Belfast Telegraph

Erin and Jo share the reasons why Northern Ireland is falling in love with home-dining

Erin Bunting (left) and Jo Facer prepare their ingredients for another supper club
Erin Bunting (left) and Jo Facer prepare their ingredients for another supper club
Erin finishes off cumin roasted carrots with goat’s cheese and nigella seeds
Supper club specialities include Vietnamese summer rolls with prawn and mango, and seared chilli and lemongrass beef

By Rachel Martin

Eating in is the new eating out, according to home cooking and brewing duo Erin Bunting and Jo Facer. The pair, who run supper club The Edible Flower in Saintfield, Co Down, moved to Northern Ireland in April.

They planned to launch their business at a later date, but word of mouth fast-tracked its development.

Jo started brewing as a hobby around six years ago but eventually the couple hope to open a brewery and transform some of the outbuildings at their Victorian farm house in Saintfield into function rooms for the dining club.

The concept has taken off in London but is still new to Northern Ireland.

They also hope to open an edible flower and herb garden so that guests can see the ingredients they will be eating as they arrive.

The two 34-year-old women met at university in England and lived in London together where dining clubs are popular.

There they ran a successful supper club - the Leytonstone Brewhouse & Kitchen - from their east London home but decided to move to Northern Ireland to be closer to nature and are challenging Northern Ireland foodies to give the concept a go.

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While the brewery is not yet commercial, the supper club provided a way to share Jo's homebrew alongside Erin's recipes.

Erin said: "We'll usually have a reasonable enough lead in time to a supper club event so Jo will often make special brews to go with what I'll be cooking. We try to make the whole event an experience. We think about how each of the courses will go together.

"There's something really special about the whole communal eating experience - everyone is experiencing the same flavours and it gets people talking.

"Dining clubs are a great chance to try things you wouldn't necessarily order in a restaurant. If you're hosting it means not having to worry about the cooking and if it's your birthday it's nice being able to relax and not having to do the washing up."

The pair have started hosting dining parties in their house in Saintfield but also will host events with cafes and delis.

Erin who is originally from Hillsborough takes the role of head chef.

Before starting her business she worked in arts business development but decided to retrain as a chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Co Cork.

She also worked as a chef at the Skip Garden Kitchen, a London-based urban growing project focusing on eduction with a vegetarian cafe.

Erin found the topic of food was a good conversation starter with locals in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Laos, where she discovered the power of a few well placed edible flowers in dishes.

The food the couple cook and the beer they brew is usually inspired by local and seasonal produce, wild food and from their travels all over the world.

The evenings often take on themes based around their travels such as 'Asian street food', 'Mexican feast' and 'A taste of Marrakesh'.

The pair usually tell stories as the food is served, explaining how the ingredients were selected and how they pair together - often this will be based on their own personal experiences, Erin explains.

Jo takes on the tough task of 'head of tasting' and describes herself as the brewer, sous chef and administrative arm of the business.

Jo has been brewing beer at home for around six years and makes everything from continental-style wheat beers to hoppy American IPAs to sour raspberry lambics and traditional English bitters.

She also enjoys making special brews for friends' weddings and birthdays and has used wild ingredients including nettle.

Jo also volunteers at the Walled Garden at Helen's Bay - an organic market garden project - and sits on the board of Belfast enterprise Boundary Brewery Co-operative.

And she hopes in the future to build an edible garden to use for the business.

Belfast Telegraph