Before my recent visit to Smoke and Thyme, I had never been to a supper club. The booking process for getting a table was so familiar (online, OpenTable, pick your time, confirmation email) that I sort of forgot we’d essentially we eating in someone’s conservatory. But then we pulled up to this amazing house on Divinity Road, were welcomed in by a friendly waitress, and sat down at a long table in what was indeed someone’s conservatory, surrounded by dozens of trailing plants and squashy armchairs and awaiting our fellow dinner guests.
See, the key thing about a supper club is that you sit at a communal table full of strangers. I can imagine this backfiring quite badly actually, but luckily for us, we were placed next to a family with whom we instantly had dozens of things to talk about and the evening absolutely flew by. Don’t get me wrong, going out for dinner with my husband is one of my favourite things, and I wouldn’t always want to be sat with a load of other random diners, but as an occasional experience it’s actually very refreshing to meet some completely new people to whom you wouldn’t otherwise have talked. The drinks were plentiful, the atmosphere convivial, and the evening absolutely flew by.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The thing you want to know, of course, is was the food any good? And, in fact, it was.
The menu at Smoke and Thyme changes monthly and keeps it fairly simple, with choices of four starters, four mains, and three desserts. While the menu was short, there were vegetarian and gluten-free options, and though it might be a little more tricky for vegans everyone was so accommodating that I think if they were warned in advance then that would be fine too.
I have what might politely be referred to as a ‘healthy appetite’ (read: I am hugely greedy and eat far more than most humans), so I have no problem munching my way through a three-course meal. But it’s worth knowing from the outset that the portions at Smoke and Thyme are fairly delicate, so I’d say the average diner could happily eat three courses here and not feel over-full. Basically, you may as well go for starter-main-dessert.
I began with the samphire pakoras – delicate, fresh, and served on a warmly spiced green chutney with plenty of flavour but nothing to blow your head off – while my husband plumped for the scallops. Scallops wrapped in bacon is certainly nothing new, and while it wasn’t a revolutionary dish, it was well-executed, the juicy scallops and crispy bacon perfectly cooked, although I think it could have done with a salad or a puree or something to add an extra dimension.
My leek and lobster tart was an unusual and luxurious main course, served with a courgette and rocket salad that was a very well-judged accompaniment. I didn’t get much of a look-in on my husband’s fried chicken, which disappeared very quickly, but I managed to snag a bite and it was indeed delicious, tender chicken and crisp coating, with the potato salad a happily complementary side (although I do feel like some sort of vegetable wouldn’t have gone amiss).
With plenty of room for dessert, we tucked into the salted caramel brownie with banana ice cream and the hedgerow blackberry custard tart. I am very picky about brownies and have strong opinions which I won’t bore you with about exactly what I’m looking for, but suffice to say that this was an excellent example: rich, dense, chocolatey and satisfying. The blackberry custard tart was very much a custard tart with blackberries on top rather than a blackberry tart, but perfectly good, although not as wonderful as that brownie.
Would I visit Smoke and Thyme again? Definitely. The food was good, and the whole experience was great. It’s not as polished an experience as you would get in a restaurant, but it’s good to try something different and it had a lot of charm. There were a couple of little niggles: on the night we visited one of the starters and a few of the drinks had run out; I know some people aren’t keen on being given bread in restaurants but the portions here were pretty restrained and I definitely could have eaten a bit; personally I think drinking coffee last thing at night after a meal is madness, but I know my husband would have appreciated being offered some. But, overall, the service and the attention to detail were good enough that we were able to relax without worrying that the night was going to careen off course, and it was a pleasure to experience something a bit different. The food was simple, well-executed, and tasty enough that I’m keen to go back and try some more.
For more details and to book: smokeandthyme.com