There are only two things one must remember when attending Dine Out Vancouver’s Secret Supper Soiree: your ticket and looking for a bright pink double-decker bus. Everything else, from the transportation, to the destinations, to what diners will eat and drink are secretly planned out for you—and that’s largely part of the fun.
I attended the first of four Secret Supper Soiree events on January 25 as a media guest. The series is presented by Swallow Tail Supper Club, which regularly hosts pop-up dinners and other food-related events around Metro Vancouver. This is the third year that Secret Supper Soiree has been a part of Dine Out Vancouver, so Swallow Tail owner Robin Kort, who is also a trained chef and sommelier, has had plenty of practice in the art of surprise.
About 60 guests—some dressed in suggested 1920s-1930s attire—boarded a bubblegum-hue double-decker outside Pacific Central Station at 6:30 p.m. After a brief introduction by Kort, Robert Poelvoorde of Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours told us about prohibition era in Vancouver. As we headed towards our first destination, Poelvoorde described how many Vancouverites were forced to obtain alcohol through doctor’s notes and drinking at speakeasies.
After about 15 minutes, our bus pulled up to a heritage house in the West End. Once inside, attendees were greeted with a variation of a Pimm’s Cup, made with muddled cucumber and mint, lemon, rosemary, and cherry cola; and two appetizers—deviled eggs and a creamy cauliflower velouté —prepared by chef of the evening Alvin Pillay, who is the development chef at the Donnelly Group.
After about half an hour, everyone piled back onto the bus, which headed towards Stanley Park. The second and final stop for the night was Brockton Cricket & Rugby Pavilion at Brockton Oval. The private sporting house was a perfect venue for the speakeasy-themed event. Once seated, diners enjoyed a three-course meal prepared by Pillay with wine pairings selected by Kort.
Dinner started with a winter green salad dressed with Braeburn apples, squash puree, and herb-red wine vinaigrette. The salad was paired with a white from the Similkameen Valley’s Clos du Soleil winery and provided a refreshing start to the meal. The second course was a roasted duck leg served with a rich parmesan polenta, crunchy Brussels sprouts, and a tart tomato puree. The dish was paired with another Similkameen Valley wine, a merlot from Orofino. The meal ended on a nice light note: a delicate panna cotta with blood orange marmalade and grapefruit. The dessert was paired with a gewürztraminer from Kelowna’s Sperling Vineyards, which had just the right amount of sweetness to offset the acidity in the dish.
Swallow Tail had one more surprise for attendees—a quick dance lesson and demonstration for those in the mood to let loose. At 10 p.m., it was time to leave the early 1900s-feel of the Secret Supper Soiree and head back into the 21st century.