PUBLISHED: 20:36 10 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:46 30 August 2017

St Ives Hidden Kitchen is a secret supper club where diners can go and have their tastebuds revitalised

St Ives has opened up its first supper club and Sophie Kazan was the first to make a reservation...

Having never been to a supper club, I was mystified to see a smart menu board propped up against the old Masonic Hall, on St Andrew’s Street in St Ives, announcing the arrival of The Hidden Kitchen and Dining.

St Ives-born James Watson was trained by his father, local chef, David Watson, and later at the Westminster School of Catering in London. He worked for almost 20 years in high class housekeeping, ski chalets and private estates all over the world. Georgie, my wife and I met when we were both working in ski chalets in Val D’Isere,’ recalls James.

The pair travelled and worked in Cornwall, France and Italy before returning to London, where James worked as Head Butler at The N°42 Club in Mayfair with Georgie working in fine jewellery sales and then as estate manager for a private shooting estate on Exmoor.

With The Hidden Kitchen, we wanted to bring the luxury ski chalet experience: informal suppers at big communal tables together with the fine dining of the private shooting parties. We have been looking for an ideal location for the past two years and loved the Masonic Hall in St Ives.’

The Hall is seeped in history and the Watsons have renovated the ground floor in a smart, contemporary style. St Ives is also close to James’ heart since his father, chef David Watson, ran The Chopping Block, one of the few restaurants in St Ives in the 1970s and 1980s.

This is a great way of showcasing local Cornish produce, for local Cornish diners as well as visitors to the county,’ Georgie tells me. We make a point of using Matthew Stevens fish, Harvey the local butcher, Trim the local fruit and vegetable shop, as well as supporting the Kehelland Trust in Camborne. We feel that as a family business, it is important to support our local Cornish community.’

James agrees. We cook everything on the day except for the bread! I am no good at bread, so we use St Ives Bakery. Jon at Scarlet Wines in Lelant has an exceptional knowledge of wine and we knew that we needed to consult him to make sure that the wine list compliments the menu perfectly.’

I decide to try this exciting new dining experience, so book for dinner with friends; The Hidden Kitchen and dining is open Wednesday to Saturday, from 7pm, with special events and private venue hire on the other days. The club’s Facebook page gives the week’s menu. This week it was wild mushroom on toast, crab, mango and coriander bruschetta and mini chicken Caesar salad canapés. The starter is roasted butternut squash and rocket salad with Cornish blue cheese. There are three options for the main course: Cornish trim lamb with redcurrant and thyme sauce, Hassleback potatoes, honey roasted parsnips and minted peas the fish option is herb crusted cod with cherry tomato sauce and a vegetarian option of goat’s cheese, beetroot and thyme tart. Dessert is an apple and blackberry crumble with crème anglaise.

As we arrive on a rainy Friday evening, the atmosphere in the reception area is warm where Georgie and a friendly waitress welcome guests with a glass of champagne and canapés. As diners arrive, the main course orders and wine choices are taken. Wine is not included in the price of the meal and it is available by the bottle and by the glass. A further dining room will be added next year, but for the moment, there is an intimate home from home’ feeling. The table is made up of local St Ives residents and visitors to the town - they passed the club on the way to the harbour and decided to book in.

In the dining room a beautiful, hand-crafted table is laid for supper. As each course is served, James appears to introduce the dish - which are all beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. Georgie and the waitress busily refill the wine glasses amid the groans of culinary pleasure and the sounds of cutlery marking a pause in conversations.

The flavours of the butternut squash, the rocket and Cornish blue cheese marry together beautifully, the Cornish lamb is pink and melts in the mouth, the cherry tomato sauce compliments the cod without overpowering it. The apple and blackberry crumble is, for many, the height of the evening as it is served with small squares of blackberry jelly that slowly release their flavour as they melt into the warm crème anglaise – what a treat!

At the end of the meal, some guests order a plate of West Country cheeses, served with homemade red onion chutney and an optional glass of port. These are things that we sometimes forget,’ says James, as he appears at the end of the meal, to talk to guests over coffee. Pre-dinner drinks, port with the cheese, dessert wine with the dessert. The supper club is about not rushing out of a restaurant before the next sitting, but taking your time, enjoying the company, savouring each moment.’

As we take our coats and make our way home, we all agree that The Hidden Kitchen has been a hugely pleasurable dining experience!


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