Shared Dining: Enjoy local food and local company

Shared Dining: Enjoy local food and local company

Eating out and trying local delicacies is one of the great joys of travel, and especially so when the experience is shared with others. What can you do, then, if you are travelling alone, or briefly passing through a city on a business trip? The solution to your dilemma is shared dining, also known as a supper club.

In a pre-Internet world, a man would have turned up in a new city with a letter of introduction to present at a private house, or been invited to dine at a reciprocal gentleman’s club. Thankfully now we don’t have to worry about such formalities and can quickly find fellow diners online.

Shared Dining

flickr image by Visit Cape May

Eat With is one of the pioneers of the shared dining movement. An online community of self-confessed food lovers, passionate amateur chefs and appreciative travelers can now join together for dinner in more than 150 cities around the globe. All would-be chefs have to apply to Eat With, and only around 4% of applicants are accepted onto the programme, guaranteeing you a meal to remember. Once selected, the chef designs a menu and announces his event on the site. You can browse the dinners on offer for any given night, check the chef’s previous scores, and book yourself a place at his table. Prices are competitive – you will often pay far less than for an equivalent meal in a restaurant – and you are guaranteed an interesting group of people to dine and converse with throughout the evening. Every imaginable kind of cuisine is on offer, from five-course Japanese vegan banquets to cajun and creole banquets, and if you really get into the swing of it, some of the chefs offer cooking workshops as well.

Shared Dining Enjoy local food

flickr image by thinkpublic

London has one of the most advanced supper club scenes in the world, as is befitting of a cosmopolitan city that loves its food. Many of the supper clubs operate on a pop up basis, and some of them are themed, either by type of food or by some kind of event or style. The August Indian Supper Club takes place twice a month in South West London and offers a great opportunity to eat home-cooked Bihari dishes, which you will rarely be able to sample in a conventional Indian restaurant, and likewise Bita’s Authentic Persian Supper Club offers some of the finest Iranian foods. The Camberwell Kitchen serves only gluten free dishes, so is a fantastic opportunity to meet other coeliacs and to learn how to make haute cuisine without gluten. The Little Cooking pot does a similar thing for vegan and coeliac diners. The Disappearing Dining Club takes place in a different location every time (you have to sign up to find out where the next dinner will be), and plenty of the city’s dinner clubs expect you to dress up or lay on music to complement a particular theme.

Shared Dining Enjoy local food

flickr image by karpidis

In some parts of the world, shared dining is integral to the community, and even as a tourist you can dine for free. Communal meals are most often served at religious centres, and the most famous of these is the Golden Temple in Amritsar where 75,000 people have a free lunch together every day. Donors sponsor the cost of the food, and hundreds of volunteers prepare and serve it as an act of piety. Every is expected to sit and eat together as a mark of equality. Although not on such a large scale, similar lunches are served at other churches, mosques and temples, especially on festival days. If you do have the opportunity to participate in such an event, you are in for a unique and often humbling experience, as well as a tasty meal.

Date posted: 2nd June, 2015

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