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Laying up Supper

27th November 2019

A Review by Jude Owens

Laying up Supper held on Saturday 9 November 2019

An occasion of mixed emotions perhaps in officially marking the end of the sailing season - like late autumn mourning the end of summer - the Laying Up Supper at the Royal Dart Club was nevertheless an opportunity to feast with friends in a fancy frock. Definitely worth being laid up in the club on a dark, wintry Saturday November evening as we sat back in the Quarter Deck ready for dinner.

Thanks to the beautifully co-ordinated delivery by the waiting-on team, cocktail glasses arrived dressed to the nines to the delighted oohs and aahs of members. The starter. Balanced on top of frou frou salad like a lady’s fascinator danced big, juicy prawns (thoughtfully undressed – in a culinary sense, you understand). I closed my eyes, tucked in and tasted the sea. Delightful digging ensued to more greedy squeals like discovering buried treasure at the bottom of the seabed as we tasted crab and mango with a self-confident kick of spice. On top to complete the spectacle, adding crunchy texture to proceedings, was a mouthful of salty crispiness. My bouche was suitably amused as I exchanged unabashed greedy glances with my fellow diners.

If the starter was a finger-lickin’ fabulous feast in itself, the main course was happily hearty. A glossy beef stew. Succulent and sensual, and cooked with simmering love and care. Northern Lass that I am, gravy for me is the savoury equivalent of melted chocolate that I need to bottle up for mournful moments and this gravy did not disappoint, tastily true to the meat. Luxuriating alongside the meaty morsels was deluxe mash – smooth and satisfying with a soupçon of horseradish sauce. As well as adding a herby sense of mystery, this cunning culinary dash added a subtle stirring heat to this carby fave. Hardy winter root vegetables, parsnip and carrots artfully sliced gave earthy substance and bite, nestled alongside peas that provided guzzly greenery and I dared to hope – the promise of lightness and spring beyond the stodge of winter.

As comforting and competent as this dish clearly was, a clever chef knows that an element of surprise always brings an intriguing talking point to the dinner table. In this case, the foodie twist was in the shape of an utterly buttery cheese straw (further life-affirming crunch) balanced on top as dainty and daring as the stew was big and bold.

And then, when we thought it could not get any better, pudding. This really was the excited equal to bringing on the dancing girls. I could smell it before I set eyes on this assiette de desserts (indulge me; it somehow warrants Frenchy-fying). At first peep – item one was a chocolate muffin. But it was more than this homely-sounding cake. No, this was a chocolate fondant of such gorgeously gooey proportions. A chocolate cake of any other name would not taste as sweet. And delectably moreish and, and…The tantalising crust on the top was beguilingly bejewelled with boozy co-conspirator cherries; eaten slowly before plunging into the molten chocolate beneath. Perfectly executed, our wonderful chef Hayden should be knighted for services to food for that chocolate fondant alone. Cue yet more oohs and aahs from my fellow diners. Again and again with every mouthful…

By this stage, I was well on the way to needing a serious laying up as I dabbled with Item Two. A generous boule of chocolate ice cream whose delicately chilled sweetness off-set some of the richness of the fondant. Buried within were rascal chocolate chips that added mischievous layers of chocolatey corruption. I held in my tummy tightly – but with the Item Three curl of clotted cream to seal the deal of creamy dreamy decadence I was beyond redemption.

Indeed, never mind my tummy – by now, I had abandoned all vain hopes of keeping my lipstick intact and embraced my new choco-lippy-look. I laid back as politely as possible to listen to our Commodore Richard Haycock’s address, praising “intrepid cruisers” for sailing adventures this year, noting “it’s important to have ambition.” True words. And so true of our fabulous supper too. The Commodore then handed over to the “intrepid Rosemary” – Queen of the Social Committee, who looked back on the cruisers’ rallies to Salcombe and adventures across the Channel.

So to 2020. A new website on which intrepid members can register their interest for rallies and charity events, and more besides, as we all go down to the sea again. All to look forward to next season, along with other fine food at the club.

A greedy and grateful thank you to Hayden and the waiting-on team for a well-thought out meal that absolutely aimed to please (and succeeded) and for looking after us so well.

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