Unable to contain my excitement about the upcoming Sunday Brunch, I’d mentioned it to many people throughout week. Proud to be attending such a special event, I inadvertently linguistically shot myself in the foot: whilst the pop-up/supperclub phenomenon has slowly been making itself known over the last five years or so in the UK and the States, in France it remains, for the most part, an unknown concept. Thus the first question people asked upon my slight boasting (the obvious “where are you going?”) shut me up – a disjointed and stumbling explanation filled with English loanwords tended to leave people looking even more confused.
Luckily for me, this blog only requires me to explain in English (hoorah!). Le Salon Anglais is, as far as I am aware, the only regular supperclub to be found in the city of Lyon, and one of only a handful in the whole of France. Hosted by a Kiwi chef and his French wife (aka Little Red Rooster and Ms Jones), Le Salon Anglais started up in Lyon after leaving its previous residence of New Zealand, where they had already established themselves as a supperclub known as The French House. The idea is simple: bringing together likeminded people (oh for the love of food) to talk, share and, most importantly, eat great food, prepared with love and hosted in the intimate and relaxed environment of someone’s home.
Following previous themes such as a Reveillon Blanc and a Thanksgiving dinner, our brunch was entitled Breakfast at Tiffany’s (cue pearls and liquid eyeliner). Upon arrival, we were greeted with mimosa cocktails and ushered into the dining room, where a beautifully decorated living room awaited our presence. The attention to detail and amount of effort put into the decoration did not go unmissed: sipping our aperitifs we were seated on sofas and chairs draped in turquoise fabric and hand made cushion covers, clustered around a small coffee table dressed up under a lace tablecloth. Meanwhile the dining table beckoned gloriously, adorned with orchids, turquoise buttons and gold-rimmed crockery.
In all its elegance, such a table really needed to be accompanied by food of a matching standard to have the full effect. Another tick for Le Salon Anglais – our small party of 11 was treated to four courses brimming with flavour and of a standard which (far too often) is usually reserved for only the richest of diners. The first course consisted of a tartelette (or two, if you were lucky/greedy) – a generous spoonful of wonderfully soft scrambled egg drizzled with truffle oil and nestling in a little cup of homemade pastry. For such a thin case, it steered well clear of crunchy and instead crumbled beautifully at first bite.
Mini-pancakes followed, drowning in a honey butter and cooked just enough to have a very slight crispy outer layer, crowned with a wafer-thin slice of pancetta, adding a touch of pleasant saltiness. It didn’t need the extra maple syrup offered in the slightest, needless to say I added some anyway. When does one indulge if not on a Sunday? This course, in turn, was followed by baked salmon, fennel à la Grecque and perfectly poached eggs. Tucked underneath a rich hollandaise sauce, this was all topped off with a touch of class in the shape of a small dollop of caviar.
However, the pièce de résistance was without doubt the dessert. What could easily have been a heavy and filling final course was executed to perfection: Light and spongy chunks of pain perdu (French toast) slathered in a sweetened goats cheese, managing at once to be creamy but not too thick, were topped with dates soaked in a spiced syrup and orange segments, which provided a different and refreshing kind of sweetness. The combination of flavours and textures was simply outstanding.
I can quite honestly say that this was one of the best meals I have eaten to date in Lyon. Not only was the food itself superb, the unusual experience of dining around a table filled with people I had never met before was memorable to say the least. Yes, it’s a cliché, but you just never know who you are going to meet and attending such a gathering is, in short, inspiring. When you think about the stereotypical French attitude towards the importance of food and dining together, it’s surprising that such a phenomenon is still only in its teething stages. Regardless of whether you charge for this kind of event (this one in particular was 25€, and well worth it!), to host a dinner in your own home, for complete strangers, kind of embodies the French way of thinking: food is a huge part of our lives, whether you like it or not, so what better way to benefit from such a normal and routine part of daily life than to make an occasion out of it and share not only the experience of eating and enjoying food with other people, but taking the opportunity to try it with someone new? Le Salon Anglais, like all other pop-up organisations, doesn’t make a profit from such projects: the foundations of supperclubs stem simply from an interest in food and an interest in people. And yet, for them to work, they require the combination of curiosity and generosity that people like Ms Jones and Little Red Rooster possess. It’s thanks to these kinds of people that the rest of us can benefit from such a eye-opening, unique and convivial experience.
And in amongst all this Sunday indulgence where was Spike, you ask? It’s not often that a fork succumbs to shyness, but alas, for reasons involving the risk of a breach of identity, he stayed tucked in my pocket. Stay tuned though, he won’t stay quiet for long!
Photos courtesy of Le Salon Anglais