Please note, Elizabeth Allen is no longer head chef at Pidgin. She has been replaced by Greg Clarke. Time Out Food editors, February 2019.
Supper clubs are great. Hosted by the type of people who understand that there’s more to dining out than just food (if there wasn’t, we’d all be at home eating takeaway), they blazed a trail for laid-back dining and short, no-choice menus. No choice equals no stress. No pretending to listen to your not-seen-each-other-in-ages friend’s stories while actually doing game theory on the piece of paper in front of you. It’s like being at a great dinner party, the sort where you trust the host’s cooking, drink shots and don’t talk about house prices.
Pidgin shares this philosophy. The first foray into ‘proper restaurant-hood’ from James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, creators of the acclaimed supper club Secret Larder, it translates the best of these qualities – stress-free menu, vibrant atmosphere – into a cute space, with copper-trimmed tables, walls bearing twigs gathered in the New Forest, and a seascape-papered loo complete with the sound of crashing thunder.
As you’d hope, it’s wonderfully convivial. Our table-neighbours spontaneously chatted to us; a gaggle of mates took grelfies in the corner. James – who had called to confirm our reservation and check dietary concerns – bustled around, oiling the wheels.
They’ve hired a real pro to run the kitchen: Elizabeth Allen, formerly of Islington’s excellent Smokehouse. And the food is terrific. Our meal – it changes weekly – took in charred baby gem lettuce with shards of crispy chicken skin, grated pecorino and a dusting of dehydrated chicken skin ‘powder’; succulent goat, braised in its own milk, with pink-middled medallions and scorched podded peas; and a tremendous warm doughnut with a jammy pickled-cherry centre, toasted hazelnuts and scoop of delicate Kahlúa-infused ‘White Russian’ ice cream. All bookended by bread and ‘burnt’ butter, a crab and crackling snack, gooey chocolate truffles and a glass of ‘Pidgincello’ (think limoncello meets Benedictine), because nothing says good times like a cheeky end-of-the-evening shot of herbal liqueur. Dinner parties are dead. Long live the supper-club restaurant.