This month, Swedish retailer Ikea joined the fast-moving foodie culture in Shoreditch by opening a pop-up do-it-yourself restaurant, The Dining Club. In existence for only 10 days, the ready-to-cook-in kitchen sourced fresh fruit and vegetables locally to give consumers the opportunity to host 20 of their friends at a time under a head chef
Set amongst many experimental pop-ups, Ikea’s The Dining Club took residence at the N&C Showrooms on Shoreditch High Street. Its mission was to help inspire people to rediscover the joy of the kitchen and cooking together with DIY sharing menus using raw foods, seafood, forest specialties such as venison and wild mushrooms, fresh fish from local lakes, rivers and the North Sea and meat, fruit and vegetable produce from surrounding farms. It opened from 10am-10pm, September 10-25 only and planned to up-skill guests’ everyday cooking by showing them techniques such as curing, pickling, smoking, poaching and even confit – all for free.
Using fruit and vegetables typical in Swedish food such as berries, and lingonberries in particular, beetroot, fennel and dill, the food assembled at the pop-up was designed to be shared, with dishes such as pickled and cured fish and meats, crispbreads and smorgasbord (cold and hot buffet), presented on Ikea wooden sharing boards.
PBUK: What did diners experience at The Dining Club?
IKEA: The Dining Club was fully immersive dining experience – a ‘Do-it-Yourself Restaurant’ where the diners ran the diner, becoming the star chefs in their very own restaurant. Under the expert supervision of a head chef, diners orchestrate an intimate foodie experience in a homely kitchen environment to mimic an actual dinner party, but one where they can host many more guests than usual.
We believe that the joy of cooking together is more than just creating food – it’s about building lasting memories, connecting and sharing. We bond and connect over the everyday process of cooking meals together. So to celebrate this firmly held belief, we opened The Dining Club to bring people together to enjoy a meal from beginning to end. This took place in an environment that reflects a homely kitchen, which can host a dinner party for all of your friends.
PBUK: What inspired the idea?
IKEA: The Dining Club has been created off the back of insights from our third annual Life at Home report, which is based on research commissioned by Ikea, external studies in various fields, interviews with academics and a quantitative survey conducted in 12 cities around the globe.
It showed that people are spending less and less time cooking and eating together. We found that 36% never eat in the kitchen or dining room during weekdays, 34% of people living alone wish they could eat together with others more often, and one in four young (18-29 year old) people living alone, believes social media makes it less lonely to eat alone.
PBUK: What were the menus like and how much fresh produce was included?
IKEA: Each meal in The Dining Club was bespoke according to which hero ingredients and style of cooking the host wanted to undertake with their guests. The food on offer was a mix between Swedish-inspired classics and modern Scandinavian cuisine. Starters included Carpaccio beef, horseradish, watercress and sorrel; Ceviche salmon and prawns, with rhubarb, coriander, dill and lemon; and Cucumber tartare salmon with beetroots, capers, chives and crème fraiche.
Mains featured dishes such as Pan‐fried Pollock with baked fennel, chorizo and saffron aioli; West coast fish & seafood stew with chives, new potatoes and fennel; or Confit pork belly with roast autumn vegetables, pickled cabbage and Skånsk mustard dressing. And desserts were Fruit & custard pies, Swedish eggy bread; and Rull tårta, which is a Swedish roly-poly.
PBUK: Where did you source fruit and vegetables from and do you have any particular sourcing policies?
IKEA: For fresh produce in The Dining Club restaurant and café, we worked with local producers to serve fresh food, which we really enjoyed doing, with low food miles in mind. There were many IKEA food ingredients included in the menu at The Dining Club, such as our crispbread and condiments. While Ikea does sell gravadlax for example, in The Dining Club we prepared it from scratch to allow guests to learn the skills and cook the meal from beginning to end. A lot of the Ikea food was available in the café adjoining The Dining Club.
Looking at Ikea’s wider sourcing policy, today Ikea has around 20 organic products in its Swedish Food Market – including coffee, pasta and chocolate, jam and ice tea and these items were used in The Dining Club. Non-Ikea produce served in The Dining Club was also organic where possible, and sourced from local suppliers. We continuously strive to have a greater amount of organic products in our food range. Over time, we will review all products to increase the amount of organic food across the UK.
Through our supplier quality assurance programme, we have required, since the start of this financial year, that our suppliers have the standards certified by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). These are followed up by third-party auditors. The GFSI is an industry-driven initiative providing thought leadership and guidance on food-safety management systems necessary for safety along the supply chain standard to ensure food safety and traceability.
PBUK: What feedback have you got from the diners on the menus and the experience?
IKEA: We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response. Many people identify with not being able to cook and eat with large groups of friends on a regular basis and have been excited by the opportunity to take part in The Dining Club. Many have commented on it being an experience like none other and there’s also been a lot of excitement about an Ikea café coming to Shoreditch.
PBUK: How popular was The Dining Club and do you think it has made people more in tune with kitchens or their aspirational kitchen?
IKEA: We’ve received many applications to host a DIY dinner party in The Dining Club and had extensive lists of people wishing to take part, so it’s proved to be a very popular initiative. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response, so are very much considering moving this across the UK and to other markets, but have no concrete plans at this stage. We think it’s definitely given people the courage they’ve been looking for to host and cook a dinner party, and elevate their food skills.