1) I do lots of different themes and menus: quiz night, Marmite night (where every dish contained Marmite), flower night (used edible flowers), Elvis night, Astrology night(where the meal was based on the chart of the night), Middle Eastern food night, and so on. They all sell. I didn’t do a Harry Potter night to sell tickets. I have no problem selling tickets, dates up until Christmas have been sold out for sometime. I planned this night because my daughter and I are fans of the books.
2) I support JK Rowling’s authorial rights. I am fully aware of the issues of people stealing other people’s work. I have the same problem. My training is photography, people steal my pictures all the time. People use the information and the writing from my blog all the time. Often they don’t ask. In my ignorance I hadn’t even thought that Warner Bros and JK Rowling would be bothered by a cook being inspired by the books to try to recreate the dishes. They are big, I am small. However Harry Potter is now part of the culture and a part of my daughter’s childhood, of this generation’s childhood, it seems heavy-handed to clamp down on every use of Harry Potter.
3) The Underground Restaurant is a home restaurant and asks for tickets to be pre-paid to cover the cost of the ingredients. If people don’t pre-pay, they often don’t turn up and I actually lose money. I can’t afford that. The dinners are my only income at the moment as it has become a full-time job. I have a child to raise.
4) I don’t make alot of money from the dinners. I keep prices low. Part of the reason I started The Underground Restaurant is because I can’t afford to eat out at many London restaurants, so I try to keep the price down. Each dinner takes at least four days work: shopping, ordering, prepping, cooking, the night itself, then cleaning up, laundry, ironing, start again. Then I blog it. I regularly do long hours. It’s no picnic. I no longer have a living room. There are sacrifices. And of course I can’t buy ingredients as cheaply as a conventional restaurant. Generally guests are well behaved and appreciative.
You get the odd hurtful comment posted anonymously on websites. It feels personal, as it is in my home. It takes a certain courage to open up your home to strangers. However when you are in the public eye, so to speak, you have to take the rough with the smooth. I have never courted publicity, I’ve just been myself, and if people are interested in what I do, then that’s great.
5) This is a movement. I’m not the only home restaurant, although I’m one of the first. You can find out about your local supperclub here: http://supperclubfangroup.ning.com/
6) I’d like to see a culture in which home cooking is appreciated. I just went to a top hotel where the main dish cost £30. It was practically inedible, tasteless and bland. But the food was so processed, so tampered with, a gelée of this, a mousse of that, a sous-vide here, a purée there, everything served in tiny puddles with smears and droplets of sauce which you couldn’t pick up with your cutlery, so I was reduced to scooping it up with my fingers … Why do chefs think they can improve on nature?
I’d like to raise the profile of mother’s cooking too, for women do most of the cooking in the world, day in, day out, as opposed to a culture of male celebrity chefs. If you were an alien landing on this planet, turned on the TV, you’d think it was men doing all the cooking.
7) I don’t eat or cook meat. I do sometimes cook fish. Everything is cooked on an Aga. I do love Marmite.
8) I’m single and available. I’m a teensy bit desperate actually. Hence the terrible dates on my The English can Eat blog.
9) I’m doing Christmas Day at The Underground Restaurant and New Years Eve. I’m basically sold out until Christmas so book after that date. Unless I suddenly get a large staff and a bigger house. Christmas day should be fun. We, my daughter and I, are a tiny family so we’d like to invite paying guests to share Christmas with us, eat lovely food baked in the Aga, play games, enjoy the roaring fire. Christmas…doing it so you don’t have to…
10) I’ve been doing this since the beginning of this year. I’ve always wanted a restaurant, but many restaurants go bust in the first year and I don’t have any financial backers. I love to cook. I have a beautiful flat, garden and an Aga oven so why not use it and share it. A living room restaurant is also a great little business from home. Perhaps I’ve forged a new career path? Delving deeper into my motivation for starting The Underground Restaurant, I always wanted lots of children, a big happy family sitting around a large table, eating, arguing, laughing, drinking. A bit, dare I say it, like the Weasleys. I guess this is my way of reproducing that vision.