I am so hungover I can hardly type this. Writing this post is going to be a struggle this morning but I really want to do the evening justice. I am bursting at the seams to share how wonderful last night was. I’ll tell you why: the Clapton Pot happened.
Let me tell you a little bit more about this wonderful creation. It’s described by the lovely hosts Violaine (V) and Anna as this: “each month we invite 6 people for dinner in our homes in Clapton E5, to meet locals and share stories around the table”. No bells, no whistles – that is exactly what it is – it’s a chance to meet new people in the local area, (and it’s also free, which is also pretty darn amazing for those who get on the list.)
As me and my housemate (the other Emma) walked towards the house clutching our many bottles of wine we started to wonder what we had signed ourselves up for…What were the people going to be like? Would we find stuff to talk about? Would it be awkward and a bit weird? We had no idea what the evening would be like. But that was the best bit about it.
We were fools for even having those thoughts. Why is there still such a stigma attached to meeting up with people from the Internet anyway? It felt so natural to be meeting up with these people who live in the neighbourhood and with who we have so much in common. I feel that in the UK we have a reputation of keeping ourselves to ourselves and not being that keen on mingling with new people – like on the tube when someone tries to strike up a conversation and people look at them like they have just grown an extra arm out of their head. I’ve met people for dinner quite a few times through chatting on Twitter, but somehow this was different because it was at someone’s home, and we knew it was going to be a real eclectic mix of people sat round the table.
As we arrived, V and Anna were hanging out on the front step waiting for us to arrive and embraced me and Emma like we were old friends; they are so inviting and friendly and poured us a hefty glass of wine – the kitchen was beautiful, we instantly felt so relaxed and happy to be there.
The next guests arrived: Mia, Willy and Lucy. Mia and Willy came as a new couple and were Clapton locals too. Mia was from South Africa originally and Willy from New Zealand, both saying how much they loved living in London and specifically Hackney which feels like home to them. They looked a little bit nervous as they arrived, which was funny because me and Emma must have looked exactly the same when we first walked in, but as we were already tucked into our wine we were able to help make them feel welcome too.
To break the ice, we all reminisced about those token awkward dinner parties that we’ve all had (you know the ones), where the conversation is one word answers, or someone has very strong views that no-one agrees with, nervous glances around the table and everyone “clams up in pairs” (Emma always manages to sum up social observations so well). When the dinner party is more about the food and less about the conversation you know you’re in trouble. But this wasn’t going to be one of those.
We all joked around when Mia told us her housemate was like “LOL, don’t get murdered!” because, on paper, yes we were going to a stranger’s house in the middle of Hackney. Then V and Anna mentioned that dinner was actually going to be in the “den” aka, in the basement. Cue lots of jokes about dungeons and being locked down there, ha-ha-ha *gulp*. Anyway, we followed them both down into the depths of the basement, down some rickety wooden steps – and….we gasped. It looked absolutely magnificent.
Massimo, the last guest to arrive rocked up just as we dishing out the starter and he was also really great company. He look a bit mortified that he had been late to a ‘ticketed event’, but he shouldn’t have been, the vibe at the Clapton Pot was so calm and welcoming. Everyone felt like they had so much to share about themselves with absolutely no judgement at all. It’s amazing how good it feels to chat about things with new people.
I’m going to sum up what we ate but as I’m not a big foody blogger I’m going to freestyle what I remember eating: We ate a pesto garlic dreamboat of a starter with new potatoes and green beans, followed by Quinoa cakes and curly Kale (I LOVE KALE) and a tomato salsa sauce with a chocolate mousse in vintage tea cups of dessert. An absolutely dreamy menu, basically.
From the resounding success of last night, I thought I’d put down the top 5 things to make an amazing dinner party based on the brilliance of The Clapton Pot. Can’t wait until the next time!
1. A good mix of people
This is the number one rule. It’s also hard to strike a balance, but make sure you have invited an eclectic group. The amazing thing about the Clapton Pot is that they only allow two people max who already know each other and you are actively encourage to swap seats which we all did as the night goes on.
2. Chilled out hosts
V and Anna were lovely hosts, and what made them extra brilliant was that they were so relaxed which in turn created a really relaxed atmosphere. I don’t know how they did it. They just slipped out here and there to sort stuff out but they were in the moment and made the time to chat and got to know everyone.
3. Loads of booze
Where wine flows, so does the conversation. We got through a stonking amount last night but it relaxed everyone, directed the conversation to new places, and we all felt much more open with each other more quickly. As we were sipping as we went, we weren’t falling around wasted, but we were a lovely level of tipsiness all through the night.
4. The right atmosphere
People enjoy themselves more when they are in a relaxing setting, the amazing den was just this. There were candles, there were fur rugs, there were vintage lamps and fairy lights, it was just perfect.
5. Avoid talk about the 9-5
I used to dread dinner parties when the last few I went to were all about career table tennis of people trying to outdo you with their “mental career” and “completely busy lifestyle”. There was none of that at the Clapton Pot, I think we spoke about work for about 15 minutes near the end and that was enough.