Chef’s Table: Inside New Bandra Supper Club The Lovefools
This past Saturday night, a group of 14 diners made their way up a flight of stairs to a candle lit dining room in the Pereira House bungalow located opposite Pali Village Cafe in Bandra. They had signed up for a meal with no idea of the menu or who they would be dining with.
We too were at that table for the surprise eight-course meal catered by Sarita Pereira, the founder of The Lovefools, a new supper club that was launched on Saturday, November 5. The three-hour meal comprised Balinese, Catalan, Korean and Italian courses with citrus as the common element in at least six of the eight dishes. Pereira served a fantastic kaffir lime and chilli-infused warm soup poured over a cold kaffir lime sorbet; a rustic Spanish koka, a Catalan take on pizza with an onion sauce caramelised over 16 hours; perfectly cooked pandan leaf-wrapped rawas with an orange thyme sauce; a light smoked shrimp and lemon zest risotto; and a chilled chocolate cannoli filled with white chocolate, vanilla and green lemon zest foam.
The presentation of the food and the service were on par with those of a five-star restaurant without the fuss of fine dining. We ate on a distressed wood table embellished with candlesticks and bougainvillea stalks displayed in wine glasses. Each elegantly plated course was served in new crockery and paired with domestic wines picked by sommelier Gargi Kothari, who explained her choice before each pouring. Dressed in a black apron and cap, with liveried waitstaff at her elbow, Pereira shuttled between the kitchen and the dining room, announcing each course before it was served. The meticulousness of the service and the quality and quantity of the food justified the meal’s price tag of Rs3,000 per person.
Before officially launching the communal dinners, Pereira had been hosting meals for family and friends for a year, which she calls the “test phase”. Most of the 14 people she served this past Saturday were not known to each other or to Pereira. Like us, they had heard of The Lovefools – the name refers to “people who go to any lengths to pursue their passion” – through word of mouth. Pereira hopes to see “new faces” at each of her dinners, which she plans to hold every Saturday for a maximum of 14 people.
A former advertising professional, Pereira decided to switch careers a few years ago. She had planned to become a chef by attending culinary school in Paris. Instead, in 2014, she interned for two months at Restaurant Can Jubany, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Nandu Jubany in Catalunya, Spain. Under Jubany, Pereira polished her basics and learned different cooking techniques. She wasn’t a complete novice though. For six months before her internship, Pereira had converted her mother’s kitchen in Bandra into a culinary studio, where she experimented with recipes from books by renowned chefs. “For many months I tried mastering the recipe for toum, but was unsuccessful until I came across an online lecture by Jubany,” said Pereira, who then wrote to Jubany asking him for an internship.
The idea for The Lovefools came to Pereira only after she moved into Pereira House. She’s not related to the folks who own the house. She got to know of the bungalow through a friend, an interior designer who was renting the kitchen, dining room and living room as an office. Pereira started co-renting it last year. The property is conspicuous by a verdant Christmas tree and bougainvillea plants in the compound. There’s a vintage charm to the house, which Pereira and her friend have furbished with patterned tiles and exposed brick. A tiny balcony overlooks Pali Village Cafe, but the focal point is the dining room framed by a glass wall. Pereira’s massive collection of culinary books is scattered across the rooms.
In the run up to her Saturday meals, she spends her time trying out recipes from these books, drafting multi-cuisine menus and prepping oil infusions and cooking powders for her complex courses. Her aim is to not repeat dishes and to maintain the surprise element in the meals. In this regard, The Lovefools is similar to the Secret Supper Project, the two-year-old supper club that only reveals the menu once patrons are seated at the table. However, unlike the Secret Supper Project, which you can sign up for by emailing the organisers, you register for The Lovefools on its website. Currently, registration is on a first come, first served basis. Once 14 guests sign up, the site will alert patrons that the meal is booked.
Before planning the menu, Pereira calls each registered diner “for a quick chat during which I ask them about their food and cuisine preferences and what restaurants they like to go to”. Typically each meal consists of six savoury courses and two desserts. The chef dabbles in Lebanese, Spanish, Moroccan, Balinese, French, Greek and Italian cooking. She’s a great fan of contrasting textures, colours, flavours and cuisines as evident in the warm kaffir lime soup paired with cold kaffir lime sorbet.
In addition to hosting what she calls ‘community tables’ Pereira is planning to start ‘Trial Tuesdays’, for which a limited number of people can sign up to sample one or two courses that will be served during the sought-after Saturday meals. (Pereira said that their community meals are booked all through November.) Alas, she has no plans to increase the number of diners or meals per week for at least a year.
The Lovefools community dinners are priced at Rs3,000 per person without wine, Rs3750 per person with three glasses of domestic wine and Rs4,150 per person with three glasses of imported wine. For community table reservations and to enquire about private dinners call 98200 40618, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see here. For updates on their meals and events, subscribe to their newsletter here. See the Facebook page for more information.