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Arbroath chef reveals supper club plans – using all local produce

Hospitalfield House's first supper club will feature a five-course meal served outside on the grounds.

Chef Elaine in the Hospitalfield kitchen.
Hospitalfield Cafe head chef Elaine Chalmers. Image: Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Inspired by the abundance of seasonal produce growing in and around Arbroath, Hospitalfield Cafe head chef Elaine Chalmers is ready to host her first supper club in the arts venue’s stunning walled garden.

The Dundee-born chef moved from back from London in autumn last year, aiming to make Hospitalfield House a destination for food.

Initially, she planned to start supper clubs in winter, but time ran away. Instead, the Summer Banquet will tie into the annual Beer & Berries Festival held on the grounds.

Elaine says: “I just thought, we need to do a supper club. Having all this amazing produce, why not do something with it?”

A woman walking down a garden walkway in front of a huge 19th century country house.
Elaine plans to use the herbs and vegetables growing in the gardens to good use. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

“We’ve got produce growing in the garden here, and we also use Hope Garden and Rottal Vegetable Garden.”

Hospitalfield supper club menu

While the Summer Banquet is part of the festival, it is also the first in a series of monthly supper clubs.

Held on Saturday August 5, the five-course dinner will be served outside in the walled garden, with spectacular views of the sea on one side and the house on the other.

The entire menu is based on the fruits and vegetables growing in and around Hospitalfield, as well as a fish dish nodding to the fishing traditions in the area.

Elaine’s banquet begins with an homemade elderflower fizz or rhubarb shrub with lemon balm, accompanied by a broad bean and pea tart.

A row of growing plants in front of a sign saying "5 colour chard" which will be used in the Hospitalfield supper club.
The Hospitalfield supper club ingredients are still in the ground. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Instead of Arbroath smokie, there’s a carpaccio of smoked haddock with fermented tomato and pickled celery after a sweetcorn muffin loaf with chilli and honey butter.

Next will be a gnudi, a spinach and ricotta dumpling, with fresh tomato sauce and crispy sage. As well as a Rottal Vegetable Garden leaf salad, there’s a roast beetroot and baby carrot salad with pickled Worcesterberries and curd.

Finishing the meal will be a raspberry, rose and brown sugar pavlova.

“There’s a lot of work, but it’ll be good,” says the head chef.

“It’ll be a crazy day because we’re having the festival in the afternoon and it’s straight into the supper at six o’clock, so it’s quite full on.

A huge tree in a walled garden in front of Hospitalfield House, where the supper club will be held.
Diners will enjoy their meal looking over Hospitalfield House. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

“I’m sure on the day, as these things go, it’ll be really fun, the adrenaline will be pumping and we’ll have a great day and night.”

Supper clubs hope to draw crowds

Using local and seasonal vegetables is Elaine’s top priority. This means her menus are constantly changing depending on what’s ripe and ready.

A lot of her dishes are vegan or vegetarian, but not just because she’s surrounded by vegetable gardens.

“It’s difficult to get free range or organic meat here,” she admits.

“They’ve got loads of amazing meat in the East Neuk where I spend a lot of time, but then we’re venturing into the Kingdom of Fife and not Angus.

“If I’m going to use meat, I want it to be good and nothing processed.”

Chef Elaine standing in an archway in the Hospitalfield gardens.
Elaine describes her first year at Hospitalfield as “crazy in a good way”. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Finding high quality meat isn’t the only struggle the head chef has encountered since coming to Hospitalfield last year. Like many others in the hospitality sector, she’s struggled to find skilled staff.

She talked a friend into moving up from Suffolk for the summer who is now a permanent chef, doubling the size of the kitchen team.

With the supper clubs, Elaine – the chef to 90s London – hopes the duo can draw a different crowd to the grounds.

“I’m most looking forward to meeting the people that come,” she says.

“It’ll be interesting to see the diversity. Who will be our guests at our first ever banquet? We’re looking forward to meeting new people and learning more about the food audience of the region.

“As long as people enjoy it, that’s the most important thing.

“For me, considering what I used to do, Hospitalfield is a massive change and a big step, and I’m glad I did it.”