A little while ago, I got wind of The Secret Sussex Supper Club which meets in some amazing Sussex venues. Intrigued, I tracked them down on Instagram. They don’t meet that often, in fact only seasonally, and when they do meet, they sell out fast. And of course, Covid put paid to their usual calendar of events. So I was thrilled when I managed to buy myself a couple of tickets to their recent Midsummer Feast at the Architectural Plants venue.
An exotic world of tropical plants and topiary
I first came across Architectural Plants in the late 1990s, when they were based in Nuthurst near Horsham and I accidentally walked through their grounds on my way home one afternoon (but that’s another story). It was a plant nursery like no other I’d ever seen, with massive, bold, and beautiful plants, clumps of bamboo, Indian-style bungalows and woodland balconies.
I felt I had been transported to another world that was more Maharaja than Maplehurst (the next village where I walked to and from). For a while, I became a frequent visitor, buying beautiful and exotic plants I couldn’t afford and didn’t have room for. I was addicted to this heavenly botanical oasis.
Architectural Plants moved on to bigger and better premises just north of Pulborough in 2015. I pass their gates often and the foliage beyond still manages to evoke that sense of magic and memory for me. So the idea that you can enjoy a luxurious feast in amongst their exotic greenhouses and planting just seemed both idyllic and inspired.
Midsummer Feast with the Secret Sussex Supper Club
The Secret Sussex Supper Club is based in West Sussex and seems to follow a few basic principles. Their long trestle tables are always beautifully dressed and reflect the season, as do their venues. I’ve yet to enjoy one of their autumn events, but I’m told you can expect a rustic, cosy and inviting barn. The menus also reflect their environment with local, foraged and seasonal ingredients. And what could sing summer more than tropical plants and a Middle Eastern-inspired feast.
On a warm summer evening, the venue didn’t disappoint with beautiful sculptures and giant terracotta urns and pots, from which water gently bubbled. We were greeted with a refreshingly light rum punch as we mingled in amongst the plants.
Our four-course menu included Mezze, Muhummara, Maast O Khiar, and Focaccia, followed by lamb Kofte, jeweled rice, salads, lentils and more.
Then we finished with orange and Labneh cheesecake, apricots, and Tahini crumb before petit fours, coffee or mint tea.
Meeting with strangers
We had sat down to eat in the evening sunshine with a group of strangers, but as the evening wore on and the candles and fairy lights were lit, those strangers started to turn into friends.
There is something about breaking bread and sharing platters that’s just wholesome. Conversation flows. People relax. There are no expectations. Waitresses brought blankets for those that needed them, while we sunk into an evening that felt reminiscent of a long distant dinner on the coast of Mauritius with the excitement of lush, exotic surroundings and interesting people.
Did I love my Secret Sussex Supper Club experience? Yes, I did. The food was superb, the company fun, and the surroundings unique. What a simple but successful concept and experience. Now, I’ve just got to source tickets for the next one!
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