Some weekends it seems you can’t move in London for pop-up supper clubs. Week after week brings with it some new de rigueur dining experience in achingly hipster surroundings. We’ve seen them all – from the onstentatious to the downright weird (the medieval banquet in a taxidermy adorned hall springs to mind – try tucking into your rabbit stew guilt-free with Thumper’s beady eyes locked on you!). Often the promise of the menu doesn’t quite stand up to the canny choice of setting, or ultimately the food on offer just isn’t that good.
So we’re delighted to report that London’s newest supper club is more than just a quirky gimmick. The brainchild of two young Edinburgh exiles, Nick Fulton and Paul Ross, Dram & Smoke is a summer weekend pop-up with a tartan twist. “We want to big-up a range of outstanding dishes inspired by our home country in a fun environment and maybe elevate a few ideas about Scottish cuisine along the way!”, explains head chef, Nick – a timely reminder in the year where Scotland goes to the polls. So in the spirit of Caledonian camaraderie (and no small measure of gluttony), we took up the challenge of the six-course menu of hearty Scottish scran.
The setting is half the challenge in pulling off the perfect supper club – and the boys score top marks for their location scouting. Tucked between the weekend hullabaloo of Vauxhall’s ‘Vaux-ho’ and the hulk of Kennington’s iconic Oval, the venue for this night of “general flumgummerie” sees a rough-and-ready South London steelyard transformed into an impressive 40-cover, fairy-lit pop-up – a partially covered space adorned with all manner of welding-ernalia, hooks and pulleys, along with a wee roof terrace for enjoying that first cocktail in the summer twilight.
The first complimentary one – a refreshing rosemary (who knew?!) G&T – slips down such a treat that we’re soon on to our seconds. The ‘whisky ginge’ with marmalade is sharp and sweet and packs a punch, while the fruity ‘valt voddy’ cleanses the pallet before we get down to business. Taking to our communal tables (re-commissioned pallets and those old, orange moulded-plastic chairs from school), we settle down for the first of our epic six courses – haggis bonbons. For the uninitiated, this is a gentle introduction to the delights of the famous national dish of sheep’s pluck, oats and spices. Coated in breadcrumbs and served with a tangy jus-like sweet chili sauce, these delicious meaty treats (the veggie ones are made with lentils) are arguably the finest Scottish-Italian dish since Paolo Nutini. If Rabbie Burns were here today, we’re sure he’d dedicate a verse or two to toast this scrumptious starter.
Next up, a smorgasbord of award-winning artisan Scottish charcuterie and pickled veg, featuring fennel and nutmeg salamis, plus a melt-in-the-mouth lightly-smoked juniper mutton-prosciutto from Peelham Farm on the Scottish borders. Parma what?
From the lush, green fields of Berwickshire to the depths of the North Sea – our two meaty courses are followed by a fishy interlude of potted smoked mackerel and drams of Cullen skink, a creamy, chowder-like haddock soup hailing from the eponymous Moray fishing village. Scooping up every last drop with the accompanying oatcake (or ‘breed’), we have to remind ourselves there’s plenty more to come. The deliciously delicate mackerel needs little to accent its subtly smoky flavour, courtesy of the titular hand-crafted smoker the ingenious duo made from a reclaimed wooden whisky barrel. Check it out on the way in. His name is Hamish.
Now on to the undoubted star of the show – smokin' venison haunch with a light, summery pearl barley and asparagus salad. Served family-style but no less elegant for it, the meat is cooked to tender perfection, with a rich red centre. It’s smoked with thyme and junipers and loaded with an intense flavour that’s offset beautifully by a sweet and zingy bramble dressing. There’s even a cheeky bottle of Edinburgh master brewers Innis & Gunn’s Rum Finish oak-aged beer to supply spicy accents.
Just when our bagpipes are close to bursting, comes our dessert of… oh yes, you’ve guessed it… deep-fried Mars bar and shortbread ice-cream – a playful nod to Aberdeen’s most infamous chip-shop delicacy, and we finished and enjoyed every artery-clogging, dentist-enriching mouthful. Hot, crispy batter; gooey, chocolate-caramel melting buttery ice-cream; all finished with a syrupy drizzle of Scotland’s (other) national drink, Iron Bru. What’s not to like? It’s the type of dessert your mam would never let you eat. Pure Glas-stronomy.
Dram & Smoke pops up every Friday night, Saturday night & Sunday afternoon until 6th July. Tickets are £40 including a welcome drink upon arrival, six-course tasting menu (vegetarian options available) and a complimentary Innis & Gunn beer. See their website for more details.