Hype is a dangerous thing. Rarely is it justified and more often than not, it leads to disappointment and a feeling that, somehow, you’ve been tricked. Sadly, that was my feeling as I sat down in the pub after fleeing Supperclub. It’s not the revolutionary dining experience I was led to believe, but a weird mishmash of PG rated quasi-burlesque, loud music and a contrived sense of quirk.
A friend of mine booked tickets to Supperclub a couple of months ago for eight of us, so when it came to heading to Notting Hill to see what all the fuss was about, we were all unsure what to expect, especially after reading this on the website:
“Don’t come to supperclub if you’re in search of a traditional restaurant, have lazy taste buds or are scared of new experiences. However, if you’re looking for an unusual dinner experience in an unexpected place and are not afraid to discover the creative corners of your personality, then knock on supperclub‘s door.”
The venue is tucked under the West Way, just off Portobello Road. As you arrive, you’re greeted by some burly bouncers who shepherd you in to a small, neon-red bar, where you wait for the ‘experience’. At this point you don’t know what to expect. All you have is a sticker on your jacket (mine said ‘orange 44’) that denoted your table number. I don’t like wearing stickers- one black mark already. The staff are very friendly, one in particular was very jovial, a clown so exuberant that one of our party decided he had the tragic smile of performer who cries himself to sleep at night. Just a little too happy, a little too touchy (that’s two black marks) and a smidge overbearing.
After getting our drinks in the red bar, we chatted a bit and there was a sense of excitement and bit of apprehension too – what do the colours on the stickers mean? Am I going to be dragged on stage? Is this red room all there is? But then, with a theatrical flourish, the doors on one side of the red room slide apart to reveal the bright, white space beyond.
The central space is empty, while the edge of the room is decked out with raised mattresses, and tables resting on top. We were ushered over to our spot and sat ourselves down.
Now, I’m going to sound like a bit of a nob when I say that trying to eat food while sitting on a mattress is just not for me. It offers a whole host of logistical issues; do you cross your legs? Kneel? Or lie back roman emperor style? The ‘creative corners of my personality’ were not helping me figure this out. Everyone was trying out something different, all pulling a vaguely yogic pose as they tried to get at the food on the teeny tiny tables. Pretty quickly I was losing feeling in my feet. (Three black marks)
The starter, a tom yum style soup, was delivered in a paper cup. ‘Mmm, pot noodle,’ said one of our group (actually it was delicious- creamy, coconut-y and full of flavour.) This was followed by chicken or poussin (I can’t remember) with potatoes and cherry tomatoes. It was perfectly nice, but far from special. Aeroplane food was the general consensus. Very good plane food, but regimented in a way that made it look like it had come straight off a conveyor belt. It was rounded off with a delicious panacota, but by this point I was too uncomfortable, trying to lean on my elbow and eat at the same time, to enjoy it properly. (Try it, you’ll understand how hard that is.)
While we slurped, munched and nibbled, there was also entertainment. Maybe to distract from the average food, or to make sure we knew we were getting something edgy and cool. First up was a nun with a false giant ass, singing evangelical songs. She also did a front flip on to our mattress. Bravo. A contortionist followed, who must have been no more than 12 years old. She did some very bendy, impressive things, though had she been 10 years older I might have actually watched her, rather than feel awkward that I was being entertained by a child in a leotard. A woman with a false beard and wax on her nipples jumped around too, singing Jesus Christ Superstar.
All in all, it was like being in Zoolander’s favourite bar: pretentious, vacuous and just a little bit contrived. There wasn’t a theme, more a series of random acts that tried very hard to give the impression of ‘Cool.’ And because it tried so hard, it failed. Had the experience been thought out, it could have been a fun evening. But this felt like it had been thrown together at the last minute in the vague hope it would work.
Like being at a school disco, you know you should be having a great time, but there’s an underlying sense of awkwardness. When I clapped and laughed, it was because I was trying to convince myself that I was having fun. I’m enjoying myself. This is quirky. This is different. This must be cool. But no, it wasn’t. It was uncomfortable and half-arsed. Once I’d glugged my glass of wine, a swift retreat was agreed and we headed for a pub round the corner, where we straightened our legs and cracked our backs back in to shape.
We might have caught it on a bad night- but I know I won’t be going back to check. And I’ll never take chairs for granted again…
(Just read this Independent review of the place: it seems I’m not alone…)