.

After a short introduction by Simon (Fernandez), the first course was unleashed upon us. With ruthless efficiency, each guest was presented with a plate containing not one, not two, but FIVE delicious bite size dishes. Everything tasted seriously moreish, but highlights for me were the generous chunk of pork terrine on toast and an excellent Summer roll, packed to the brim with pork, prawns, veg and something rather crisp, adding that extra textural dimension.

Almost as efficiently as they were delivered to us, the plates were whisked away and we were free to continue mingling. I thought I would take this opportunity to go and visit the kitchen, and what I discovered really startled me. Instead of the chaos you would associate with having to prepare for 40 people downstairs, it was an oasis of calm. Some of Simon's "team" were relaxing, having some wine, whilst slicing the beef carpaccio that was to be part of our main course. Simon himself was simply pan frying some mushrooms in white wine, a simple but tasty combination. I chatted for a little bit, but was astounded with how calm and how well everything was going. Yes, much can be pre-prepared, but it still takes skill to pull it all together at the last minute. I returned downstairs impressed, but most importantly, eager to devour the mains.

Sure enough, I didn't have to wait long. Once again, small plates were distributed amongst the guests with ruthless efficiency and I steadied my fork to dig in. Ruby red slices of beef accompanied some lightly toasted bread, with those mushrooms and some garlic mash served in its skins. Arguably a smaller portion than the first course, but no less delicious. The beef was excellent, but I really enjoyed the creamy mash and hoovered up my mushrooms.

Our pre-dessert was a few interesting stories from Jim and a Q&A. It is easy to see how his dinner parties became so popular. With the whole room huddled around him, we hung on every word as he explained the birth of his parties, as well as punctuating it with interesting little nuggets of information about himself. A few questions and we were headed into the home straight. No pic of the dessert, but it was based on a bread and butter pudding, crammed with berries, cream and a slug of alcohol. Disappeared in a flash.

And so it came to an end. As people slowly filtered away into the night, it had been quite some evening. I caught up with old friends, whilst making some new ones. I had eaten some excellent food and enjoyed cocktails of the highest order. As I made my way out, I elbow bumped Jim (as "handshakes are so boring") and bid my goodbyes to Simon and Uyen. We may not have been in Paris, but I am sure that we all made Jim feel at home with the vibe that he has been accustomed to for so many years.

Thanks to Qype, After Eight and Fernandez and Leluu for organising such a fantastic evening!


Luiz Hara said...

Hey Euwen, that was a good round up of the evening! It was great meeting you at F&L, and hope to bump into you at some other foodie event!

Sian Meades said...

Awesome write up! I made a point of staying away from the kitchen, but you're right, everything was very calm indeed. Jim said at the start of the night that he wanted 'everything to flow' and I think it did just that. Right up to the inevitable bad dancing at the end of the night :-)

Ian Marshall said...

Ah, I thought I'd met you somewhere before, although possibly just in passing at this do..
Good to meet you properly at the Fish & Chip night...

ferdiesfoodlab said...

That was a cracking evening, there was actually a timing sheet ready for the kitchen it was our 1st 50 peopler so I didn't want anything to go wrong upstairs . . . ! ! Thanks for the post! :)

Quick note:
Fernandez & Leluu now work independently!

Simon Fernandez is now full time chef patron at ferdiesfoodlab and employs 8 people on a part-time basis. ferdiesfoodlab (a London supper club) is a social banquet where you can meet new people. It serves international cuisine in the east end of central London at the beautiful listed building Toynbee Hall. You can check it out at