I've done a lot of solo travelling in my life so I'm always on the lookout for interesting experiences that will introduce me to new people, whether they're local to the area or tourists like me. Patrick and Karen's pop-up vegan dining experience is ideal for this exact situation, as it's as much about the people sitting round the table as it is the glorious food. I'm not vegan so when Karen invited me to their next party I was a little apprehensive, but rest assured you don't need to follow the lifestyle to feel welcome at the event - you might change your diet by the end though!
At 7pm I arrived at Karen and Patrick's home in Green Point and was welcomed with an apple cider and cinnamon cocktail - very festive for the middle of April! Tonight's event was quite a large one so there were plenty of people mingling and getting to know each other, around 18 people in total in Patrick and Karen's open plan kitchen and dining area. The bottle of wine I'd brought was labelled with my name and slotted into a cooling jacket, my coat was hung on the coat rack, and everyone was animatedly chatting with one another - it was going to be a good night!
The long dining table is set with place names, so we all took our seats and greeted our neighbours (don't worry, if you came as a pair or group you will be sat together). In my immediate vicinity were a family from Germany, a couple from Holland and their friend, and another couple who share their time between Cape Town and New York. Once we were settled, Patrick gave a little welcome speech and explained the history behind the creation of their pop-up dining experience, before inviting us all to say a few words about ourselves as a way of breaking the ice, during which the first course was served; Tartare de Legumes, a sliced pickled vegetable dish on a bed of rocket - delicious!
Having swiftly munched through the vegetable tartare, the next course was a light and fruity vegan Waldorf salad, with a mayonnaise that actually tasted like real mayonnaise! The night was clearly off to a great start, and as the wine flowed we all became more relaxed and began getting to know each other better, learning about our home countries and cultures.
After a quick break for a group photo we were served the main course; thick slices of nut roast with a foamy sweetcorn sauce - keeping with the slightly festive theme! The nut roast was smooth, spongy and full of flavour, definitely the kind of dish I'd serve up on Christmas Day if I were throwing a vegan party (not that I would since my cooking leaves a lot to be desired). By this point we were all feeling very merry and chatting like we'd known each other for years, exactly the kind of atmosphere you want for a communal dining experience!
Patrick and Karen always serve up a trio of desserts at their events, so this week we had a decadent chocolate brownie, a strawberry flavoured chocolate truffle, and a hearty apple crumble. I'm not a big chocolate fan (the horror, I know), but the brownie and truffle were truly divine, and the apple crumble was even better! It was served with a good dollop of vegan cream that, again, tasted just like regular cream. A triumph!
The fifth and final course was a cheese platter, complete with fresh figs, olives, crackers, jellies, and perhaps the biggest grapes I've ever seen in my life. There were five cheeses to choose from which were a mix of shop-bought and homemade, including a Boursin-type herbed cheese, a cheddar, a camembert, a smoked soft cheese, and a garlic soft cheese. They were all amazing but the camembert was definitely my favourite - I never would have known it was vegan.
By the end of the evening we were all thoroughly stuffed with great food and giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls, adding each other on Facebook and promising to keep in touch. That's what I love about these types of events, we're all brought together over a love of food and leave with new best friends! Huge thanks to Karen and Patrick for putting on an amazing experience, I'd highly recommend this event to foodies or as a great gift for travellers!