I often feel sorry for visitors to London. Despite all the hype about London being a gastronomic paradise, it is still very easy to pay a lot of money for poor food. Some of the best food I have had has been cooked by friends, family and of course by my mother. Bad food in restaurants, good food in private homes – hmmmm there might be something here. In the past year a number of 'underground restaurants' have opened across London in which you can eat in private houses. These veer between haute cuisine at haute cuisine prices, Savoy Truffle Supperclub in Blackheath; an arty amalgamation of food, art and cabaret, Pale Blue Door, in where else but avant garde Dalston, or simple food at The Underground Restaurant in Kilburn, beautifully done by foodblogger Ms. Marmite Lover.
At her Victorian house, Ms. Marmite Lover offers a 5 course set menu for £25, you can bring your own wine and her surly Goth daughter will open it for £5 and throw in some eye-rolling if you are really lucky. I was a bit wary of this place because: a) it doesn’t contain any meat, only fish and vegetables b) our hostess’s background is as a rock photographer and her catering experience comes from cooking at an anarchist vegan restaurant and at G8 protestors camp! From my limited experience of lefties and vegans, I have found that tasty food ranks low down their list of priorities. Reader, I had to swallow my prejudices. This was proper cooking. The highlight being a goat’s cheese soufflé with asparagus and hazelnut oil. We also had perfectly cooked piece of monkfish wrapped in banana leaves with coconut and lemongrass and for pudding a passionfruit pavalova.
It’s great social occasion as everyone sits together so it is hard not to make new friends. On a busy night it can get noisy so if you want some romantic privacy then there is always the shed (really). I would compare it to being at a really good dinner party but without having people ask you what you do for a living or boring you about property prices. For added spice the whole thing may not even be legal hence why she trades under a nomme de plume and her exact location is top secret. You will only find out the address when you book a table or cookery course through wegottickets.com. She does not want the council to look too closely into what goes on behind her front door.
The best places underground restaurants get booked up far in advance so do some research before you arrive. Some other places that have been recommended to me include: Salad Club, The Bruncheon Club and Eat With Your Eyes. Aspiring cooks are opening their doors the whole time so look on Google, Facebook or best of all ask a Londoner.
Now if only I could persuade my Mother to open up the Castiglione mansion then we could make some real money. I can just see my dear old Dad as the maitre d’hotel in his ill-fitting dinner jacket leering at the girls and making inappropriate jokes, actually on second thoughts maybe I should be front of house.