Friday, 11 February 2011

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

MsMarmitelover's underground restaurant
Just over a week ago something incredibly exciting happened. I was invited to my very first PR event; a private screening of Eat Pray Love held at one of London's notorious secret supper clubs. 

Hopping off the tube at Kilburn station I wasn't sure what lay in store for me. Knowing no one, and having never attended one of these events I wasn't quite sure of the etiquette. Should I down the champers upon arrival for some dutch courage or remain sober and aloof? Should I join other journalists' conversations and risk interrupting or stand in the corner like a loner? I felt like a fraud - the only non-bonafide journo there, but then I reminded myself I'd earned my place at the table... quite literally. 

Still deep in thought I arrived at the venue feeling perplexed. From the outside it looked like your average London Victorian semi. Before I spun myself around to look for the real venue my eye caught a tiny note on the doorbell telling me I was at the right place - MsMarmitelover's underground restaurant. 

As the door opened I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. A corridor led through to a tiny, quaint dining room which looked as though it had been converted from a well-used family lounge just hours before. Journalists in suits and glamourous outfits stood around sipping champagne and networking - looking very relaxed in their surroundings compared the nervous wreck I felt. 

The famous kitchen...
A waitress dressed in a Victorian-style apron handed me a much-needed glass of champers and led me through to Msmarmitelover's amazing kitchen (which looked like something from a real life dolls house), where our menu was being prepped. There I met the infamous MsMarmitelover herself - a quirky, fun and bubbly host who talked me through her rise to internet stardom through her popular food blog; before opening the UK's first underground supper club (The Underground Restaurant) and founding the secret supper club movement

A product of the recession, the underground restaurant (or secret supper club) movement thrived where most businesses failed. The aftermath of the crash saw the birth of a brand new target market - those who still had a craving for fine dining  - but on the cheap. Fascinated, and feeling left out at having never heard of this apparent craze, I googled it on my return home. Not only was the internet awash with websites dedicated to the supper club revolution, there were also over 70 restaurants in London alone - one being at the end of my road! It seems they aren't quite as 'secret' as I'd first thought.

Going back to the event and numerous glasses of champagne later, I managed to pull myself together just in time for our three-course dinner to be served. Being an Eat Pray Love DVD screening, international fare was on the menu; and the we sampled cuisine from Italy, India and Bali. Pizza, curry and pineapple with ice cream to be more exact. Having dived for a table containing the group who looked most like they'd tolerate me, I felt slightly more at ease. And it turned out I was in good company. A writer from OK Magazine online. The editor of A lifestyle producer. I barely noticed the film was playing as we chatted, laughed, tweeted and hash-tagged frantically throughout our delicious starters, mains and desserts. 

Three courses, ten glasses of wine, eight Twitter followers and two new Facebook friends later, it was time to call it a night. My anxiety long gone, as I walked back towards the tube station I wondered why I'd been so worried. I realised my terror was based upon not being accepted as a 'real' journalist, but seeing MsMarmitelover's success has only strengthened my feelings of belief in myself. The digital revolution has provided a opportunity for those who  may never have got their lucky break otherwise - and I plan to grab it with both hands. After all, success is what you make of it.