Secret Garden Supper Club specialises in pop-up fine dining experiences set in secret locations on the French Riviera. These extraordinary gastronomic events offer unique opportunities to taste the edible flowers, wild herbs and seasonal produce of the region and to discover the savoir-faire and craftsmanship of local artisans. We talk to Imogen Bailey, the founder of Native Native, who quit her life in London and found her love for the provincial life in France. Fortunately, she decided to share the best the Riviera had to offer through the multi-sensorial experience that is the Secret Garden Supper Club.
With a background in PR and events in both London and Paris, you launched Native Native, your own event design and styling studio. Is there anything that defined your work and style?
I’ve always enjoyed making things by hand, collecting vintage treasures and seeking out unusual places to visit when I travel. I always knew that I wanted to integrate these things into my approach to event design and they have come to define the style of my work today. My design philosophy is based on crafting sensory experiences, which bring people together by tickling the taste buds as well as the imagination.
Tell us a little about the conception of the idea and the opening of the Secret Garden Supper Club.
When I moved to the French Riviera a year ago I felt inspired by the natural landscape and botanical diversity of my new home. I live in a village away from the hustle and bustle of the city and discovered lots of fresh produce grown by farmers just up the road.
Secret Garden Supper Club was born from a desire to shake up the fine dining scene in the French Riviera by creating events that celebrate the incredible ‘terroir’ of the region – where seasonal produce comes from, its exceptional flavours and forgotten local recipes. I’ve been lucky enough to find a team of talented artisans who shared my vision and who have helped make the Secret Garden Supper Club come to life.
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How would you describe the Secret Garden Supper Club experience?
When designing each Secret Garden Supper Club my goal is to treat guests to a sensory experience. It’s essentially about the pleasure of enjoying an unforgettable meal of incredible seasonal ingredients set in beautiful surroundings, which is shared by new friends seated around the same table.
What was the reasoning for making each of these locations a secret?
The French Riviera is a destination that is renowned for its glitz and glamour and I want to shed a light on some of the places that are a little bit off the beaten track. Each dinner is set in a beautiful venue, which isn’t normally used for fine dining and is kept a secret right up until the morning the event takes place. The unexpected theme is woven into the design of each dining experience because we like treating guests to surprises!
You say you fell in love with the French Riviera and wanted to share this beauty with others. But what would you say is your favourite thing about the French Riviera?
When I moved here a year ago, I quit London for a lovely village in the sunshine and wasn’t sure what my new life would entail. The relationship with my surroundings is a strong source of inspiration as I enjoy taking the less travelled road – I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed into beautiful homes, have taken a peek into artists’ studios and met gatekeepers to hidden gardens in the region. I love it!
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The Secret Garden Supper Club team is made up of local talents such as Julie Guittard, Nice Plume, Romain Forini and Kalice Brun. What do you think these people specifically bring to the dining experience?
Unlike eating out in a restaurant, the concept of Secret Garden Supper Club is to put local artisans at the heart of the experience. Each dinner is like listening to an orchestra where everyone in the team has their own rhythm and style but we work together to create a harmony – that’s when the magic happens.
Guests are treated to a menu of edible flowers, wild herbs and local recipes that have been created by the chef, Kalice Brun. Each dish is paired with a natural wine carefully selected by the sommelier, Romain Forini. On arrival guests are greeted by a table adorned with menus and place cards created by calligraphy artist Nice Plume, and spectacular floral centrepieces of seasonal blooms and wild foliage designed by florist Julie Guittard. Beyond our pop-up dinners, I’m really excited about the workshops we are launching this autumn!
What are the biggest factors to consider when creating the right ambience?
When designing a fine-dining experience I start by focusing on the five senses. Every detail counts: from the decorations, tablescape design, to the food and atmosphere, so that each element contributes perfectly and achieves a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. We welcome strangers from all walks of life to come and have a meal together and we do our best to make them feel at home.
Is the Secret Garden Supper Club something you consider setting up in other places in the future? If so, where?
We have some exciting events planned on the French Riviera this autumn but who knows, we may be popping up elsewhere in future!
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