Quite a few of my family and friends, who have not yet experienced a pop up or home restaurant, have asked me what to expect when coming along to spend the evening at Knife & Fork.
Firstly, these people have an advantage as they know me and my cooking and will have been to a dinner party in my home. They know it will be welcoming, friendly and they will enjoy the food that they are given. Much like a dinner party, at Knife & Fork the menu is set; it is a five course taster menu so you eat what you are given, but hopefully not in a school dinners kind of way! This is part of the appeal of this kind of dining as you get to try things that you wouldn’t necessarily order off a traditional menu. We all tend to be creatures of habit and order similar dishes when eating out. At Knife & Fork you can experience dishes that you haven’t tried before and hopefully you will enjoy them – we have already had a convert to blue cheese! But don’t worry, I won’t be serving up peculiar ingredients and if I am going to use something slightly more unusual or controversial (such as veal) I will make this very clear when I advertise my dining dates. Do have a look at my menus to see the types of dishes I like to cook.
But this does raise the question “how should a guest act as it’s not a restaurant?” Well, the best answer is as if you were attending a dinner party at a friend’s house.
So here are my guidelines:
Please arrive on time at 7.30pm for 8pm. Everyone sits down and eats together and I will have planned all the cooking and preparation of every course based upon this. Unfortunately, if you are late we will have to start without you.
Please bring your own wine and any other soft drinks that you may like. We do not have an alcohol licence as this is our home, not a restaurant. Also, we do not charge corkage. Unfortunately we cannot chill down your bottles of wine but we do provide ice buckets to keep your drinks chilled throughout the evening. We also supply filtered tap water.
Please advise me of any food allergies or if you are vegetarian when you book. I am very happy to adapt the menu for you or your guests so the full menu can be experienced even with a dairy intolerance, for example, or if one of you is vegetarian. I want everyone to be able to join in and experience the menu so I serve that individual with a slightly different menu, where necessary; it doesn’t mean everyone will get dairy free or vegetarian!
Sadly, I am not able to cater for ‘fussy eaters’; the pop up restaurant experience is for the adventurous but fear not, if you are served something you don’t fancy, you will not go hungry and I will not be offended if you leave it.
I design the menu with a wide variety of seasonal ingredients throughout the 5 courses and also for the canapés and petits fours. Eating at my restaurant is a chance to try dishes and flavours you may not order in a conventional restaurant and we have had quite a few converts to food that they thought they did not like!
Also, I do not use more controversial ingredients such as veal or goat without advertising that fact in advance.
We have large sociable tables so it is likely you will be seated with people who you have never met before. This is actually one of the many attractions for most people attending. It makes for a fun evening meeting new and interesting people. If you would like to book the whole table do let me know when you book and I will let you know if it will be possible based on numbers and bookings I may have taken previously. If not, you can always come along on a different night or book a private dinner party (minimum 12 guests).
Should you tip? This is completely up to you. I ask for a minimum donation of £45 per person for the whole evening, which I believe to be excellent value. Not only do you know what your whole evening costs (no hidden expensive charges for cups of coffee or refills or other drinks) but you can choose your own wine too and budget accordingly. As you are not paying a huge mark up on alcohol, as you would do in a restaurant, you could save the difference or choose to spend that much and try a bottle you wouldn’t normally buy. As for tipping, it’s up to you.
I don’t like the phrase ‘smart casual’ so I’m not going to say it and anyway, I actually think it is up to you. It is your evening. Usually the girls like dressing up and boys will be happy to do the same but as long as you are comfortable and enjoy the evening, that is all that matters. I do fancy doing a few themed nights where fancy dress could be part of it but let’s leave that hanging for the moment!
I do realise that I am opening up our home to strangers but my experience is that most ‘strangers’ are not strangers for long. Many of our guests have become friends and the same was true when I had my catering company; I ended up catering for numerous family celebrations over the years, watching the children grow up and have their own big celebratory birthday parties. However, having said that, I don’t really want to find someone ferreting through my wardrobe (not that my friends do that when they visit) so please do respect our privacy and just stick to the rooms that are public i.e. the ones you are invited into.
John, Barney and Emily are happy for you to be here and will pop in and say Hi if they are not helping me that evening.
Please treat us all like we are friends. We really want you to have a great experience and a fabulous evening so we want to make sure your evening runs smoothly. Everyone wants a friendly fun and relaxed atmosphere even though we are working so no snapping of fingers- just treat us as you would the host at a dinner party!
The great thing about going to a restaurant is there is no washing up or having to help clear the table. Luckily, the same is true at Knife & Fork. As much as you are our guests in our home we do the clearing up etc so that you can enjoy a lovely evening relaxing and not worrying about the mound of washing up at the end of the evening. Luckily, we have a washing up fairy – me!
We have invited you into our home so please just relax and have a fabulous evening as we are very happy to have you here as our guests. Please just act as you would at your friend’s dinner parties. When to start eating? Each table will be served in turn so please start and don’t wait for the room to be served. I am working from a domestic kitchen and I don’t have a kitchen pass so service will be slightly slower than a restaurant, but this is so everyone gets served piping hot food on hot plates.
p.s If you want to pay compliments do feel free!
But leading swiftly on to…
Tricky. Obviously, if you are dissatisfied or disappointed I really want to know. I would be mortified to find out someone had not enjoyed the evening and/or the food. We are all human so I am sure there will be times when something doesn’t go quite right, but I will hold my hands up, admit it and rectify it as best as I can at the time. All I ask is that if you are unhappy and prefer not to tell me on the night, please phone or email me and give me the chance to rectify it as I would really prefer not to find out via social media.