The Supper Club← ALL PRESS

Surely there can’t be much that’s more special than cooking a meal for the person (or people) you love? Feeding the soul, and the stomach, with the perfect food, drink and conversation is what life is all about, no? So, with this in mind – and V-Day looming – we thought we’d cook up our very own romantic supper, with the help of two of Bristol’s most charming and talented lovebirds.

Nearly 17 years of marriage later and the pair really are inseparable – they run a highly successful interior design business together. Projects range from the small and quirky to the extravagant and sumptuous. And, as luck would have it, they are also rather renowned for their dinner parties…

We started off with canapés in Gill’s dramatic Grade-II drawing room. Papadeli – the Clifton-based deli, cafés and cookery school – were our caterers for the day, and had cooked up a beautiful range of seasonal ‘food to be shared’ with a distinctly Spanish vibe. Everything was bursting with colour and flavour. There were tapas-style roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with white crab meat, capers and dill. Slices of moreish Manchego had been partnered with a blanket of quince paste. Authentic blinis had been given a Papadeli twist with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and shavings of fennel. There were also grilled prawns in a crisp cup with avocado, lime and coriander; spinach frittatas with a spiky aioli; and crostinis with black olive tapenade and boquerones (marinated fresh anchovies). Paul even got out his guitar to serenade us – well, if music be the food of love, and all that jazz…

We were soon tempted down to the pair’s studio kitchen. Gill had wanted to create a simple setting, with subtly romantic accents, where the food could do the talking. Taking inspiration from those clever Scandinavians, Gill dressed a white Saarinen oval table with white plates, ornate silver cutlery and Edwardian glass decanters as flower vases. “An easy way to pull things together is through colour,” Gill explains. “We used white predominantly, with accents of purples, reds and a spot of pink to tie things into the Valentine’s date theme through napkins and flowers and seat cushions.” Indeed, the red velvet cushions made a comfortable and stylish addition to white polypropolene chairs – as “guests must be comfortable” – and Gill chose delicious fragrant hyacinths and anemones “to bring a delicate spring quality to the table”, alongside small tulips “for their architectural shape”. “Fresh flowers are a must either on the table or nearby,” Gill says. “It can be as simple as one or two stems, or a posy of wild flowers and berries. Keep the table vases low, so that everybody can see across the table and work colours that tie in with everything else in the room.” Gill also has a great tip for when you have an odd number of guests: “Round and oval tables work very well, because everyone can sit evenly around it. If you want to make an existing square table more flexible, consider having a round MDF top cut out to lay on top, then covering it with a cloth.”

But what of the rest of the food? Our main course – the ultimate convivial Spanish fare – was a paella de mariscos, expertly cooked by Carla. Packed with milky squid, meaty monkfish, mussels and sweet shrimps, the golden rice was incredibly moreish. Papadeli’s Simon had also rustled up a very pretty winter bitter leaf salad with pomegranate, gently pickled white beetroot and toasted walnuts. It was a real mix of textures, flavours and colours – ideal for cutting through the richness of the seafood. The pink bubbles we drank were actually French lemonade (well, it was lunchtime). Papadeli has become famous for its big flavours and seasonality, and did us proud here. “Food really brings people together,” explains Simon, who sells all of the ingredients for these meals at the deli on Alma Road. “Our cookery classes find all sorts of people with different skills chatting happily about their love of food – and this makes me smile, as it’s why I became a chef. I just love food: eating, tasting and talking about it!”

Papadeli often hosts Spanish cookery classes, if you feel tempted to try making any of these dishes at home. But they also handle outside catering – for everything from canapé parties and weddings to birthdays and business lunches – if you’d rather (and it’s very tempting!) leave the hard work to the professionals… For puds, Simon had once again gone with the theme of sharing, offering up a platter of mini desserts – orange and pistachio tarts, lemon and thyme drizzle cakes, chewy cinnamon and almond meringues, carrot cakes, sublime baci di dama (aka lady’s kisses), cherry muffins, chocolate truffles, and individual pear, apple and almond crumbles.

On their arrival, the table fell silent. Now that’s what we’d call the food of love…