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Guest Blog Post by Ruth Rosselson – “The Hungry Gecko” Review

December 5, 2011

I’ve seen a number of supper clubs and foodie events spring up around Manchester recently, and while I’ve loved the idea of getting together with a bunch of strangers to bond over tasty food, I’ve often felt left out or uninspired by the vegetarian menu on offer. So when I saw a tweet last week advertising places at Hungry Gecko’s Supper Club, I was really keen to give it a try. Hungry Gecko is run by Jackie Kearney, a finalist from TV’s Masterchef. Never having seen the programme ever, this wasn’t what attracted me as much as the 100% vegetarian Asian-inspired menu, which had me salivating, and immediately pinging an email off to Jackie to book my place.

Conveniently, Jackie runs Hungry Gecko from her lovely Chorlton home, meaning that I didn’t even have to go far. So, at 7.30 my partner Justin and I arrived at what was essentially a stranger’s house, for dinner with a bunch of other strangers! A Hungry Gecko sign by the front door and a few night lights on the steps reassured us that we’d got the right house, and we knocked on the door.

Lee, Jackie’s partner, opened the door with a friendly smile and welcomed us in. We hung up our coats and ventured into the warm kitchen and dining area. We met the first other guest and Justin accepted a mango lassi cocktail, which I declined on account of not being majorly fond of yoghurt drinks.  It turned out that while the club the night before had been full (the maximum number Jackie caters for is 12), this evening was going to be a more intimate affair as there had been fewer bookings than usual and a couple of cancellations.

The other three guests arrived, and we sat down to dinner, Lee ably serving us, while Jackie worked away in the kitchen.  The five course menu was impressive; Jackie’s own take on Asian street food. Starting with an amuse bouche of ‘sweet & sour popcorn tofu’, this set the standard for the rest of the meal; it was both beautifully presented and delicious. With Buddha noodle soup as the main starter, there was a danger that I’d be full before the main course turned up, but the portion was just the right size. Thankfully it was small enough to ensure I wasn’t too satiated, but still big enough to enjoy. I loved the fact that it was jam-packed full of different flavours, yet none totally dominated the palate.

The main course – a Balinese lemongrass skewer of tempe & tofu accompanied by jasmine rice and Jackie’s own take on sate – posed me with a dilemma. I’m not that great with spicy food, especially chilli. However, I absolutely love sate! So I found myself with a burning tongue and a sweaty forehead, yet unable to resist dipping the rice and tempe into the delicious sauce, which Jackie had thoughtfully served separately for us chilli-lightweights.

The Hungry Gecko Supper Club

The Hungry Gecko Supper Club

The ‘pre-dessert’ consisted of a duo of jackfruit & mango sorbet and lime & coconut sorbet. Delicious and delicately flavoured, they satiated my usual craving for something sweet after my savoury course. However, there was still one more dessert course to come: a pear and frangipane pastry served with vanilla and star anise ice-cream.  Despite being pretty full, I could not resist.  Jasmine tea, coffee or chai were the final offerings of the meal, but by then I’d had enough exotic flavour combinations and opted for a hot water with lemon.

At £29 per head, the Hungry Gecko is not a cheap outing, but it is good value. As a vegetarian, there’s nothing I hate more than paying for an unimaginative meal, especially a dish which I could have made perfectly adequately (or sometimes better) at home.  I can definitely NOT say either of those things about Jackie’s cooking. While I might be able to make a passable sate, or a simple noodle soup, it’s obvious that Jackie’s knowledge of spices and flavours is far superior to mine and I simply do not have the patience to be bothered with the beautiful presentation and fine details that all the dishes had.

Although the evening wasn’t the social occasion that I had hoped – two shy teenage guests meant that conversation wasn’t always flowing as much as it might have done – it was definitely a novel, fun and most delicious way to spend an evening. With the slightly larger numbers that Jackie’s used to catering to, it would have been an ideal Saturday night adventure. Hungry Gecko is not just food for vegetarians – it’s food for everybody.
Next dates: Thurs 15th Dec ,Fri 16th Dec, Fri 6th Jan,  Sat 7th Jan

Words and image by Ruth Rosselson

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