Absolutely thrilled with this in-depth review from The Oxfordshire Foodie…
As mentioned in my Top Restaurants in Oxfordshire blog; I have had The Secret Supper Society on my mind for a while especially as it’s based in Somerton which is just 3 minutes from where I live. Living in the sticks, this makes it practically my local! I finally had the pleasure of visiting for my birthday dinner with friends in March.
I first came across Jules soon after I started this blog via her @secretsupper instagram account. Her account is full of brilliant cooking hacks and recipes and whilst she maintains vehemently that she is not a ‘trained chef’, it’s clear to me that she knows her stuff when it comes to food. She loves cooking and entertaining and this comes across in her vivacious style and approach to her supper club.
I’ve only been to one home restaurant/pop-up before so it’s still a new idea to me and I’m never sure quite what to expect or if it will feel strange being in someone’s home. Any pre pop-up nerves evaporated as soon as we arrived and were greeted by Jules’ front of house team; Nick & Katie. Maybe it was the branded aprons (as a marketeer, I do love a bit of merchandise!), but I knew instantly we were going to be well looked after.
The Location – Somerton
Somerton is ‘a little village with a lot of history’. It’s situated roughly half way between Upper Heyford and Deddington. It was dark when we arrived but there are twinkly lights on the trees to help you find the house. The house is very rural and I could hear the cows as I entered! It’s a beautiful cottage and I know in the summer months there is a lovely outdoor entertaining space too. We were seated in a large dining room which had 2 x tables of 4 and 3 x tables of 2. This was a great number as it wasn’t too rowdy but enough chatter and a good vibe to feel totally relaxed.
The menus are laid out on your place settings when you arrive. The menu is pre set but where possible Jules does allow for allergies etc if you give her advanced warning. The menu changes regularly so that no one can predict the courses and she also takes care to ensure that returning diners do not get the same menu again. I loved the fact that she included a few surprises in there so that even after you receive your menu you don’t know everything that is to come. I won’t spoil all the surprises for you but I can’t write a good restaurant review without telling you about the food in some detail!
As with most supper clubs, it is a bring your own (BYO) alcohol set up. This makes the evening even more affordable but also means that you can bring you favourite wines. I was impressed with the service of the wine as they took it from us on arrival and kept it cold where necessary and served it to us as as and when we needed it. This was a lovely touch and adds to the feeling of being in a high class restaurant but without the cost.
Jules is very busy in the kitchen but there are a few courses where she makes an appearance (I won’t say which ones!) and gives a little more background on how she created the dish. I found this so interesting and it sets it apart from a standard meal and is perfect for a nosy foodie like me! I wish I could remember all the details but I do know that the main dish we had is a real labour of love and takes her about a week to prepare.
Jules bravely encourages guests to come and say ‘hi’ in the kitchen which is a nice touch and a great chance to get to know her and discuss the dishes some more. She has confessed she still gets ‘pre service’ nerves before every supper club and there is often high stress during service. To me this only emphasises her passion and commitment to offering a high quality experience and lets face it… many of the most renowned chefs are also famed for their outbursts in the kitchen (this is also what I tell my husband when I’m shouting at all and sundry while creating a Christmas dinner for 10!)
The food was of a high standard across the entire menu and very well presented. I was surprised to see potato in the starter and was slightly concerned as to whether I would be too full for the rest of the meal but the portions were well thought through so you ended the meal comfortably full but able to finish the cheese board (very important imo!).
My personal favourites would have to be:
- Homemade ricotta with olive oil & balsamic vinegar – this was part of the pre starter and was absolutely to DIE for. Fresh and delicious, it was difficult to accept that I had to share it with my friends to be perfectly honest!
- Wild garlic mayonnaise – a brilliant accompaniment to the new potato pressé and perfectly balanced.
- Confit duck – this is Jules’ signature dish and I can see why! So succulent and moist – there is no gravy as such but instead paired with a cherry compote – sweet flavours of the duck come through beautifully and I could happily eat this most days.
- Cheese board – this was one of the best cheese boards I’ve ever had for both originality and a well thought out journey with perfectly planned out portions and accompaniments. The whipped brie was amazing and the frozen grapes were unexpectedly delightful. It was unusual to be served cheese before pudding but I was more than happy with the french way!
Favourite unexpected foodie moment
In real life anyone who knows me understands that I do not like surprises! In the foodie world however, I am looking for the unexpected, something out of the norm which can lift a regular dining experience into something unique and memorable. So I felt this section needed to be added to my reviews to showcase these moments.
Jules surprised me and other birthday guests with a personal Victoria sponge cake with a great big sparkler candle in it! Such a lovely moment and of course we were all way too full to eat it so she wrapped it up and I had it for my breakfast! Perfect.
Thank you to Jules et al for creating a wonderful dining experience in your home. As a keen home cook I can only begin to imagine the effort and sacrifice it takes to create this in your home. The stress may well be high on supper club nights but as guests all we see is passion and love for what you do and a very supportive family to boot.
If you haven’t been to the Secret Supper Society yet I would urge you to get booked in! It is a fabulous foodie evening in Oxfordshire and is good value with a capital V!
Love & food,
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