Wisps of air in a clouded haze, circling wind ruffling tangled hair, a pair of lovers arm in arm interlinked. The clouds were swollen with rain tears, the heavens threatened to open, they had no umbrella between them, but it did not matter. For tonight they would feast upon the jewels of nature, a vegetarian supperclub by Khao at Poster in Hackney, chickpeas dancing on a bed of spiced spinach leaves. At least one of them was salivating at the thought, mouth open wide, drooling, she craved the vegetarian delights that would tease her tongue into dizzying sensation. The other apprehensive, a meat eater lured into a vegetarian world, could he overcome his inhibitions and try something new? Change was in the air, she could feel it in her bones, at last they slipped into Poster, red floral ballgown under a red pvc coat, she smiled. It was a cozy setting, a small intimate bar with a carefully curated selection of drinks and art, a tucked away hidden spot that would be the centrefold for our journey into vegetarianism, foretold by Punam, our host, curator, presenter and food innovator for the evening. We were woven into her world of magical realism, where Khao suppers were founded, a passion project that would push boundaries. Cooking was in her veins, she felt the spirit of each meal concoction in her blood, her eyes gleamed with glorious pride, and who were we but spectators, invited into her magical universe of culinary prowess?
Punam was inspired by none other than her Dad, who pushed her to challenge boundaries and pursue her love of cooking from a young age, it was a beautiful narrative. A family figure who was with her every step of the way, who encouraged her to follow her dreams, and ultimately her heart. And here she was, the cooking maestro who conjured up Khao Suppers, a Vegetarian supperclub infused with Gujarati flair. Welcome drinks were served, we glugged them back, a refreshing apertif that slipped down our throats with ease, light yet spicy, down the rabbit hole it went. Hunger gnawed at our bellies, our first course was on its way, we played games to bide the time, questions plucked out of a pot to temper some laughs. We would weave narratives about the strangest dishes that we had tried and delve into our likes and dislikes. We would laugh at the boyfriend’s random outbursts and his declaration of love for meat at a vegetarian supperclub, describing himself as meat,meat, meat, oh how we chortled.
Jokes aside our first course was served, spiced spinach leaves topped with a smattering of crunchy chickpeas, while pomegranate dallied with fresh tomato, onion and mint, paired with a side of potato patties that were begging to be eaten. The patties were soft to the taste, crumbling delightfully in our mouths, finished with tapioca seed crisp and date sauce that melted oh so sensuously. The pomegranate burst cheekily on the tip of my tongue in a sharp tango, offset by the fresh mint that awakened our senses. And who could forget the crunchy chickpeas on the spiced spinach leaves that were teaming with flavour, we craved second helpings. Even the meat eater couldn’t get enough of the potato patties, surprising himself with how much he enjoyed the dish, he licked his lips. The spinach leaves weren’t his cup of tea, but at least he tried it, a meat lover aficionado caught up in a vegetarian supperclub.
Gone before we knew it in a blink of an eye, the second course swam into our peripheral vision , fragrant fenugreek leaf flatbreads emblazoned with tomato and black chickpeas that burst with unbridled flavour on one, while swede drizzled with cumin seeds sat pretty, awaiting our attention. The chickpeas were spiced to perfection, the flatbreads a welcome addition, but I craved something heartier, a chickpea curry that would be a welcome remedy to the wind clustered outside our window, it tapped on the pane. Nevertheless the chickpeas were soft and flavoursome, the flatbreads well seasoned, the cumin adding an earthy nutty spicy taste to the swede, with the bitter undertones contrasting the warm, penetrating aroma with hints of lemon. Nothing quite compared to the feast that was about to come next however, a split lentil stew with wholewheat and coriander bites that ployed us into culinary submission, our souls were sustained. The lentil stew had depth, breadth and spice, sopped up by the peppery poppadoms that left a tingling sensation in our mouths, we slurped it heartily, my favourite dish. The bites had a texture and taste akin to pasta, it tasted delicious but I would have preferred the stew without the bites, slurping the sauce with unadulterated passion. All too soon it was gone, the boyfriend agreed surprising even himself at how many new things he was willing to try, I was proud.
The night was drawing to a close, the sky yawned and darkness had fallen. Yet despite the doom and gloom that had transcended outside, there was one more treat in store to whet our appetite. It was our dessert that had come to play, Shrikhand with sweetened and strained yoghurt, topped with apricot puree. The boyfriend left this one well alone, not keen on yoghurt, I took his and all. This supperclub was mine to claim as my own, I reveled in the thought.
The yoghurt was creamy, the apricot puree smooth and sweet, but not sickly sweet, a musky, faint tartness that lay between a peach and a plum, it tickled our fancy. It offset the creaminess of the yogurt delightfully and was not too rich, a welcome end to a delicious vegetarian supperclub with Khao, we bid the host our thanks. It was the red split lentil stew that had plucked at my heartstrings the most, the imprint of the fragrant spice lingering on my open lips. Washed down with a ginger mocktail blend, it felt complete, we left with our spirits lifted and our bellies sated, a smile from ear to ear, the warm food staved off the cold. The rain was trickling down the canvas of Skyfall, but we never let the weather dampen our mood, hand in hand we bid our goodbyes, as we were swallowed by the narrative that we call night.
Have You Ever Been to A Gujarati Inspired Vegetarian Supper Club?
Please note this is a gifted experience via Love Pop Ups London in exchange for content but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.