The Okeford Supper Club sensation

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Good taste and goodwill are the perfect recipe for Okeford Fitzpaine’s exclusive, sold-out, monthly supper club. Rachael Rowe reports

Bryan Evans preparing an Okeford Supper Club dessert.
All images: Rachael Rowe

When Bryan and Jacqui Evans moved to Okeford Fitzpaine they wanted to do something for the community. While some people opt for much-needed voluntary work in charity shops or joining the village fete committee, Jacqui and Bryan had something very different in mind – they started a supper club, and it was an instant hit.

Bryan and Jacqui Evans


‘We wanted to give something back to the village,’ said Jacqui. ‘We wondered whether a supper club would take off at all. But we sold 18 tickets for the first one and everyone enjoyed it. They were gobsmacked actually – it wasn’t what they were expecting at all. So we did more and they quickly sold out as well. People were knocking on the door giving us the money.’
Bryan has a background in catering and loves to cook: ‘I went to catering school and worked in restaurants for ten years. Then I moved to corporate catering work and then sales for 30 years. I have always done something relating to catering and hospitality. It’s a hobby too.
‘Menus are a bit of blue sky thinking. I look at what others are doing, what’s popular, or I set a theme. Then I work on what we can do. We use local suppliers where possible, such as
Steeptonbill Farm Shop in Milton Abbas.’
Every month, for one night only, Okeford Fitzpaine village hall is transformed into a pop up restaurant, hosted by Bryan and Jacqui.
A three-course, gourmet, set menu, with a vegetarian option, is offered for £17.50. Guests bring their own drinks and glasses. Booking is essential and Bryan warns that the tickets are sold almost as soon as the menu is published.

Assiette of Dorset lamb at the supper club

The something different club
‘People come expecting it to look like a village hall, says Jacqui. ‘It actually looks like a restaurant for the evening. Initially we planned to cater for 24 but it was so popular we added four – and then Bryan said we may as well do 35. It’s a lot of people to cater for. I do all the front of house and arranging the tables, and the waiting. Bryan is the chef, and we are helped by our friend Pat Thorne. Some people have been to almost every supper club evening we’ve run, and we see new faces too. What’s lovely is that we have met so many people, and it’s something different for the whole village.’
Each month, the couple creates a menu which is then emailed out to the supper club mailing list. If you like the look of the menu, you book and pay for your place. Sometimes there’s a themed event such as Burns Night, or there might be a focus on seasonal dishes like Dorset lamb.
‘People get to try flavours they wouldn’t usually get at home or as a standard pub meal,’ says Bryan.
In March there was a twice-baked double cheese souffle, an assiette of lamb celebrating Dorset produce, and a dark chocolate mousse with a caramel tuile. On Burns Night, diners were treated to a whisky-cured gravlax – cured by Bryan. The presentation is first class and there’s a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. It’s also an opportunity to bump into neighbours, and most people can walk off the calories on the way home!
Jacqui added that the catering also considers allergies when cooking – as all caterers do – but for a personal reason.
‘I have a life-threatening nut allergy which was diagnosed in 2009. There aren’t many places I can go out to eat, so when we cook, we do it as though we are cooking for me. Since we opened the supper club I’ve met three other people with a similarly serious nut allergy. Unfortunately, we can’t offer gluten free as we have wheat products in the home, but we do cater for nut allergies.
‘The food is mostly produced in our home and then we finish things off at the village hall kitchen. We rarely have leftovers but we freeze things like stock for the next event. When our kitchen was out of action recently, we simplified with a wine and cheese talk, it was a wonderfully relaxed and informative evening.

Bryan’s citrus cheesecake

People do expect it to be different each time, and there’s only one dish we have repeated – our steak and ale pie, because people literally couldn’t get enough of it!
‘If we have money left over we give it to a charity or good cause of our choice – we have helped the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and a local wildflower project.’
Some privately-owned restaurants and cafes have supper clubs, but this one, run purely by volunteers, takes an extraordinary amount of work to organise. ‘It’s the atmosphere we’ve created here,’ said Jacqui. ‘We’re surprised how popular it’s been and the level of support. People say that it doesn’t actually matter what’s on the menu – they’ll be there!’

  • To sign up to the Supper Club in Okeford Fitzpaine and find out what’s on the next menu, contact Jacqui Evans on jbjacquibudd@gmail.com

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