A London Supper Club Success Story
Supper clubs have taken over London’s dining-out scene. Chefs are launching pop-ups and informal dining hubs to find more flexible, creative, low cost and unique ways of launching their dream venture.
Since its launch in 2014, Monograph supper club has been one of the most popular and successful in London. We spoke to the chef and founder, Ugo Lo Presti, to find out where he finds his inspiration and what his favorite London gems are.
Why did you start Monograph?
I had just moved to London. I had a great passion for Japanese food but didn’t have the budget to open a restaurant. I discovered the world of supper clubs and this gave me the chance to start my own business and work with Japanese food with little investment.
Where do you draw inspiration for your dishes?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. It’s mostly a research process: exploring restaurants, Japanese groceries, reading books, discovering what someone else is doing on the other side of the world…Basically getting a lot of information and connecting it in different ways.
Why do you think Monograph has been such a success?
It started in a humble way with 14 guests in a small cafe, but the food has always been very good from the start and the price very reasonable. With time it has grown a lot and has become more than a communal dinner: events now welcome over 50 guests at a time and involve short videos between courses and other sensorial experiences.
What is your favorite thing about running Monograph?
I love the fact that it’s one dinner once a week. This gives me the chance to work more on the creative aspect of that single event and avoid doing repetitive daily tasks as might happen running a restaurant.
People are turning to pop-ups because they offer a dining experience rather than a dining opportunity – do you agree?
From what I understand by looking at my guests, most people come to supper clubs for the social aspect in addition to the great food. Many guests come alone, meet new people and spend a fun evening together. How often does this happen in a restaurant?
What are your 3 favorite London restaurants or cafes?
The first coming to my mind: Sasuke, On the Bab, Tsujiri. In no particular order.
What is your top hidden London gem that you would share if you were a food Insider?
It would probably be one of the small, independently run groceries/takeaways that cater to the local expat communities. These would be around Ealing for Japanese food or New Malden for Korean food, for example. These places, even though not as fancy as the offerings in Central London are, in my opinion, a more authentic and culturally valuable experience.
If you could choose only one ingredient to always have available, what would that be?
Chocolate. It’s an ingredient, right?
What city is the best travel destination for food explorers?
I don’t really know to be honest, as I haven’t been much of a food traveler so far.
I’ll be traveling around Asia this November, ask me again when I’m back in a couple of months
[after a few months…]
I just came back from a few months of traveling in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Okinawa and I would say that Taiwan (in particular Taipei if you only have time for one city) is really an undiscovered gem. They have an impressive street food culture with an extensive variety of dishes that can’t be found in Europe. You can find unusual (for us) flavours and ingredients like pig’s blood cake, chicken feet and stinky tofu to more familiar dishes such as noodles and dumplings that are delicious everywhere, no matter how randomly you choose the vendor. There are night markets open every day of the week with large amounts of food stalls, extremely low prices, and local crowds.
If you could go on one SideStory Foodie Experience, which one would you choose?
I would probably choose Celia Brooks’s Turkish delights experience in Green Lanes, since I don’t know anything about Turkish food.
Monograph Supper Club opens again on 27 January 2017. Never experienced a supper club? Check it off your 2017 bucket list by joining the talented chef on a special culinary experience. The deep flavor of the Udon noodles in a rich broth paired with mackerel and seaweed is a real show stopper.
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