When I decided to start documenting my culinary experiences in this blog less than a year ago, I never expected that I would meet so many talented individuals with a real passion for food. Stella Pereira is one of those people. So when she announced that she would be hosting another one of her popular À Mesa Supper Clubs on 22 November, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. Titled “An Autumnal Gathering”, the menu included seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin, walnuts, chestnuts and pears. Stella’s table featured a modern take on traditional Portuguese flavours, served with a contemporary twist.
I was a bit nervous about my first ever supper club experience but as soon as I saw the beautifully laid out table and heard the mellow sounds of Stella’s brothers playing guitar, I immediately relaxed and took in the cosy ambience.
I attended with Paulo but didn’t know anyone else there, except Adilia from the fabulous Norfolk Street Bakery where you can also find Stella on some days (that’s where I first met her). The beauty of supper clubs is that they are very much social occasions so it was a great way for me to meet like-minded people, some of whom I only knew in the virtual world.
To kick off the evening, Stella’s husband Carlos offered everyone a welcome drink. A very nice white sangria was served, featuring pomegranate seeds. He ensured that we all got to nibble on the various petiscos (hors d’oeuvres). The three types of croquettes were each shaped differently: salt cod (cube), prawn (half-moon) and alheira Portuguese sausage (ball). The bite-sized salt cod pastéis, prawn rissóis and alheira croquettes were served on gorgeous wooden boards, hand carved by Carlos himself. There was also a selection of homemade bread and sausages, such as flamed chouriço.
Soon it was time find our seat at Stella’s stunning autumnal table, featuring a linen tablecloth, candles, berries, leaves and branches. Each guest’s place setting included lovely plates, a handwritten name card and a beautifully illustrated menu on a beige linen napkin, with a sprig of rosemary to enhance the natural elements on the table.
Stella truly has an artist’s eye and she spared no detail, from designing the menu card to layering the neutral textures and materials on the table.
As we nibbled on olives and bread and awaited our three-course meal, we admired all of the little details that went into Stella’s table scape and compared our ‘BYO’ wines… a good ice-breaker!
The first course was bacalhau com abóbora e natas. The presentation was very autumnal… it looked like a pumpkin with some hay on the plate! Once the pumpkin shell was lifted, it revealed creamy pumpkin and salt cod on broa crumble (Portuguese corn bread). The “hay” was actually a delicious combination of shredded carrots and golden yellow beets. I was enchanted by the presentation and flavours of the first course.
The second course was served on exquisite green plates decorated with dragonflies and flowers. It was inspired by the traditional cabrito de panela (braised goat in a pot). Goat isn’t usually in my meat repertoire but it will be from now on. The meat was very tender and flavourful as it had been cooked long and slow. The goat was served with potatoes, baby vegetables and (I think) sweet pea sprouts.
Dessert was a journey through a magical woodland! This is where Stella’s culinary artistry really stood out.
Titled “Autumn Harvest” and served on Carlos’ hand carved boards, dessert consisted of 4 expertly prepared masterpieces:
– Homemade roast pear ice cream, topped with almond and walnut “sand” and quince syrup. It was served in its own little edible plate.
– A pumpkin sonho rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Sonho is the Portuguese word for “dream” and this little doughnut ball tasted dreamy indeed.
– A brownie made with aguardente, which is a very strong distilled spirit. Its literal translation is “firewater” but the flavour in this delicious brownie was very subtle. The brownie was decorated with a tiny macaron filled with moscatel ganache. It was almost too cute to eat!
– Chocolate leaves that looked so lifelike I almost didn’t eat them. Each leaf was expertly created with high quality chocolate that just melted in my mouth.
The room was abuzz with excitement over this amazing dessert. We couldn’t believe what we were eating! Stella really spoiled us and brought out more pumpkin doughnuts and brownies, which were quickly snatched like prized possessions.
Coffee and tea followed. I casually mentioned to some people at the table that the Portuguese have a clever way of describing espresso with a shot of liquor: café com cheirinho (coffee with a scent). Carlos heard this and immediately brought out the aguardente, which Paulo happily accepted for his espresso. Some brave souls at the table tried some as well (“firewater” indeed!).
À Mesa Supper Club’s Autumnal Gathering was a great success, thanks to Stella’s impressive culinary skills and artistry as well as her gift for laying out a beautiful table. We felt very at-home whilst we made new friends, appreciated Carlos’ thoughtful service and listened to the mellow sounds of Stella’s brothers playing guitar. This enchanting evening was truly a feast for all the senses!
À Mesa Supper Club were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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