Sofia Baguley hosts a popular pop-up Colombian restaurant in her home every month. Just before her next one this weekend, Eileen Leahy asks what inspired her to share her native Latin American cuisine…
So Sofia, what got you started hosting these cool supper clubs?
I started my Colombian dinner parties in the summer of 2013 after being inspired by pop-up restaurants in Havana, Cuba.
We found these places where families opened up their homes and cooked delicious
home-cooked meals for tourists, and we loved it as it was authentic and very tasty.
How did you get yours up and running?
When I returned home, I did my research and a food hygiene course and got the business going by doing Colombian takeaways every Friday night. I did this for a year, alongside hosting the odd dinner party, but it was hard work, and as I have a day job I decided to concentrate on just the dinner parties.
I’m happy to say
they have been very successful and I’ve been awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor two years in a row.
What made you decide to invite people into your
home and host?
I love a party and entertaining, but it can be expensive, so as food and dancing are two of my other passions,
I thought: “What if I host a monthly party where people can come to eat some tasty food, bring their own drinks, have a shot of Colombian rum and a dance afterwards? And in the process, wouldn’t it be good if I could make some money and bring some Colombian culture to Tunbridge Wells?”
What is typically on the menu?
I grew up with my maternal grandparents in a place called Cartegena de Indias and was surrounded by family who taught me to cook.
On my menus you’ll find a variety of rice dishes – coconut being the main one – as well as plantain, pulses, fish, meats and fresh salads.
While living in London I went to a few Colombian restaurants and I was always disappointed by the quality of the food. So I realised that if I wanted to enjoy fresh,
home-cooked Colombian food in this country, I had to make it myself.
How do you decide upon the dishes?
Usually I rotate between red meat, chicken and fish for the main dish, and then I make sure I do a different type of rice every month, and serve either beans or lentils with a salad and plantain.
On the occasions where there is one group that has booked the whole party, I give them the option to choose the main course.
The starters normally stay the same – usually cheese empanadas with aji casero and sweetcorn and prawn fritters with sour cream or cheesy fried arepas with guacamole.
What have proved to be the most popular dishes, and why?
The meat empanadas and prawn fritters are very popular, as are dishes like shredded beef and baked chicken cooked in a red pepper, onions and smoked paprika sauce.
I guess people like
the combination of flavours, and they usually comment
on how tender and flavoursome the meat is.
Talk us through a typical supper club evening…
Guests start to arrive from 7.30pm and are offered a welcome drink. I give a short talk about the menu and we get the starters out just after 8pm.
I explain what the food is, and the meal usually finishes by 10pm. Customers are then offered a shot of Colombian rum and we move the tables, turn up the music volume and start dancing!
Customers usually leave around midnight, but the longest they have stayed is until 3am!
My husband wasn’t very impressed as he does all the tidying up the next day.
What are the key elements for hosting a successful dinner party?
Fresh home-cooked tasty food, good music, fun-loving guests and a hostess that loves seeing people having a good time enjoying themselves!
Sofia’s Colombian supper clubs can seat up to 22 people and cost £30 per head for a three-course meal, which includes a welcome drink with a sample of Colombian rum or coffee at the end of the night. To book, visit www.sofiascolombiankitchen.co.uk