The making of a pop up pudding club
Foodie friends are creating a culinary buzz with their amazing food and hospitality
By Sarah Becker
“I feel like I’ve been let into a little secret and I don’t want to share it with anyone.”
Has anyone noticed a trend of pop up ventures in the UK?
Since the pandemic pop up ventures offering a range of experiences and products without the constraints of a full time lease are increasing.
The trend is set to continue in Northampton. Evolve Estates will soon be offering ‘micro shops’ to businesses within the Grosvenor Centre. Entrepreneurs will be able to open a retail or studio space without the constraints of a traditional shop lease.
Two Northampton entrepreneurs who have put their own stamp on the trend - taking over hospitality venues temporarily - are Jen Bowmaker and Sherrilyn Reynolds.
Jen, 38 and Sherrilyn, 44 from Northampton recently collaborated on a new co-venture named: The Pudding Hole.
NN Journal spoke to them to find out more about their popular new monthly pop up pudding club.
What is a pop up pudding night?
Sherrilyn said: “It’s when we take over a venue temporarily for an evening, usually a wine bar or restaurant.
“It’s a kind of pudding club where we provide five courses of sweet and savoury puddings.
“Depending on the venue, we usually cater to up to 60 people of different-sized parties ranging from one to eight.
“We start off with a savoury pudding e.g. a chicken suet pudding with vegetables, then we provide a sweet, often chocolatey pudding. The third dessert is lighter such as lemon mascarpone; the fourth is a more traditional pudding such as sticky toffee or bread and butter pudding and then we finish off the evening with cheese course. We try and buy cheese and chutneys from local producers and Jen makes the crackers.”
How did you start this co-venture?
Sherrilyn said: “The Pudding Hole is a new venture – we decided to try it just after Christmas and it has just snowballed.
“The first night we did was in February this year on Valentine’s Day at the Pop Up Place in Long Buckby. It did so well, it sold out in less than a week. Then we were in V and B Wine Bar in Northampton which was French themed. The following month we were at The Hoxley, a converted industrial unit in Daventry, for an Easter themed event.
“The fourth one sold out in 26 hours.
“We will be doing a gluten free pudding club night at Saints Coffee on May 16.”
What inspired the Pudding Club?
Jen said: “Aside from the fact that Sherrilyn loves puddings, we were both inspired by The Pudding Club in Cambridge - it’s a really old fashioned club with lots of traditional puddings like Spotted Dick, and Jam Roly Poly.”
Sherrilyn said: “I’d been speaking to The Pop Up Place in Long Bucky, and the owner had wanted us to do pizzas there, but it wasn’t practical - just trying to get the pizza oven over to Long Buckby intact was going to be a nightmare.
“I said ‘What about the cakes and bakes that I do?’ I really wanted to try the venture, but felt I couldn’t do it on my own so….”
Jen said: “Sherrilyn approached me one lunchtime in December with the idea for The Pudding Hole.”
Do you both have culinary backgrounds?
Jen said: “I had been a chef for years and years before opening my own restaurant The Bread and Pullet restaurant on the Wellingborough road in 2018.
“Then we went into Covid lockdown. We were doing takeaways to keep going. At that time, I was diagnosed with cancer so it made sense to sell the business. I’m now a chef in a restaurant in Milton Keynes as well as co-running this venture.”
Sherrilyn said: “I’ve been self employed for 20 years. I was running my own pre-school group and was a copy writer. When the pandemic hit, I had to find a different way of earning money.
“I had been doing different cakes and bakes for my group Rocking Rascals and the mums still wanted my cakes and bakes. So, as a lot of people did, I started my own cake making business. On top of this, my husband also had this idea of buying a pizza oven so I also began selling pizzas from my front door with the pizza oven in the back garden.
“We sold pizzas every Friday and we would sell out within the first night. That gave me food for thought. That was when I suggested to Jen we tried the Pop Up Pudding venture.”
Do the pudding nights take a lot of organisation?
Jen said: “They do but because it’s become a monthly event, we have four weeks to organise it and we work very well together.
“We know each other’s strengths – a big part of the concept is designing the menu to suit the venue that is hosting the club. We have to work within the space and equipment available.”
Do you keep coming up with new pudding ideas?
Sherrilyn said: “I think I have enough pudding ideas to last a lifetime.”
Which puddings are your best sellers?
Sherrilyn said: “It’s difficult to say as everybody generally eats everything. The brownie with salted caramel cornflakes and jam and the malted milk ice cream puddings went down a storm.
Jen said: “Pavlovas are always popular as are the cookie sandwiches.”
Sherrilyn said: “There is always a pudding that is a bit divisive, but we always want to test new puddings out on people. We recently introduced a hot cross bun pudding with homemade lemon curd and lemon mascarpone.
“We understand that not all the puddings will be everyone’s cups of tea but it gives people the opportunity to try different flavours. And if they don’t like a particular desert, they still have four more courses to sample. And because it’s sharing, people often swap their puddings with each other.”
How many people come to these nights?
Jen said: “Up to 60 people and we are selling out a month ahead.”
Why do you think they are so popular?
“I think they are something a bit different for people. We run them on a Tuesday and because people don’t normally have plans on a Tuesday, they are now coming to these events and looking forward to it. We don’t have to compete with events on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. I think it’s a sociable event that people can do once a month.
“We change the menu each month – we bring back some of the dishes, but the other desserts will be different.
“People have said: ‘I feel like I’ve been let into a little secret and I don’t want to share it with anyone.”
Do people come on their own?
Sherrilyn said: “So far only one person has come on their own but they are more than welcome to come on their own.”
Jen said: “At V and B wine bar, they had long tables, so if people wanted to come on their own we could put everybody on one table to mingle.”
Are people still coming despite the cost of living crisis?
Jen said: “I think Covid and the cost of living crisis has had an impact but I think people are picking and choosing where they eat out a bit more. The cost of living crisis is restricting some people but people feel as if they need to have a life. No matter how poor they feel, people still want to come out and socialise.
“Between our two businesses we built up a lovely following of people so when we launched this business, we took with us some of our favourite customers.”
What are your plans for the future?
Jen said: “In May we have a gluten free Saints pudding club which is sold out.
“In June we will be at the Ruby and Claret wine bar in Earls Barton. We have two tables left for that one.
“We have arranged pudding clubs for the next few months, but can’t say anything until venues have finally confirmed.”
The Earls Barton event is now sold out. Details of upcoming events by The Pudding Hole can be found on instagram
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