25 January 2015

Semibreve Supper Club - The Geordie Christmas Banquet

I love a good supper club and the ladies behind Semibreve are certainly going from strength to strength! I was present at the inaugural supper club last September and was highly impressed by combination of classical music and delicious, inventive food provided by Annie Ball, a classically trained musician and Pia Castleton, Head Chef and foraging expert.

This time the supper club (the Geordie Christmas Banquet) was being held at St Luke's Church in Jesmond, which was decorated superbly with fir tree branches and lighting creating a festive path, and the exquisite detail of the table  decorations (sheet music as napkin rings) and place names. This was a much bigger affair than the first event, with around forty guests seated around long banqueting tables. Upon arrival we were handed a Bees Knees cocktail, a heady mix of Mead, ginger Prosecco and lemon peel, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the menu. We were seated and then treated to Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G# Minor Op. 32 No 12, beautifully played by Annie on the grand piano, then festive tunes on the fiddle by King Cole, a folk group consisting of Annie's sister Ruth, Paul Knox and Kevin Lees. Everyone was definitely getting into the Christmas spirit. Then we heard a Christmas Medley with more traditional songs (Away in a Manager, Ding Dong Merrily) then an upbeat, toe-tapping set including Davy Davy Nick Nack and Soldiers Joy.

After a wonderful welcome, the starter was served - Herrings wi'Leeks - potted Craster kippers with stottie cake toasts, poached leeks, fennel and chickweed. The kippers were buttery and melted in the mouth,; it was very similar to a terrine or confit and it was perfectly complimented by the flavours of the herbs. Vegetarians had Stottie 'n' Soup - a stunningly purple spiced roast beetroot soup served with yoghurt, poached leeks and stottie toasts (the best beetroot soup I've ever tasted). As soon as the last spoonful of food passed our lips, the music started up again, this time a piper solo (The Carrick Hornpipe) and a rousing, heart-warming Geordie set which included The Blaydon Races, Bobby Shaftoe and Billy Boy. 

There were three main course options - Ham 'n' Peas Puddun, Broon Ale Pie and North Sea Fish Supper. My intermittent vegetarianism had fallen by the wayside at this point so I opted for the Ham, beautifully flavoured pork belly (sourced locally from Knitsley Farm Shop), with smoked ham hock in a mustard, wood sorrel and cider sauce reduction (being veggie is hard). I tried the Broon Ale Pie, full of puy lentils and truffled mushrooms, Wylam Ale and dense, moist pastry - amazing (I have to try and get the recipe for that). Our musicians then donned sunglasses and momentarily transported us to Hawaii by playing Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian, highly entertaining and definitely gave me winter travel ideas. Then dessert was served, Singin' Hinnies made with love crumbs (I need to get some of these) with brandy butter, caramelised chestnuts and pomegranate syrup. By this point I was bathing in the afterglow of so much amazing regional food (and I'm always the one saying that British food is rubbish - maybe we need to go back to traditional recipes to discover the long forgotten gems). 


The evening finished with a traditional Ceilidh, those of us not accustomed to the dance were taught the basic steps and then thrown into it, accompanied by the fantastic band, I luckily managed to work off some calories and meet some lovely people. The sage tea at the end settled my stomach after an evening of new discoveries, both musical and food-wise and left me wanting more. Luckily, the next event is a feast of epic proportions called Nature's Prelude, part of February's Eat! Festival of Food on 26th February in the beautiful surroundings of the Lit & Phil. Thanks to Pia, Annie and King Cole for an amazing, unforgettable night!

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