But how do you go about getting such invites? Is the only option to make unsubtle hints to people you’ve just met in a bar or metro queue? (“Mmm, I just love homecooking. Sigh, I sure miss it. If only I found someone who…”).
Well, before you resort to such desperate measures, read on. There are plenty of people round the world willing to have you round for dinner. You just need to know where to find them.
Call them in-home restaurants, secret supper clubs, salon dinners, or whatever you wish: they’ve been going for years and the internet is making them easier to track down than ever.
Personally, I love the idea. I’ve tried two so far: Casa Saltshaker in Buenos Aires and Jim Hayne’s Sunday Dinners in Paris (which I wrote about in the Guardian last Saturday). I’ve also visited La Cocina Discreta in Buenos Aires, although I have yet to put their food to the test.
The set-up varies from home to home. They might resemble an intimate restaurant, a dinner party, a buffet at an informal get-together, or an arts club with music and poetry. Typically there’s a fee involve, but it’s often reasonable.
So apart from a good feed, what do you get? A peak around a local house (within reason – noses out of the medicine cupboard), a sociable evening out (rather than just dining with your same old husband/wife/mate – yawn), the chance to hang with some locals (cue lots of insider tips for the rest of your stay), and maybe some new friends (further dinner invites if you’re very lucky).
And the hosts? For them, it’s a great way to meet people, share a passion for food/life/travel, and maybe even earn some extra cash. Tips on starting your own: here.
I’ve been doing some research and have uncovered lots great in-house restaurants around the world. I’ve also been corresponding with some of the people running them, who, by nature of what they do, are always interesting characters with stories to tell. I’m now longing to meet Jessica Buck who runs the arty Portland dinner club, D’Merde, which she describes as “a toast to the spirit of Parisian Salons in the early 1900”. [Website seems to be down, but stay tuned.]
So, it was during the course of this research that I had a brainwave: “I know! I’ll compile all the ones I’ve found into a handy blog. What a great resource!”
So, I ploughed on, finished it (below), and then came across a version by Dan Perlman of Casa Saltshaker that is far, far better and makes mine look rather pitiful. Bah. (Just kidding – everyone should check it out, and his ever-interesting blog.)
Anyway, here’s my little list nonetheless. You never know there may be a few different ones on here. The London one is very new (a tip-off from my editor at the Guardian).
Paris, France, 1: jim-haynes.com (Sunday night)
Paris, France, 2: meetup.com/TalkTime (Saturday night)
Paris, France, 3: parissoirees.com (Sunday night)
London, UK: The Secret Ingredient
Dusseldorf, Germany: Sunday Dinner Parties
Portland, Oregon, US: dmerdesalon.com
Buenos Aires, 1: Casa Saltshaker
Buenos Aires, 2: La Cocina Discreta
And here’s a link of world’s best dining clubs that various Aussie papers nicked from Travel+Leisure magazine via Reuters last month. Rather unhelpfully, they include no contact details whatsoever. I guess the reader is just expected to Google around until they find them.