When your dad drops you an email asking you whether you and your husband would like to go to a ten-course vegetarian supper club at The Walled Gardens, there is really only one answer. And that answer is: yes. Absolutely, yes please, we’ll book the tickets, you send us the money, yes please, thank you, yes.
To the uninitiated, a supper club is a cross between a (hopefully) top-notch restaurant and a dinner party. The Walled Gardens is hosted in the chef, Eddie Shepherd’s beautiful, quite fancy-pants home in a sought after part of south Manchester.
We arrived grumpy – there were no trams running so we’d had to take a bus (like peasants) and then it had rained (because…Manchester…) and I hadn’t packed a brolly and my hair was going to frizz. Also it is a tiny bit nerve-racking rocking up, literally at a stranger’s home to have a meal that you have no choice over with six other strangers. But NEVER FEAR. There is a reason supper clubs are having something of A Moment and that is because, after the initial weirdness, they are awesome. And usually the first thing you get is a cocktail, which generally takes the edge off and gets everyone talking. At The Walled Garden, Eddie served us his own invention of an Electric Dreams – including a mildly numbing electric daisy foam.
For the next four hours you chat to all the other guests increasingly as though they are your best mates. At the Walled Gardens, Eddie’s mission (which he is accomplishing, to say the least) is to celebrate vegetarian food and show its versatility. The courses are all small (at no point do you feel you might be at risk of exploding) and each one is different to the last. Each one makes you go ‘oh wow, I would never have thought of doing xyz’ or ‘wow this and that work so well together – who knew’.
On top of the food, Eddie very much encourages his guests to come and see what he’s doing in the kitchen, ask questions, have a chat. (I was a bit tipsy by the time and went and did this and blathered on about my dad and display bottles and a fancy restaurant in Chicago or something. I’ll stay a bit more sober next time!)
I have a few photos below. They aren’t the best quality – the lighting was a tiny bit dingy – and I took them on my phone. They don’t really do them justice, so I would encourage you to head over to Eddie’s instagram feed (@eddiesheps), where it appears he is also a highly skilled food photographer on top of top-notch chef. Which doesn’t seem remotely fair, but there we are.
My favourite of all the courses was the halloumi with rhubarb molasses and rose. The halloumi was in a charcoal crust so arrived on the plate looking a bit like a lump of coal, but inside was a gorgeous, melting cheese with just the gentlest hint of rose at the end.
Special mention also goes to the taco – made with some sort of something that grows on corn and Eddie gets shipped over from Mexico.
And finally the almond milk, almond blossom and citrus, which I didn’t think I’d like – I’m not generally a massive fan of creamy things – but I was bowled over by the delicateness of the almond blossom and the sweetness of it all was in no way overpowering.
There was nothing about the afternoon I didn’t like. We both went home, on the bus (like peasants) chatting away about our favourite courses, the people we had met and when we might be able to go back.
Tickets for Eddie’s January and February supper clubs go on sale on 1st November at 9am and I would encourage any Mancunians with a foodie edge (veggie or otherwise – most of us there last week were omnivores) to try and get tickets. Tickets are £65 each. I know that is a mental amount of money – I’m not suggesting you go every week – but if you are looking for something to do for a birthday or anniversary or ‘ugh, we’ve had a terrible few weeks lets treat ourselves’ then I think this is ideal. We got this as an early Christmas present. It’s not just a meal – its a whole experience and I do think the £65 price tag is entirely justified once you listen to Eddie tell you about exactly how much goes into each dish.
Eddie’s website is here: http://www.veggiechef.co.uk/
Eddie’s supper club is a bring your own booze affair, except the welcome cocktail. We brought a perfectly acceptable bottle of red with us. If a meal is not a meal unless its accompanied by wine for you, then crack on. However, I would actually encourage you to hold back a bit on the booze front. Eddie’s food is so expertly crafted and balanced and I sometimes felt that the wine clashed a bit with it. Sparkling water would have done the job just as well. And we’d have been able to drive there and back instead of taking the bus. Like peasants.
I don’t actually think people who take buses regularly are peasants. Obviously.