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London’s Best Secret Underground Restaurants

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Published 11 February 2010

In London it’s not just the trains that go underground, the restaurants do too. Yes, with a new name and an edgy reputation, the supper club is back. Not quite a restaurant and not quite a dinner party, they’re the ultimate Come Dine With Me experience.  They’re cheap (usually), trendy, and downright illegal. More so than anywhere else in the UK, London has taken them to heart.

Inspired by the supper clubs of Cuba where these so-called Paladars are very common and even popular amongst tourists, the now well-known Ms Marmite Lover was largely responsible for bringing the trend to London when she opened up her living room in Kilburn to paying customers under the title of The Underground Restaurant.  Endless press and rave reviews followed, along with a little backlash from the restaurant trade. Before long, everyone was at it, and they are no longer the simple dinner parties they once were – there are theme nights, quizzes and art installations galore.  As such it can be hard to know what you’re letting yourself in for or even how much you’re going to have to pay, so here is our lowdown on some of London’s best underground restaurants of the moment…

> The Secret Ingredient
The hosts: Horton Jupiter
The venue: Horton’s flat in Newington Green
The food: Vegetarian with Japanese influences, served as about 10 courses of tapas style dishes. Regular fixtures include own-made pickles and intricate salads along with miso dressed fruit for pudding.
The drink: BYO, but a saké or two is thrown in
The cost: A bargain at £10
The website: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=44794019833&index=1#/pages/City-of-London-United-Kingdom/The-Secret-Ingredient/114200085161

> Rambling Restaurant
The hosts: Two food bloggers and a former restaurant critic for Time Out Dubai.
The venue: A very secret location in Camden
The food: Varies by theme, with upcoming events including a tapas night, a Burns night feast and an aphrodisiac meal.
The drink: BYO – Bring Your Own
The cost: £25 “suggested donation”
The website: http://www.foodrambler.co.uk/?page_id=1413

> The Pale Blue Door
The hosts: Art student Tony Hornecker
The venue: Tony’s home/studio in Dalston
The food: Simple home-style food such as roast beef and rhubarb crumble.  The artistically decorated rooms, drag queen waiters and dark setting are as much the appeal.
The drink: Half a bottle of wine per person is included in the price.
The cost: £30 contribution
The website: http://tonyhornecker.wordpress.com/

> The Bruncheon Club
The hosts: Mya and Gregg
The venue: Their living room / garden (weather permitting) in Hackney.
The food: Breakfast food – obviously, with a focus on eggs that they buy from Spitalfields City Farm. Expect homemade croissants, hollandaise and smoked salmon along with seasonal fruit.
The drink: A Bloody Mary on arrival, plus tea and coffee
The cost: £12
The website: http://thebruncheonclub.blogspot.com/

> Hidden Tea Room
The hosts: A woman who goes under the pseudonym of “Lady Grey” and her husband.
The venue: Their rather plush living room in a secret W1 location
The food: Afternoon tea at its most decadent, whether served during an afternoon or evening sitting. Sandwiches with homemade bread, scones with fruit preserves, freshly baked cakes, brownies and cookies, a special “lady grey chocolate truffle” and even a palate cleansing sorbet.
The drink: A suitably vast array of teas, plus coffee and a glass of Champagne.
The cost: £25
The website: http://www.hiddentearoom.com/

> The Green Onions
The hosts: Two old friends and ex-pros secretively known only as “the green onions”
The venue: The venue moves regularly. Invitations including the full address are sent out only a couple of days beforehand to booked guests.
The food: Menus vary but British, seasonal, local and foraged are key themes.
The drink: A suitably vast array of teas, plus coffee and a glass of Champagne.
The cost: £20 including a glass or two of wine
The website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/London-United-Kingdom/Green-Onions/73175767295

> The Loft
The hosts: Chef Nuno Mendes, who is using this as a tester (and no doubt marketing ploy) before opening his proper restaurant at the Bethnal Green Town Hall later this year.
The venue: More overground than underground – a secret “loft” in Dalston
The food: A challenging and international menu including dishes such as rhubarb and umeboshi, textures of vegetables and black olive caramel. The dishes come with matched drinks and take the form of several (10+) courses of small dishes.
The drink: A suitably vast array of teas, plus coffee and a glass of Champagne.
The cost: £100 per head – your cheap underground restaurant this is not!
The website: http://www.nunomendes.co.uk/loft.html

As the secret restaurant scene in London is constant changing, new and exciting underground restaurants are always opening up! Have you heard of any new ones? Or recommend one that is not on this list? Let us (and other readers) know by leaving a comment below!