The 12th Secret Supper event in aid of Self Help Africa was a big hit with over 200 diners, who embarked on a mystery tour of Shrewsbury restaurants for the evening - raising nearly £6,000 for the Shrewsbury-based charity. Review by My Shrewsbury editor Katy Rink.
The Self Help Africa Secret Suppers have become a major fixture in Shrewsbury’s calendar - and last night saw 228 people meet at Tanners to start the evening with a glass of fizz and find their groups.
Once we’d located our leader, we headed off up Wyle Cop to, who knew where?
The whole point of the Secret Suppers is that you don’t know which restaurants you’ll be visiting until you get there! The six 'secret' restaurants taking part last night were: CSONS, The Loopy Shrew, Osteria, Rhubarb at Draper’s Hall, Flame & Flute and Number Four.
Our starter was in Flame & Flute, on Market Street – I’d often looked through the big glass windows and wondered what it might be like to eat there, so was glad of a chance to step inside.
Secret Suppers are a great opportunity for restaurants to introduce themselves to new clientele. We enjoyed the ambiance in Flame & Flute - it was buzzing, and full to the rafters with the Secret Supper diners, who mostly come in groups (it’s not really a night for intimate dining - and can be quite loud!). They’re famed for their steak nights on Thurs & Fri evenings, when a steak sharing board and bottle of wine for two starts at £45 - I made a note to give it a try.
For the Secret Supper starter, they served up a smoked duck and venison pate on toasted brioche, with rocket and a drizzle of sweet balsamic. So far so delicious!
The starter at Flame & Flute - a hearty portion of smoked duck and venison pate, with a balsamic drizzle
One quick word on drinks for Secret Suppers - order fast and drink even faster! It can be a dangerous game, but you only have one course to finish up, so be careful not to over order.
From Market Street, we headed out again, catching up with fellow diners as we wove through the town, arriving outside the historic Drapers Hall.
There was an audible hum of approval from our little crowd - we’d lucked out. Not only is Drapers is a sublime setting for a special dinner, but the resident restaurant Rhubarb has built a fine reputation for well-balanced, delicious seasonal dishes. Built in 1576 as a guildhall, the half-timbered, Grade II listed building still contains some of the original oak tables and benches. The wood-panelled main dining room, with its gargantuan fireplace, was lit by giant candelabras and we dined like kings, thanks to the culinary skills of Rhubarb.
A couple enjoys the delights of Rhubarb at Drapers Hall, on the Self Help Africa Secret Supper trail!
I’ll admit to a little secret regarding these suppers - diners pretty much career between restaurants (and bottles of wine) and perhaps fail to give 100% attention to the offerings.
I double checked with a friend exactly what we’d enjoyed at Drapers Hall and she came back with (I quote verbatim): “It was pork belly/cheek and something meaty in a tart. Also ? spuds on a bed of something green and a roasted spring onion. I paid zero attention to the food.”
Probably quite helpful feedback for restaurants who think this is the time to wheel out their big guns. There were certainly no complaints at Rhubarb.
Final stop was Number Four, Butcher Row with its funky, urban interior - we sat upstairs on the mezzanine (the stunning architectural remodelling of this Grade II listed building is worth a visit in itself) and enjoyed a very satisfying sticky toffee pudding.
The evening raised £5,749 for Self Help Africa - the Shrewsbury-based charity which helps farming families across sub-Saharan Africa to grow more and earn more from their land and become self-sufficient.
I have seen the work they do, first hand, on a visit to Uganda a few years back - and they really do transform whole communities.
Steph Smith, of Self Help Africa, said: “We've been hosting our Shrewsbury Secret Supper event for several years and it continues to grow in popularity, attracting returning guests and new customers alike. During that time, we've had the pleasure of working alongside so many fantastic restaurants, showcasing the best of Shrewsbury's culinary scene. We're delighted to have raised over £55,000 for Self Help Africa with the support of our host venues, guests and volunteers."
SAVE THE DATE - The next Secret Supper event will be held on Wednesday, April 26, 2023.
Tickets will go on sale early next year, or email email@example.com to reserve your place. They sell out fast!
To find out more about the work of Self Help Africa visit selfhelpafrica.org/uk