Review: The Supper Club, Balham
A lecturer has taken his cooking skills to the next level and has opened up his own kitchen as a secret restaurant.
John, who lives in Tantallon Road, Balham, is part of the growing scene of supper clubs where ordinary people open up their own homes to paying strangers.
The latest supper club took place on April 13 with a group of ten people invited into John's home and I was lucky enough to be amongst the guests.
John uses a blog informing people what it is all about and guests who fancy giving it a go can book a place online, with a £10 deposit fee.
On entering diners are invited to sit at one big table, or two tables if there is the maximum group of 16 present.
There is a mix of strangers and people who know each other already, all living locally from Tooting, Balham, Wimbledon and Clapham.
I find myself sat next to young couple Sarah Tompkin, 30, and Rob Hainsworth, 29, and opposite one of John's former colleagues.
We all get chatting and drinking wine (with a bring your own bottle rule) before the food is served.
The starter of mint and basil pea soup is brought to us by John's son. It is delicious and light, with the mint standing out, but not overpowering the taste, reflecting the tastes of spring.
It's not long before we tuck into the next course, slow-roast shoulder of lamb with a sumac and zatar crust, accompanied with mejadra rice and baked aubergine.
The lamb is cooked Middle Eastern style, tasting tender and had obviously taken hours to slow-cook. The rice is fluffy and flavoursome, filled with puy lentils. There are lots of different flavours on the same plate.
Simon Prayger, a retired lecturer, shows off his collapsable guitar and entertains diners with two blues songs, adding to the laid-back atmosphere before we move onto desert.
John dishes out pastiera napolitana, with orange and almond ice-cream - an Italian ricotta based cake tasting really fresh and light.
We are served coffee and tea to finish and chocolate hazelnut truffles.
John said he was inspired to start the supper club after attending a few beforehand and hopes one day to move away from London to run his own B&B.
He also plans to introduce a sing-for-your-supper element in coming months, combining local talent with fine dining.
He said: "I was always into cooking, and had this idea. I liked the challenge and the project.
"I think people like the idea of socialising with people locally and people like that is near, in a big city it is a way to get social contacts."
Sarah Tompkin, one of tonight's guests said: "I had been before and had a great time. It was so nice to go straight from home, I wanted to bring my boyfriend and show him what it was like."