Tuesday 11 September 2012

The Novel Diner

My friend Claire Coutinho (and her friend Mina) has recently started up a brilliantly novel idea - a literary-themed supper club!  The next one is at Shoreditch House on September 18th with American Psycho as the theme... nearly sold out, but keep an eye on future events.  More info here, but do read my interview with Claire below.  Since it's a supper club, I thought I'd arrange it as a menu card, divided in Starter, Main, and Dessert...

The Great Gatsby


1.) So... what is the Novel Diner?

We are a pop-up supper club that brings to life the world of a different novel at each event. We create a bespoke menu using food references in the novel, and we also have live performances, costumes and decor.

2.) How did you come to be doing this?

We are passionate about food and books, which naturally led to a few conversations about ways to marry the two. We came up with The Novel Diner because it is the kind of event that both of us would love to attend, but it's also incredibly fun for us to organise. Every month we sit down with our favourite novels and antique recipe books and work out how best to capture a particular story for our diners. We see it as a labour of love and hopefully, this translates onto the plates of our guests!


3.) How do you decide upon the books you use?

We choose books where food plays a big part in the narrative or context of the novel. In the case of To The Lighthouse we recreated Mildred's masterpiece - a melt-in-your-mouth boeuf en daube. For Proust we of course had madeleines in addition to other classic belle epoque fare like chicken liver parfait, fried sole and asparagus veloute. For The Great Gatsby, where we wanted to capture some of the Jazz Age's decadence with luxe canapes, a beautiful summer buffet and (naturally) plenty of Gin Fizzes. Then, up next, American Psycho where we can play around with fusion food (e.g. Indian-Californian a memorable mention in the book) and the nouveau cuisine which will really set the yuppie party scene of the late 80s/early 90s.

To The Lighthouse

4.) The photos from the To The Lighthouse event are wonderful - could you describe the evening for us? Any backstage anecdotes to share??

There were some first event nerves! We were lucky enough to have the pianist from the Savoy playing a 1920s music which swept us up in the mood. The music and (ahem) a couple of gin cocktails saw us through. Mostly, it was the music of course…. 

5.) Have you come across any meals-in-novels which are too repellant to consider?

Leopold's Blooms urine-tanged kidneys in Ulysses is probably up there.... We were also considering an Enid Blyton summer spectacular although sardines with condensed milk and ginger cake probably isn't very nice (despite what those Malory Towers girls say).

The Great Gatsby - the pudding!

6.) What has the response been like?

Incredibly positive - we never thought it would be this popular. 

It's wonderful to see how passionate people are about literature, and more specifically about some of the novels we've chosen which are some of our own all time favourites. People seem to like the way that the marriage of food with novels gives them a communal experience of their most-loved books. It's also quite fun that we get suggestions for future events, we always welcome more!

To The Lighthouse


7.) And the question I always ask everyone... what are you reading at the moment?

Claire just finished Jonah Lehrer's Imagine and is now reading The Baroness by Hannah Rothschild. Mina is reading The Ask by Sam Lipsyte and recently finished Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It by Geoff Dyer.

The Great Gatsby

Do go and have a look at their website or their Facebook page, and maybe try to get along to one of their future events if you can!


  1. I see a couple of Southern masterpieces in their future....

  2. I want to do that! Brilliant idea!

  3. sounds like a wonderful idea and events ,all the best stuu

  4. It does sound fun, but isn't it what you do anyway? Perhaps throwing in some discussion of music, the plastic arts, science, sex, and politics as well. Dinner with friends I call it!

    1. I tend not to dress in costume or have themed food! And I certainly shouldn't discuss science, sex, or politics at the dinner table - but, then, I'm sure you knew that ;)

    2. Actually Simon I did not assume that certain subjects might be "off limits" at the dinner table; there aren't at mine! I didn't really mean buying in to the themed food/costume (and more than I do, but could be fun occasionally), it was somehow the general principle I was referring to.


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