Masterchef fans will recognise them; the beaming, ever-optimistic Jack Layer, who seemed to be having the time of his life on the show, and the loveable, chaotic Billy Wright, were finalists on the 2016 series. While ultimately being pipped by eventual winner Jane Devonshire, the two lads’ chemistry proved as symbiotic as it was serendipitous and they formed a cooking partnership that has proved a sell-out wherever it’s staged – the cannily-titled Billy & Jack’s Supper Club.
Their latest dining pop-up has just opened on the top floor of London’s Royal Festival Hall and celebrates the best of the British summer. Sponsored by Silent Pool gin – an Arb favourite (we’ll have a feature with Head Distiller Simon Sherlock in the coming weeks) – and running throughout August, it marks part of a season of summertime weekends to be held at the Southbank Centre.
The venue, St Paul’s Pavilion, is a bright, airy space with floor-to-ceiling windows affording glorious views across the Thames; it’s an ideal spot to enjoy the boys’ latest fare in conducive and convivial surrounds. Pop-Up Supper Clubs by their nature are motley get-togethers, giving like-minded diners the chance to mix and mingle on cobbled-together tables with mismatching accoutrements. It has the feel of a hastily put-together show, characteristic of their unfussy, challenge-fuelled adventures but, as ever, it’s all about the food.
To wit, the menu is similarly designed around sharing plates; both starters and mains, and this being August, it’s all fresh and seasonal, celebrating all the flavours of a British summer, with many of the lads’ inventive touches.
A simple but mouth-watering Marmite butter served with their sourdough keeps palates in anticipation before we’re treated to small sharers; Cornish shrimp with sea herbs and butter crumb prove a firey bite, while Hampshire burrata is complimented with the archetypal British summer vegetables of peas, broad beans and mint and made to sing with lemon oil. There are clever nuances of pickled watermelon rind to dress some dry-aged hangar and charred mackerel is tried out with squid ink.
There’s a risk that indulging in those starters leaves little room for these mains but take heed; the star of the show is their barbequed lamb, made utterly moreish with a spring onion pesto, and complimented by herbed faro with pomegranate molasses, and grilled courgettes with ricotta and mint. Imagine a fine, bright August day, a light breeze coming in over the terrace, becoming a balmy evening as amber light washes over the London skyline…this is the food you’d want to accompany it.
But if you had to sum up summer in one dish it is undoubtedly their tribute to a childhood favourite, the Fab ice lolly. Theirs is given an adult spin with Silent Pool gin strawberry jelly, chocolate ‘jazzies’ and clotted cream ice cream.
As Billy himself says, “Beautiful food, booze and a view of the Thames, what could be better. It’s going to be a great month.”
Billy and Jack’s Supper Club runs from 30th July-28th August 2017, offering brunch, lunch, dinner and pre-theatre dining, at St Paul’s Pavilion, sixth floor, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. £45 for bottomless brunch (£25 per person non-alcoholic). £25 per person for early supper/pre-theatre | £45 per person for ‘Supper Feast’/dinner.