Sunday, 3 March 2013

A last (meaty) supper at the Sunshine Bakery Supperclub

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Last Thursday was the final day of being able to shove as much meat in my gob as I wanted for an entire month. Having made a pact with Fay over at Food Fables to spend March meat-free, I'd decided to celebrate my final day as a loud and proud omnivore by spending Thursday evening with Anna, a fellow foodie. Coincidentally, I'd also promised Anna that I'd take her out for a slap-up meal to celebrate her birthday. The opportunity was therefore ripe to try a new dining experience, tickle our taste-buds, say goodbye to meat and celebrate Anna's 21st birthday (for the upteenth year in a row) in style.

I can't remember exactly when or where or how I'd found out about the Sunshine Bakery supperclub. Nestled in a little corner of trendy Chapel Allerton, the supperclub takes place in a bakery that, by day, serves the most amazing cupcakes. Run by David Bennett, former chef for Marco Pierre-White, it's a chintzy, vintage style haven where all sorts of sweet treats are served up on retro crockery whilst you're seated on mis-matched tables and chairs. It's small, sweet, and exceptionally welcoming.

The supperclub takes place outside of bakery opening hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and relies on word-of-mouth rather than traditional marketing to keep the customers coming in through the door. Having heard good things, I was eager to try it out, especially when I heard that a two course meal would be just £15 a head. The bakery do little to advertise the supperclub online, so a phone call was needed to secure a booking.

As the Sunshine Bakery supperclub is unlicensed, bring your own booze reigns supreme. Anna and I arrived armed with a bottle of Gordon's finest gin and the swishest tonic that we could find on Sainsbury's shelves, ready to tuck in to some of Leeds' most underground and whispered-about  food.

It's probably fair to say that despite the bring your own booze rule, the Sunshine Bakery supperclub is more of an alternative restuarant than a supperclub in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike other supperclubs that I've attended (the wonderful Dinner at the Manor being the stand-out), we were seated on separate tables rather than a communal one. However, due to the fact that the layout of the bakery is very intimate, we soon struck up conversation with the table of four next door.

Breaking from the normal supperclub norm of a single one-size-fits-all menu, we were presented with three choices for starters and main course, followed by the option of either a cupcake, a cheesecake or a brownie for dessert.

As fish will be a no-go during March, I opted for fishcakes to start. Although fresh and well seasoned, I was slightly disappointed by the fish-potato ratio - the result being more of a potato cake than a fishcake. They were also slightly underdone - and, dare I say it, erring on the cold side - which was a real shame as it had the potential to be a delicious dish.

All of the main courses sounded wonderful but as this was my final hurrah to meat for a month, I went for the pork loin wrapped in parma ham with potato dauphinoise and roasted carrots. The pork was delicious, beautifully succulent and the parma ham gave it a wonderful crispness. The dauphinoise potatos were a little taste of creamy decadence - as one of my most favourite side-dishes ever, the team behind the Sunshine Bakery supperclub certainly did it justice. I felt like the dish could have done with a touch more in the way of vegetables, but all-in-all, I was pleased with my portion.

Anna opted for the sea bass with a caesar sauce, boiled potatoes and pickled spinach. Fresh and well cooked, the fish was melt in the mouth tender. However, the dish was let down by a less than ample portion of potatoes and an exceptionally stingy two strands of pickled cabbage - an element of the plate that Anna had been most looking forward to. The caesar sauce was nice and creamy, but the anchovy and paremsan flavours that should have been present were nowhere to be found. We couldn't help but think that although the fish was nice, the most exciting elements of the description were severely lacking.

Undoing the top button of our jeans to make room for dessert (it'd be rude not to when we were sitting in a bakery), I went for the lemon cheesecake and Anna chose the mango and banana cupcake. The lemon cheesecake looked very cute indeed in a little jam jar, whilst the mango and banana cupcake was an ode to buttercream, soft sponge and subtle fruity flavours. Although the cheesecake wasn't baked (which is my favourite type of cheesecake), it was a lovely, light palette cleanser. Anna's cupcake was slightly heavy on the buttercream, but the sponge was deliciously moist.

All in all, the meal offered very good value for money and it was lovely to try somewhere a bit different. The atmosphere is spot-on and the unpretentious  food focused ethos takes centre stage. However, I couldn't help that feel that the description of a 'supperclub' was slightly misleading - there was waitress service and a choice of dishes. In fact, the only thing that made the Sunshine Bakery supperclub any different to a normal restaurant was the bring your own booze element and the slightly 'underground' feel. In my opinion, the masterminds behind the bakery would be better off focusing on making the Sunshine Bakery more of a supperclub in the traditional sense of the word - perhaps starting by offering  just a main and a vegetarian dish per course and getting them spot-on. When effectively competing against a number of other establishments in Leeds that offer top-quality, price-conscious grub (The Reliance and The Adelphi being two such examples), it's this that'll make the Sunshine Bakery Supperclub stand out.

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