Travel

Ronnie Saunders’ Diners Union

01/11/2013

I am late to blog about this, but hopefully not too late for you to follow my recommendation and visit Ronnie Saunders Diners Union for dinner before they end it at the end of the year.

Diners Union is a pop-up dining club in Shoreditch, open every Friday and Saturday and offering a different menu every week, for which co-founder and Head Chef Rolan Dack draws inspiration "from the working class traditions through history".

Ronnie Saunders was Rolan's grand-father; described as "a man's man, a ladies man, champion of equality and a proper London character", he was the inspiration to launch a restaurant pop-up with the spirit of bringing people together to share outstanding food.

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

The location is the yard at R3D Gallery, where long wooden tables and planks are set underneath a big marquee. It's heated so it will be used during the winter months.

There is no table service and at arrival you are given a plastic tray with a glass and asked to take a seat next to other diners. Rather than seating away from other people, the organizers will encourage you to occupy the table next to other people, to interact and share the dining experience in a convivial way.

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

The menu follows a different theme each week, for example this weekend they are doing A Halloween Extravaganza with US inspired dishes. Past menus include French Revolution, Italy 827AD and Denmark: The Union of Kalmar.

One of the principles at the core of Diners Union is to "look each other in the eye", which not only means bringing people together to share great food, but also knowing who's made your food and where it's come from.

The set menu costs £15 for five courses (plus £3.50 corkage fees for BYOB) and the diners will be asked to collect the food directly from the cooking stations (like in a canteen). Here they will find the chefs and interact with them. The chefs will present their creations to the diners, explaining where the idea for the dish came from, how it was prepared and why it fits with the night's theme.

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

My friend Serena of Into The F World had been to the first Ronnie Saunders' Diner Union nights and had recommended it to me, as an example of laid-back dining experience with really good food. Intrigued by the concept and low price, I decided to book dinner with my husband. Serena, her boyfriend and another friend decided to join us at the last minute.

The menu on the day we went was Greece – Food of the Gods. Course One was a beautiful Carpaccio of Octopus with Basil (I was fascinated when the chef explained how the carpaccio had been prepared, by squeezing and tying the octopus' tentacles together, leaving them to dry and subsequently slicing them). Course Two was a slice of bread topped with Smoked Curd, Spinach & Ouzo.

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

Course Three was Shepherd's Salad, a small side to accompany the main course of Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Capers, Parsley, Lemon & Anchovies. The tender lamb meat was served with creamy and delicious white beans.

My husband tried the vegetarian menu and I can say that his dishes were as beautiful and satisfying as my meat courses. Too often vegetarian options at pop-ups and supperclubs are smaller and not good value for the fixed price paid in advance, but it wasn't the case at Diners Union.

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

Course Five was a slice of moist cake, called Kalitsounia on the menu, although a quick Google search revealed that this name refers to Greek cheese pies, whereas this pudding was more like an almond cake. I remain very curious to know how it was prepared, shame on me for not going to the chef and asking the recipe! Needless to say, the cake was really good!

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union
Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and the conversation with our friends, though sadly we didn't get the chance to interact with other diners. Standing up in between courses to collect the next dishes didn't cause disruption to our dinner and certainly didn't bother us. After a few glasses of wine bought at the local Sainsburys we were all in a good mood and affected by that Friday evening joyful feeling!

At the end of our dinner, the Diners Union co-founder Cameron sat down at our table (he located us thanks to Serena's tweets) to check if everything was alright and if we were having a good time. It was nice of him to do so and showed a real passion for the project.

Ronnie Saunders Diners Union is open every Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 11:30pm at R3D Market on Rivington Street, London.

Diners Union is partnered with St Mungo’s and Live-In Guardians, employing people from the homeless community of London, crafting their catering and employment skills with the hope of helping secure future employment and helping them to help themselves. (quote Red Gallery London).

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Giulia Mulè
29/11/2013 08:46

Oh no…what a shame!

Kiran
28/11/2013 10:09

‘Closed for 2013 due to unforeseen circumstances’… :(

Giulia Mulè
28/11/2013 10:06

They should be open until end of the year, have you checked with the organisers?

Kiran
27/11/2013 14:56

This looks amazing! I have read about it before and wish I could have gone. I think they’re closed now? :(

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