ON Saturday night, Karen Kennedy will serve a sumptuous five-course meal for 25 guests at her home in Innerleithen.
On the face of it and notwithstanding the large numbers involved, there is nothing too unusual about such a dinner party.
But what will make this weekend’s repast different from the norm is that the hostess is unlikely to know any of her hungry guests.
And few of the diners will know each other either.
For this is the world of the underground supper club – an burgeoning phenomenon, fuelled by social networking sites on the internet, whereby people invite total strangers to dinner in their living rooms for a fraction of the cost of a night out at a restaurant.
And 47-year-old mum-of-two Karen claims hers is the first in the Borders to be up and running.
“There are three in Edinburgh and a whole network in London, but to my knowledge I’m offering the only underground dining experience in our region, which is nice,” she told TheSouthern.
An unashamed user of Facebook, Karen has combined her skills as a cook with those of an avid social networker to create Honey Wild.
“I was out with friends at a really quite posh restaurant in the Borders and we were stunned when the bill arrived – it was enormous and we were all quite shocked at the price of the wine,” recalled Karen.
“I was sharing this with someone on Facebook who said she and her family had now given up on fine dining in expensive restaurants, but had recently enjoyed a great night at an underground supper club.
“I love food and giving up on special nights out would be a big sacrifice, but I was intrigued and I determined then and there to have a go myself.
“I did a bit of research on what was involved, not least sourcing the best local produce, and using the supper club link my friend had given me, I visited one in Edinburgh.
“The meal was fantastic, as good as anything prepared by a chef, the atmosphere was brilliant and the drink ... well at supper clubs you bring your own bottle so there’s no shock when the bill comes.”
Although describing herself as an amateur cook, Karen, who works as a GP practice manager, is no stranger to entertaining.
With a background in art and design, she has catered for many private parties, both at the former 369 Gallery in Edinburgh and at Traquair House near her home. She even has a food hygiene certificate.
“When I first told my husband Alan of my plans, he was a bit lukewarm but after discussing the arrangements with Debbie McNaught who runs the Whistlestop Cafe in Innerleithen and is so enthusiastic about anything which will bring people to the town, we set a date for March 26.”
Within days of promoting the event online, Honey Wild’s first five-course dinner, prepared in Karen’s own kitchen, was sold out.
And 30 people came, each prepared to make a “donation” of £20 for the five-course meal and, of course, bring along their own accompanying drinks.
“I’d been advised not to sell alcohol in my home to stay on the right side of the law,” explained Karen.
“The price of the meal isn’t printed on the menu, hence the donation towards my expenses. It’s a bit of a grey area, but I wanted to play safe.
“The guests seemed to like the idea of it being ever so slightly illegal and a litte bit edgy, but the upshot was that by the end of the evening, which was midnight, everybody was networking nicely.”
Alan was deployed to move the TV, sofa, coffee table and lamps out of the living room to make space for dining tables and chairs borrowed from friends, including Debbie who was a willing extra waitress for the evening. Alan, a joiner to trade, then assumed the role of dishwasher.
Buoyed by that opening evening, Karen will not only play hostess on Saturday, but also on May 14, June 11 and July 16.
“Once a month is about right for now,” she told us. “I want each night to be special and have no wish to put restaurants out of business although that, of course, will never happen.
“It’s supply and demand and its great for Alan, me and the kids to have people come to visit. It’s all very nourishing.”
z You can find Honey Wild Supper Club on Facebook or email: firstname.lastname@example.org