We, Londoners, are fortunate to be surrounded by such marvellous diversity and culture daily. You can move here from any distant place and feel as ordinary (in a good way) as everybody else. I’ve always thought it is one of the most charming things about this incredible city. With all that diversity comes a smorgasbord of culinary delights, such a variety of restaurants to choose from that we are truly spoilt when it comes to dining out. You can literally experience the flavours of the world without as much as a quick tube ride across town.
Last month, East LDN got the chance to appreciate the divine flavours of Southern France at La Grande Bouffe, a pop up supperclub in Shoreditch, and let me tell you it was unreal. The night began at 8pm in The Vaults on Kingsland Road, which is an intimate and cozy underground space that holds around fifty hungry guests inside. We had been advised to prepare for an evening of self indulgence, the food to be served was going to be rich and satisfying, “The way grandma makes it”.
The atmosphere inside the room was wonderfully relaxed. There was a steady hum of chatting guests who all enjoyed sitting back with a drink in hand, eating in total comfort as if in the home of a close friend. The smell inside was something else entirely, as soon as we walked down the spiral stairs we were overwhelmed with the most delicious aroma you can imagine. It was creamy melted camembert entwined with rosemary and lamb, it was sweet melted caramel and baked plums, it was a mouthwatering French food heaven. The food arrived in intervals, and it did not disappoint. From starters to desserts and with all the delicious wine in between, every dish was exquisite, both in taste and appearance.
We were attended to superbly all evening by wonderful smiling staff, who assured thatmade sure we were comfortable and kept our wine glasses full. The hosts of the event, Geraud Pfeiffer and Hugo Pouchard, took time out to come and mingle with guests and ensure that everyone was enjoying themselves. Around 11pm our night came to an end, with our bellies jam-packed with culinary inquisitiveness and feeling pleasantly boozed we Journeyed home.
The evening was nothing short of fabulous, but I (unlike my blissfully oblivious friends) knew of everything that had gone on the months, weeks and days before this all took place. I knew the two young guys who pulled this night off with such proficiency and class, I was aware of all the risks they had taken, the time they had put in to make something beautiful for people to enjoy and it really had me inspired.
I met up with the two French creatives with big ideas, a lot of passion and shit ton of courage to share their supperclub story with you.
Hey guys, so how old are you both?
Geraud Pfeiffer: I am twenty-seven
Hugo Pouchard: And me, I am Twenty-six
Where were you born and where do you live now?
Geraud: I was born in Montpellier in the south of France and moved to London about six or seven years ago, now I am living in Angel. (North London)
Hugo: I was born in Avignon in the centre of France but I have been living in the South of France my whole life and I moved to London about four or five years ago. I’m in Kentish Town now.
What was it that initially got you thinking about starting your supperclub La Grande Bouffee?
Geraud: In France, particularly in South France, we have this mentality about cooking and having family and friends around all the time. It doesn’t seem to happen in London, people don’t have the space most of the time.
Hugo: Yes, and in the South of France it’s very sunny so you’re always out doing BBQs, cooking stuff and inviting people over. You end up cooking a lot with your friends and trying all the time new things.
Geraud: It’s about sharing that experience with your friends and family. Having dinner on the table and everyone around it. But when we came here (to London) we were always going out for dinner and drinks so we started really missing that aspect of France. We were spending money going out and thought we could do the same at home. We spent a lot of time having friends over cooking food making cocktails and noticed that both of us were really loving cooking.
So what happened next, how did you come up with the concept?
Hugo: At the beginning we wanted to open a restaurant straight away. We started to think of the idea, the concept and the business plan but a friend of mine, a British girl Michelle who is quite into food as well, said ‘Why don’t you try this (a supper club) first, it is less risky and you can try out your concept. Then ask for feedback and improve it before you launch’.
That sounds like very smart advice
Geraud: It was great advice.
Hugo: So we thought, yes that’s not a bad idea and we started to look for venues, knocking at doors everywhere online. We started the first one in Shoreditch. It was a good space.
Geraud: So basically the same idea of what we were loving doing at home we thought why don’t we try to make it a sort of concept restaurant. That idea of having big home comfort food, French home cooking, Grandma’s cooking on the table.
London has plenty of tapas restaurants, we didn’t want to do that but we loved the idea of big sharing plates with French food. We did some research and discovered it didn’t exist so we thought there was a gap in the market there for us to try.
Hugo: That is how we got found our concept.
This will be your fifth supperclub, has it evolved since the first?
Geraud: Yes always
Hugo: We are always asking for feedback and we must not be afraid to ask for feedback because we learn so much from it. To be honest the first night we did it we tried to run it like a restaurant, it was a small place. We had thirty-two guests and we decided to do two shifts like a normal restaurant would, thinking two hours is plenty of time for people. Well we didn’t know the chef, she was from Amsterdam, she didn’t know the kitchen nor did we and we didn’t test the food before it went out. It was a huge adventure, we didn’t know where we were going.
So since that first one we have learnt a lot but we still have plenty to keep learning.
So I looked up what “La Grande Bouffe’ Means in English and discovered that it’s actually the title of an old french film. So I watched it and a short breakdown of the film is, four French men decided to commit suicide, for different reason, by basically eating themselves to death with an enormous amount of delicious french food. Is that right?
Geraud: Ha, wow you watched it? Yes that’s right.
I did, must admit it was a very strange film but the food they ate was incredible. Is this why you decided to use the title of the film as the name of your Supperclub?
Hugo: I think it’s because it’s visually what we imagined. A big table covered in a lot of food.
Geraud: A proper feast, an abundance of food.
Hugo: A lot of wine, a lot of laughing. We want to give that aspect of so much incredible food that you feel amazing but at the same time you’re like Uhhh so full. We love the idea of this huge feast.
Tell me the what is the best thing and most difficult thing about running La Grande Bouffee
Hugo: The best thing for me is to see the project come to life and to meet the suppliers. I also love all the cooking. And the most difficult would be to remain calm during the service.
Geraud: Best things for me, I’ll join you Hugo in saying meeting the suppliers. Going to the markets, going to the fishmongers, the butcher and getting to chat to all these guys and seeing the product at the beginning is very interesting. I love the end experience, when you look at the guests having a great time, it is very satisfying, to think we have done something with our hands and our time that has made people happy is so rewarding.
The most difficult, carrying the bloody crock pots everywhere. We have 180 of them, they are cast iron each of them. We have to carry them everywhere.
What are you ambitions for the future for your supper club or anything else
Geraud: We have had some discussions with people about potentially, hopefully making this a permanent restaurant instead of a pop up supperclub.
Hugo: Thank God we didn’t dive into that straight away because we have learnt so much.
Geraud: Now we know what we want our concept to be and what we don’t want. We also know we can work well together, being friends and working together it could have gone bad but we understand each other.
La Grande Bouffe is not just an evening to delight in incredible food and drinks but a night to come together with friends and allow yourselves to be carried away to another place. It’s a magical evening that will thrill all of your senses and connect you to the journey of these two young creatives and their unique vision. So keep your eyes peeled for the next La Grande Bouffe Supperclub here.
Words by Emma Grimmond