Supper clubbing at CanTina

I booked to eat at CanTina supper club on the strength of a pork empanada I bought from Tina’s stall at Brighton Food Festival. I am not disappointed I did; this woman can really cook.

Tina launched her supper club in September 2011 and even in this short time, she has served over 1500 diners in her home. The club is open at least two nights a month and is a hit with locals and the rest. In March CanTina was listed as one of Stylist Magazine’s top four supper clubs, and I get every impression that Tina’s business, which incorporates street food and event catering, is going from strength to strength.

I arrive at Tina’s Regency apartment just in time for a complimentary spiced ginger cocktail. Tina’s table with eighteen elegantly mismatched settings runs from end to end of her front room. The night is booked up, but there are only three men in attendance. I wonder whether supper clubbing is more appealing to women? It seems feasible. I guess when men want a drink and to shoot the breeze with a bunch of strangers they go to the pub, but when they go out to eat they expect more speed or privacy. At least that’s the vibe I get off Keane, who seems inhibited by the close proximity of the other diners.

We’re showing our inexperience here I’m sure, because this opportunity to meet people is one of the attractions that sets supper clubs apart from regular restaurants. Although we are not expected to swop seats, there is an atmosphere of cool informality that isn’t particularly British, but I do find appealing. You just have to make sure you know what you’re in for, so you don’t book this sort of evening to share the kind of intimacies or revelations that you can almost hide in a restaurant setting. If you do turn up and think ‘who are these people?’, however, you still have bring your own.

Etiquette aside, our first CanTina experience is all about the food. To start we have a roasted tomato soup with coconut sambal. The soup sings of lemongrass and coriander and packs a concentrated flavour that leaves me satisfied in spite of its small size. Next we have aubergine croquette with baba ghanoush and pomegranate arils: smoky and substantial.

The fish course comprises mackerel, beetroot and baby leaves, all fresh and flavoursome. The meal is well proportioned and paced, with only a slight delay before the main of slow roasted pork. The pork is well seasoned and meltingly soft with crunchy crackling, dill pilaf and saffron aioli and when Tina brings out a pile of leftover meat to pass round the table I am totally sold.

The dessert of cardamom and yoghurt cream with rhubarb and ginger compote is not my favourite, but Keane loves it. On the way out, Tina gives us a handful of tangy candied orange and dark chocolate petits fours for the trip home. She seems unruffled and happy in spite of the hard work she has put in. I guess it is this air of confidence and passion that makes her food so well balanced and full of heart.

CanTina Brighton offers supper clubbers five courses for £35 a head plus a complimentary tipple to start and end the meal.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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2 comments on “Supper clubbing at CanTina

  1. May 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Really lovely to meet you both and to welcome you along; of course delighted that you enjoyed the food. It was unusual to have so much ‘lady’ in the room, mostly more girl v boy balanced. Gorgeously written piece Chloe. Much thanks Tina x

    • May 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks Tina, we genuinely loved your food and will be back soon I hope!

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