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Come Dine With Me

Disappearing Dining Club’s Stuart Langley on the art of the perfect party

Interminably long queues, risibly expensive vodka tonics, spending the crucial countdown to midnight searching for your friends, then an hour’s wait in Arctic temperatures for an Uber (Surge Pricing alert!) to take you back to your bed, where you’ll invariably wake up with the mother of all hangovers – it’s easy to see why many of us avoid going out on New Year’s Eve.



Luckily, Disappearing Dining Club (DDC), founder Stuart Langley has come up with the ultimate night for NYE refuseniks. This year, at DDC’s new east London event space – an achingly hip photography studio in Hoxton – Langley and head chef Fredrik Bolin will host an intimate dinner dance for just 50 guests, with a further 50 invited after supper. There’ll be a four-course meal, welcome champagne cocktail, DJs and dancing until the small hours.

“What we do is find opportunities within spaces and use food and drink to bring those spaces to life,” Langley explains. “I always used to be asked, ‘How can I have a party that’s a little bit different?’ That’s what everyone is looking for. We’ve thrown lots of immersive, experiential events, but fundamentally, we’re food and drink and hospitality people. We make sure our guests are really well looked after.”

Like all great creative ventures, DDC, launched in 2010, was born out of necessity. “Frankly, it was a matter of seeing what venues we could get hold for very little money,” says Langley. “I’d borrow a pub or a friend’s gallery or a nightclub that wasn’t open. We would write a menu, sell tickets, put a DJ on and throw a great party. The idea was to take people to places they’d never expect to be eating in and give them a fairly high-end menu.”

Dinner dances were held monthly and soon proved so popular, Langley was asked to host suppers for brands and private clients. “We needed more spaces, so we looked for locations we thought were interesting architecturally or would form a great backdrop to a dinner party. The spaces change all the time. We probably have 80 or 90 different venues around London that we use on a semi-regular basis. They can be private homes, workshops, studios, railway arches or film locations.”

DDC Setting

Disappearing Dining Club Chef

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Weird and wonderful spots have included a Chinese takeaway at the back of a nightclub – turned into a one-table restaurant; three tables in a clothes shop on Brick Lane; a dining room inside an architectural salvage yard warehouse; and even a five-storey shopping centre.

“We held a series of dinners a couple of years back in a small, independent department store in the run-up to Christmas. People moved floors in between courses, working their way through menswear, home appliances, etc. Everything around them was for sale. It was really special.” The team has just purchased a small space near the Barbican, which will seat just six diners. “It’s the first time we have a full lease and full-time kitchen,” beams Langley.

Disappearing Dining Club Project

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STUDIO 2016

Alternative dining experiences have never been hotter, but DDC is no flash-in-the-pan enterprise. Langley has years of experience in hospitality. “I’ve been working in pubs, bars, restaurants and members’ clubs since I was 15. I studied and travelled a bit, and working in food and drink always enabled me to pay my way as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. I needed a profession then I realised I already had a 15-year career.”

No challenge is insurmountable for the team, who can prepare an amazing meal for an two or plate up for 4,000 revellers at a music festival.“People come to us with their numbers and the kind of dinner they want to have. We match their requirements with the venues available and write menus based around what’s deliverable in that space.”

So just how do you deliver dinner in a shopping centre? “If you’ve got five different floors, what you won’t have is five different kitchens. So you’ll serve hot food on the floors with kitchens, and canapes at room temperature on those without. Certain floors might have more storage capacity than others, which means you need to make the best use of what’s available to you and translate that into the logistics of service.”

DDC Pop Up

DDC Outdoor

ROPEWALK Disappearing Dining Club

For those who don’t have a department store at their disposal, don’t worry – you can still throw a dinner party your guests won’t forget with the help of DDC and....

Stuart's essential dinner party tips...

  • First impressions are everything. You have to make your guests feel special the minute they walk through the door and that you’re set up to look after them. Give people a drink in their hand right away. If it’s winter, make sure they’re stepping into an environment that’s warm and sounds good. Acoustics and music really important. Think about the kind of speakers you’ll have and where you’re going to put them.

  • When it comes to the menu, less is more. Be realistic about the environment that you’re in and don’t try to produce some Heston Blumenthal, crazy experimental thing in a tiny kitchen. Stick to great ingredients and fairly easy recipes done well. Good, simple cooking and friendly hosts will go a lot further with your guests than theatrical food and a host stuck in the kitchen all night.

Disappearing Dining Club Cocktail

Disappearing Dining Club Dish

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DDC dinners start at around £45pp for four courses and a welcome drink. Tickets for the 2017 NYE dinner dance cost £80; £20 for the after party. Take a look at the Disappearing Dining Club's profile and book their services via our Little Black Book. 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 22 December 2016

  dinner party, new years eve

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