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Food

Jackson & Levine: the glamorous hosts of London's coolest supper club

by Leah Hyslop
Jackson & Levine: the glamorous hosts of London's coolest supper club
Image by Rob Streeter

In need of festive dinner party inspiration? Meet Laura Jackson and Alice Levine, the glamorous hosts of London’s coolest supper club.

Radio DJ Laura Jackson and TV presenter Alice Levine set up their popular east London supper club in 2013. Their first book, Jackson & Levine – Round To Ours (Quadrille, £25), a collection of stress-free menus for entertaining, is out now.

Where did your idea for a supper club come from?

Laura: I met Alice at a charity jumble sale. It was a bit: ‘I like food!’ ‘I like food too!’ ‘Let’s be friends!’

Alice: We knew we wanted to do something foodie, but we had to find our niche. Laura lived in an amazing open-plan apartment, so we started to think, could we sell tickets to have people round for dinner? Really we just made it up as we went along…

Do you still remember your first menu?

Alice: Yes, it was shoulder of lamb, broccoli with hazelnuts and chilli, dauphinoise potatoes and lemon posset. We are lucky that our supper clubs have always just flowed. We deliberately keep things small – only 20 people – so everyone talks to everyone. We have no say in who attends – we made a promise right at the start we wouldn’t set aside tickets for friends.

How do you describe your style of cooking?

Alice: No-fuss. We’re not ones for garnishes and foams; it’s all big sharing platters, everyone digging in for seconds and thirds. We want it to look plentiful and inviting.

Image by Rob Streeter
Image by Rob Streeter

Your supper clubs are beautiful – each with a very different look and feel. Where do you get your inspiration?

Alice: We love seasonality. Everything from the food to the flowers comes back to the time of year: what’s in abundance, what can we celebrate?

Laura: For one of our first summer supper clubs we, ahem, ‘foraged’ some hydrangeas – I can’t tell you where from – and that inspired the whole look: lovely pastel colours. Christmas lends itself to something a bit moodier: berries and foliage, a dark tablecloth and candles.

Alice: You don’t have to spend a lot. A stemmed flower stuck to a napkin with brightly coloured tape is so simple but so pretty. Or a leaf that you’ve picked and dried. Laura came up with an idea for foliage and flowers interwoven with a really thick, old nautical rope – it looks amazing.

How do you avoid getting stressed when cooking for a crowd?

Alice: Everyone gets a little stressed – it’s so easy to worry the food isn’t perfect, or you’ve picked the wrong wine. I always forget one dish. I leave it in the fridge, then notice the next day! But it’s supposed to be fun. So if you’re in the kitchen for hours while everyone else is having a good time, something’s wrong.

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

Laura: Oh yes. I once turned on the grill instead of the oven and grilled a shoulder of lamb for four hours…

Alice: It was delicious. Very few people died.

Image by Rob Streeter
Image by Rob Streeter

You always look great, even if you’ve been cooking all day. What’s your secret?

Laura: We leave five minutes to get ready. It’s a tag team effort: ‘Now you brush your hair! Now you put on some lipstick!’ If you look good, you feel good – you feel like the host.

Any other tips for a successful dinner party?

Alice: Central lights kill the atmosphere. We prefer lamps and candles. Music is really important – we always make a playlist or have a record player, so guests can pick music. Or put on a movie soundtrack: our favourite at the moment is Dirty Dancing.

How do you decorate your Christmas table?

Laura: I like personal touches. You can buy inexpensive snow globes online and put people’s names inside, to make table settings. Making your own crackers is really nice as you can personalise them – I put in a different lipstick for all the girls.

Alice: Think beyond red and gold and green – that’s been done to death. I like fuchsia and turquoise – jewel colours. Or try layering clashing lots of prints, or surprising guests with something like gingham, which you wouldn’t usually have at Christmas.

Instagram: @jacksonandlevine

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