After a decade of Tinder it seems, anecdotally at least, that more and more people are swiping left on dating apps. The demand for IRL experiences has increased so much that the London food scene is hurriedly responding with supper clubs, dinner parties and singles events that are selling out across London.
Dinner For 100
The Dinner For 100 duo, Jake Bucknall and Jacob Stuttard, threw dinners intermittently in their pizza restaurant pre-Covid, but now the surge in post-pandemic popularity means they’re hosting parties every two months. The idea is simple: gather 100 people around some delicious food — they partner with some of the best chefs in London — choose a theme and a venue, provide entertainment and keep the party going until at least 2am. And, as their strapline reads: “Oh, and you might meet the love of your life.” People of all ages — attached or not — can attend, though they insist on keeping a singles table.
“Part of the inspiration is still meeting someone. If you saw how someone you fancied treated an older lady, it makes you see them in a different way,” Bucknall explains. “Making sure there’s a mix of ages creates that atmosphere you only get at weddings.”
It’s a unique formula and people are clearly buying into it, given most sell out in somewhere around the 20-minute mark, usually after a flurry of Insta likes. “Each time we do it, we want to do something a little bit crazier,” says Bucknall. At their Christmas instalment, they hired actors to play Father Christmas, who handed out sweets; The Grinch, who ate people’s canapés; and Rudolph, who circulated with packs of Marlboro Reds. “People find [the apps] a bit insincere. It’s a breath of fresh air when you meet someone over something natural like food for the first time,” Stuttard explains.
Singles Cookery School
The founders of the Enrica Rocca Cookery School in Ladbroke Grove couldn’t agree more. After repeated requests from their clients, chef sisters Charlotte and Claire Rocca, finally threw their first singles cooking club last month. “People are investing in the effort to go to these new things and to meet people,” Charlotte says. “Having that human interaction instead of apps reminds you to just put yourself out there and not be afraid.”
A Mam Sham Dinner
Maria Georgiou and Rhiannon Butler confirm their events don’t target singles, they attract a fun crowd. “A lot of people come by themselves, so accidentally it’s become a bit of a breeding ground,” they explain.
Last week’s dinner, “Now That’s What I Call Mam Sham”, took the format of a three-course dinner with a twist: each course was served after, and inspired by, a different comedy act. The 200 guests sat on two long tables and were served sharing platters to encourage everyone to socialise.
“We use props to bring our food to life. If you have to use a syringe to put a dressing on a salad it just creates conversation,” Georgiou says. For Butler, merely turning up means you already have at least one thing in common with everyone in the room. “If you come to a Mam Sham event, you’re a certain type of person. We don’t reveal the menu until on the night, so you have to be up for going with the flow and seeing what happens,” she says.
The spontaneity and creativity of a Mam Sham dinner is clearly a recipe for success — all tickets for the Friday event sold in an hour and the pair are planning to host them quarterly, so keep an eye on their Insta or sign up to the mailing list to avoid missing out. “The Mam Sham fam is growing,” Butler says.
The same is true for Luce McCallum and Gabi Adams, both 31, co-founders of Gooce, who over the past two years have found themselves overwhelmed by interest in their supper club. The pair have jobs in PR and TV production but are determined to deliver what they feel Londoners need more than ever.
“They are so, so popular that we’ve had to expand and there are big waiting lists.” McCallum and Adams began by hosting in the flat they used to share, and then upgraded to partnering with restaurants to accommodate larger numbers.