It’s Christmas 2014. We are up to around the fifth or sixth open house of the season. This time it’s 30 or so guests, nibbling and drinking their way through mum’s canapés and dad’s choice of wine. In a survival strategy of sorts, we find ourselves, as siblings, sat at the kitchen table away from the throng, with a slice of Christmas cake and a pot of tea: primed for inspiration.
That table and that conversation was the birth of Vicarage & Sons. The idea was clear and simple – base an experience on the cooking and hosting of mum – warm, plentiful, sharing. And gin. Gin was, and always will be central. The commitment was enshrined by each of us pledging the sum of our Christmas present from our beloved Grandfather – “Grumpy” with the agreement to invest 100 pounds each to get us up and running.
We moved quickly. A date was set and a venue was secured. It is not that easy to find a friend who has a table that seats 12 in central London and is willing to open up their home for the day and night for a supper club. In Francis, Dom’s pal, we found just that in the converted Jam Factory, Borough. With the menu finalised by Ben we gathered at Francis’ in the afternoon with canapés and coq au vin to prepare, laden with meat from the Ginger Pig and beautifully fresh vegetables from Chapel Market.
Guests were invited to arrive at 7pm and sure enough, they began to trickle in, greeted with a gin and tonic and a hug. Supper clubs start awkwardly. Who is everyone? How good will the food be? What will the food be? Why did these guys invite us? We thrive on this, practised by a lifetime of entertaining and hosting with our mum and dad. Canapés appear and stories begin. And something magical starts to happen. There is a gentle realisation that in sharing the story of our mum and her hosting super powers through the food and drink being served, our guests warm into each other. It is the storytelling and the sharing that rises to the top as the key ingredient of Vicarage & Sons.
Suddenly, it’s 11.30pm and everyone, slightly more full bellied and libated than they set out to be, are bid to leave, mostly due to an increasingly worried looking Francis. The conversation has been immense. A Pacifist discussing Afghanistan with a former soldier sticks in the memory as a highlight, each leaving the conversation with a greater appreciation of a different point of view, sealed with a hug.
That’s where we started. 12 people around a table, eating, drinking and sharing. And that is where we pick up – with more tables and more sharing of love, laughter, bread, wine and dreams.