Roaming through the Gloaming – Supper Club at the Pavilion
The adventure begins on the edge of Bedford Park. It is, in January, the Park of Darkness. You have your torch and, if you're lucky, friends enough not to let the nearby graveyard overshadow your thoughts. At 7.00 pm the bandstand shines like a Victorian beacon, proud emblem of civic pride and town planning. At 7.00 pm the Pavilion, like a trim hunting lodge hidden in the forest, beckons the nocturnal traveller.
The greeting's warm, the long tables are filling with what look like familiar faces, faces glimpsed in the park, the Corn Exchange, the Higgins'. The air is convivial, there's a camaraderie found only in mess tents or polar ice stations. People have brought their own wine and beer, corkage is £3, glasses are filled. The first course arrives when all are seated: parsnip & celeriac soup with rustic bread. It's sweet, delicious, piping hot. The conviviality grows. The service is unobtrusive, smiling, efficient. There's the feeling that this is the dinner party you'd always planned to have and now it's effortlessly taking place around you. There's the opportunity to take in your surroundings: a Bohemian scout hut, a candlelit scene taken from a page of the Ladybird Book of Glamping.
The main course arrives: roast chicken breast in a wild mushroom sauce with griddled asparagus & sauté potatoes. The chicken is perfectly done, the asparagus has a wonderfully light smoky flavour, the mushrooms remind you of the wild woods outside with their earthy darkness. It's all delicately presented, as pleasing to the eye as it is to the belly. By 9.30 we're on to the pudding: white chocolate panna cotta with poached peaches and winter fruits. It's rich and subtle and beautifully assembled. As coffee and tea is being served people begin to move from one table to another. Friends are greeted, introductions are made. By 10.30 things seem to be winding down. Emma Garrett, in charge of the Pavilion, is on hand to field questions and say goodbye.
Is it all worth £25 a head? Yes, for the supper, care and camaraderie. They use seasonal, free-range and locally sourced ingredients, they're getting more people into the park by day and by night. Open on Wednesday and Friday evenings the menus – which are fixed – can be found on the Pavilion's website, Facebook page and Twitter account.
Written by Stephen Bywater
Head of English, Bedford Modern School