From a home cooked family meal to a holiday spread, coming together over food seems like the most natural thing in the world. The tradition of eating as a social custom has been traced all the way back to Ancient Greece, where poetry and artefacts indicate that meals were almost always a social affair. Big communal platters would establish guest as equal, creating an ideal environment to debate, plan, plot and simply having a jolly good time.
In Cuba, when government restrictions outlawed privately-owned restaurants, people reacted by setting up guerrilla restaurants in their homes, known as Paladars. These family-ran underground establishments became part of the fabric of Cuban culture so much so that when many restrictions were lifted in the 1990s, their tradition remains. The semi-legal Paladars of today give tourists and travellers an experience of Cuban culture and an authentic taste of homemade food.
When Ms Marmite Lover visited one back in 2008, she decided bring its anti-restaurant culture into her London home, opening The Underground Restaurant in January 2009. Two weeks prior Horton Jupiter had done the same, hosting The Secret Ingredient for his first lot of strangers. The supper club phenomenon that the pair had independently ignited has spread like a quiet revolution, advertised by word of mouth and on social media networks and popping up in dining rooms across the UK ever since.
“The divide between the kitchen and the customer is demolished”
Home supper clubs and underground restaurants offer diners across the world a more intimate, dinner party style experience. Unlike standard restaurants, everything is included and you’re welcome for the whole evening; no table turning and no splitting the dessert. With homely charm, you get whatever lovingly prepared meal you’re given. As the divide between the kitchen and the customer is demolished you meet the people who’s behind the food on your (well, their) plates.
The underground dining movement represents a return to the Ancient Greek communal style of eating, when dining was a social event filled with good company and good conversation. An antidote to the TV dinner, to the hurried waiters rushing you though dessert, to the ready-meal for ones. They establish a culture that is intrinsic for enjoying Yeni Raki and taking the time to share savour and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.