Balham café Brother Marcus exemplifies the current spirit of food. These days, it seems anything is possible. Now regularly serving 600 covers over the weekend, it’s remarkable to think that the café – founded by three twentysomething school friends, Alex Large, Arthur Campbell and Tasos Gaitanos – is celebrating its first birthday. What’s more, it is also building up an excellent reputation as a supperclub venue.
Words: Sudi Pigott
The original supperclubs were all about rebellion, prohibition, speakeasies and Cuban paladars. The buzz started in underground London nearly 10 years ago as a welcome antidote to fine dining formality and high prices. Dining in the home of a stranger who happened to be an adventurous cook had an appeal for those of us who were sociable and fancied something different.
Rather than eavesdropping on an interesting conversation at the next table in a restaurant, it was all about joining in and not knowing quite what to expect. Then celebrity chefs started hijacking supper clubs to test the water for new projects, turning them into slick pop-ups.
Yet supperclubs truer to the authentic spirit are still thriving in south west London. Brother Marcus’s programme of quirky dining experiences and cut-above cocktails is showcasing an ever-evolving cast of supperclub hosts.
As Arthur Campbell, one of the trio, tells me: ‘It’s very true to the vibe we’ve created at our cafe. Regulars often comment that coming here is like walking into an episode of friends or gate-crashing someone’s living room. Experiencing amazing food and meeting new people around a table is what good eating should be about.’
People want personal experiences, and theatre. It’s exciting to experience a supperclub start-up that is taking culinary risks
Campbell warms to his theme: ‘People want personal experiences, and theatre. It’s exciting to experience a supperclub start-up that is taking culinary risks and getting a new idea off the ground. In turn, we manage the front of house, advise on suppliers, and create new cocktails (bespoke martinis are a speciality) whilst they take to the stoves.’
The friends met in Sixth Form and went their separate ways to study, and then all three spent several years working in cafes, bars, and pop-ups, learning mixology, hospitality and the arts of the barista. When they re-grouped they discovered they were all obsessed with food, and resolved to open their own place.
Luckily, the trio managed to convince a childhood friend of Gaitanos’ father from Cyprus to let them takeover his place. Their budget was so tight that they recall bickering over spending on another box of screws. They made all the furniture themselves – and yet their first weekend exceeded their wildest expectations with 45-minute queues right out of the door.
‘We were lucky,’ admits Gaitanos. ‘Balham is the perfect location with the right demographic. The food scene is really finding its feet. And having such good brunch competition close-by also keeps us on our toes.’
Brother Marcus pride themselves on impeccable ingredients (coffee is from Caravan) and a simple-yet-creative menu taking on board health conscious eating and drinking (their anti-inflammatory mango, cayenne pepper and ginger smoothie is awesome).
The St Ewes Cornish eggs are outrageously and deliciously orange in Brother Special served scrambled with smoked salmon and broccoli with honey and sesame glaze. Current bestseller is the fashion-forward Step Sister – a courgette, sweet potato and feta fritter with avocado, spinach, poached egg, turmeric yoghurt and crisp kale.
The trio are constantly looking to challenge each other and envisage building their reputation as a key supperclub venue – and are even beginning to look for further sites.
‘Ultimately, it is all about celebrating flavour in brilliant company, and keeping our customers happy,’ confirms Gaitanos.
9 Chestnut Grove SW12 8LN; 020 3674 2141; brothermarcus.co.uk
SOUTH LONDON’S BEST SUPPERCLUBS
Supper In A Pear Tree
Supper In A Pear Tree pops up once a month in the rustic surroundings of the London Fine Art Studio’s in Battersea. The evening begins with a glass of wine and a drawing session with a nude model, before a three-course cooked by chef Annabel. £40. BYOB.
Unit 101 Battersea Business Centre, 99-101 Lavender Hill SW11 5QL; supperinapeartree.co.uk
Billy & Jack’s Friday Night Blowout
Billy and Jack first appeared on TV screens as MasterChef 2016 finalists, impressing the judges with their fun and creative approach to food and the viewers with their unlikely bromance. This is them at their most relaxed, cooking the sort of food they want to indulge in on a Friday night – pies, steak, deep-fried goodies, bar snacks, ice cream and chocolate. Friday 19 May 2017. £35pp. Paid bar in operation.
London Cooking Project, 1 Ethelburga Steet, Battersea SW11 4AG; designmynight.com
Social Pantry Supperclub
The supper clubs at The Social Pantry sound like great fun. ‘We used to say “drink until you’re dancing on the tables!” – but then we had a rugby team in, and since then I haven’t encouraged that so much,’ Alex Head, founder of The Social Pantry, laughs. They must be doing something right with their brunch too, judging by the queues outside at the weekends. ‘It’s gone avocado crazy,’ she admits. First Thursday of every month. £35pp. BYOB.
Angella’s Kitchen’s Reggae Vegan Supper Club
Angella’s Kitchen usually shows you how to cook Caribbean from scratch, but their supperclubs are popular too. On 21 May 2017 Angella will be cooking up vegan Caribbean dishes and infused with European influences – think tofu, rice, vegetables, vegan casserole stew, raw salads and a little pasta, as well as a chocolate dessert – at a secret location in Brixton or Streatham. £40. BYOB.