Find a Supper Club

Find out where and when is your local underground restaurant/pop up/supper club

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About this group

I'm MsMarmitelover. I started this group as a central place for people to find their local supperclub whether here in the UK or for when you go abroad. It's also a space for supperclubs to chat, share problems, successes, menus, recipes, anxieties and cock-ups!
Enjoy and add me as a friend when you register. So if I'm away or busy writing or cooking I may take a little while to reply but I will get there, don't worry!


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**** Please read ***

MsMarmite welcomes you to Find a supper club

This site has been created by me to showcase all the supper club and pop up events in the UK and worldwide.

This site is open to supper clubs, home restaurants, underground restaurants, pop ups and their guests. If you want to know more about supper clubs, as a guest or a host, then buy my beautiful book: 'Supper Club: recipes and notes from The Underground Restaurant' by Kerstin Rodgers (aka MsMarmitelover) (Harper Collins). 

We have assembled lists of all the supper clubs, pop ups and underground restaurants that we know of in the world. To access these lists, you must join.

If you would like your supper club featured in the either The London list, the UK list or the worldwide list, please message me msmarmitelover directly with the name of your supperclub, a link to your website, where the supperclub is and optionally a very short description.

Please take a look at our Rules and Guidelines before joining. 

Thanks for your co-operation and welcome to Find a Supper Club! Happy eating!

Kerstin Rodgers/MsMarmite


Blog Posts

Advice on supper clubs and pop ups from Simply Business.

Posted by msmarmitelover on December 7, 2016 at 11:09 0 Comments

Insurance, tax and advertising: 6 things to keep in mind for your pop-up restaurant or supperclub

Planning on starting your own pop-up restaurant or supperclub? Here are six things to keep in mind before you take the…


In conversation with ingredients specialist Nicola Lando of

People complain about too many ingredients in recipes, or that they're overly exotic. But I like to push the envelope in terms of ingredients, and the more cookbook authors do that, the more likely it is that supermarkets will stock them. Indeed, in my first book Supper Club, which came out in 2011, I talked about yuzu (citrus) and ponzu (soy sauce with citrus), which was a struggle to get hold of even in Japanese shops. Today it is possible to buy yuzu juice in large supermarkets and you can even get the fresh fruit in New Covent Garden.

The internet makes it much easier to get hold of rare ingredients. I often order mine from Amazon or, more regularly, an incredible website called based in North London. This was set up in 2012 by two city people with an enormous interest in food - Nicola Lando and her husband Nick. I went to have a browse around their warehouse and spoke to Nic just before they won an Observer Food Monthly prize for Best Independent Retailer.

I snacked on Danish liquorice, chocolate cigarillos and Spanish truffled crisps in their office while we chatted about their business, the food world, ingredients and future trends.

Nicola Lando of Sous Chef, London

How do you find your ingredients?
When I first started, I picked the best-known cookbooks from the world cuisines and top restaurants.

How many cookbooks did you buy? 
I already owned most of them.

Have you got an amazing collection? I've heard Diana Henry owns 10,000 cookbooks.
Not that many. I'm not sure.

I don't know. My wall is smaller than Diana Henry's. I'll give you an estimate. I'll go home and count the shelves. Probably about five bookcases. How many have you got?

I've not counted them either. They are all over my house, in the toilet, everywhere. I've probably got about a thousand.
How many would you be buying a week to end up with 10,000 over how many years of food writing?

She probably gets them sent for free. Some of mine are sent for free. I still spend an awful lot of money on them. So you had tons and tons of cookbooks?
I went through them all, with a spread sheet and the cookbook by my side, and worked out which ingredients you couldn't buy on the high street. All the ingredients in columns over the top. Then a tally of the most common, the most frequently used unusual ingredients.

At the start it was trying to find which companies imported into this country, which ones I could get over here or not. I spent ages reading Chowhound and eGullet which were bigger then than now. I read lots of the American food press, the British food press. Often cookbooks mention specific brands. I would contact the manufacturer directly, try to get it over here.

That was the core foundation of the range. Since then it's grown more organically. I go to the different trade fairs around the world that ingredient producers go to.

Which is the best one?
The biggest is Sial in Paris.

Can anyone go?
It's trade. You could probably go.

Is it fascinating?
It's all food. Not just speciality ingredients. There is a hall of butchery and butchery supplies... palettes of processed chicken. At Sial you'll see anything, from bulk importers to a stall with one spice to someone making a deal over hundreds of gallons of milk.

There's a German one; they alternate every two years. America has fancy food shows. There's lots of homeware innovation shows, which have speciality food.

If you see an ingredient on a stall that you like, how much do you order? Can you order in small amounts? Do you just give it a try then order more?
If we can, we'll try a little bit at first. We are a small business.

I remember thinking when you started, 'what a brilliant idea'.
I started because it was a shop that I needed. You never know if other people have the same problem until you start. And it seems like people do need this.

Are you successful? Are you making a profit?
We make a living. We are growing.

How many products do you have now?
3,000. Jordi, our buyer, will order another 500. One in, one out. Some ingredients I order for fun, they don't sell but they satisfy my culinary curiosity.
I've been doing all the buying, all the marketing. I was even doing all the product photography until about a year ago. Until 12 months ago, this business was only five people.

I was always impressed that you personally would reply to my emails to your marketing mail outs.
Yes and the person whose name is on the order is the person who packed your order.

I kind of know that pretty much any ingredient I want, you are going to have.
Really? That's good. Let me know if there is anything we don't have. Unless it's fresh.

I'm an ingredients freak anyway. Cookbook authors should put at least a few unknown ingredients in their books. Supermarkets are obviously looking at cookbooks and ordering things in.
Yes for instance Nigella Lawson wrote about pomegranate molasses in 1995. It's not a recent thing.

Yes, so she's been plugging away about it for some time.
Obviously there's a difference between London supermarkets and elsewhere.

That's why Souschef is perfect. You can be living anywhere in the UK and you can get it.
Being able to cook from a cuisine and reimagine it in your home means you need to have the ingredients. For instance, Korean cooking: you are not going to be able to recreate Korean flavours unless you have the ingredients.

Most of these ingredients last a long time. The sauces don't go off. I don't know why people complain. I know Deliciously Ella was very 'I don't use unusual ingredients'.
I think you'd really get on with Symmetry Breakfast. You are the only two that I've met where I've just thought, 'you know so much about ingredients'.

As a blogger, we have been superseded by the Instagrammers. A paragraph of hashtags has taken precedence over a thoroughly researched piece. Now the Observer Food Monthly has removed the award for best food blogger and replaced it with Best Instagrammer.
Really? I look at Instagram.

I use all of it. Clerkenwell Boy I've met once. He's now being treated as some kind of food guru. He may know about food, I don't know. That whole Observer thing of jumping on trends, everything's about money and aspiration. I'm quite suspicious of all that. That's why I like blogging, it democratised food writing. Anyone could get into it. But now it's gone back to the money thing.
People thought books would be over. Everyone thought people would move onto Kindle. But they aren't. People like to have books. People want to spend time reading.

People buy books as gifts. What do you think of clean eating? Now clean eating is very over. 
Have you seen this book? It's entirely purées, the whole book is purées.

Baby food. 
Which is bizarre because babies no longer eat purée.

Don't they?
I've got a nine month old. The last few years, purée has gone out of fashion for babies. They now eat normal food. The advice is that they should eat what you are eating. Also, they can just sit there. You don't have to feed them. I don't have to force a spoon into his mouth.

How interesting that this has changed.
Funny thing is with clean eating, all the products have come out this year [2016]. This year, it was mainly raw chocolate, kale crisps and avocado smoothies, just everything with the healthy eating buzzwords. The products have lagged the trend a little bit.

Publishing is so slow. If I sign a book deal today, it'll be two years before it comes out. Why is it so slow? 
No idea. They are often printed in China. How long does it take you to write a book?

It depends. The last three I did in 18 months. At the time I was broke so I just ploughed on through it. Half killed me. Diana Henry told me she gets about two years for each book. 
When you have to do everything - testing, writing - six months per book isn't much. How's the vegan one doing?

Not bad. Have you sold many here at Souschef?
Quite well.

The cookbook sets are good, aren't they?
We are changing our book range a little bit. More world ones, which are discounted much less heavily. Diana Henry's latest book is £25 retail and £10 on Amazon. Books are cheaper on Amazon. We buy from the publisher for more than that.

Have either of you got a food background?
Nick doesn't. I did a months course at Leiths when I was 18. When I was working in my last job, I read The soul of a chef by Michael Ruhlman. It's just fascinating, it's complete obsession, lots of interest in French classics. I just loved it. I found it thrilling. So I started cooking a lot myself.

What year was that? 
2009. I went travelling before that. A bit of a waste really, I just enjoyed dinner. Now, I desperately cling onto food memories and taste everything obsessively so I can make it at home. Such a lot of wasted memories.

That's how I learnt to cook too. Also travelling is one of the few times you can afford to eat out. 
I went to South East Asia. Why can't I remember what was in those noodle soup bowls?

Do you still travel?
Yeah, I do.

When you go on holiday, would you go somewhere with a great food culture or just go to say Torremolinos?
Yes. Last year I spent two weeks in Japan, America, probably Korea, Italy a couple of times. Some of it is purely for leisure, but I'm always interested in products. I'm peering at the supermarkets. Buying things. You must do that.

Where is the next place you want to go?
I'd love to go to Mexico, learn all about that cuisine. There's so much more to learn in Japan. You could spend all of your life in learning about food in Japan. I'd love to go back to Korea again. I'd love to go to Taiwan.

Is it very distinct?
No, it's very similar to Chinese food but with the quality of Japanese food. Taiwanese can be better quality in terms of food brands. Japanese is always thought to be of the highest quality.

What new and exciting ingredients have you got coming up?
In Japan I'm thinking more about matcha drinking.

(I whisper) I don't really like it.
It's supposed to be so bitter. The whole thing is you have it with these very, very sweet sweets. That's the concept. It's a bit like a sauna: from the super hot to the ice cold.

So it's the contrast that is satisfying?
Yes, and the ceremony around it, and the beauty, and the frothing. Coffee is very bitter. It's not that dissimilar. We want to bring in coffee.

Some things we know will sell. Some things we bring on, and I think this is a brilliant ingredient but then only half a person buys it and I buy the rest. And then I'm not allowed to bring it in again.

What else?
American BBQ. It's still going to be big. We've started taking the smoky flavours and we've started eating this food out. Over the next 5 to 10 years, it's just going to get bigger.

Activated charcoal. We are getting that in.

Japanese food. Japan is big. Although our customers are sophisticated, people are still interested in sushi-making. People are starting to become more specific about the ingredients they want. Before it was dipping sushi in soy sauce. Now they want more than basic soy sauce: is it whole bean? Is it aged?

We suggest to them, why don't you try this better quality sushi rice? Rice has a 12-month shelf life in Japan. It takes 6 months to come out of Japan. The radiation problems have slowed the whole process. Then two months in a warehouse here. By the time it's got here, you've got a couple of months to sell it. But we sold out of it very quickly. We didn't even talk about it. The grains are so short and polished.

You can turn them into a necklace or something... use them as teeth.
You realise that even plain rice of that quality is so good to eat.

Balsamic vinegar. That's going to carry on.

Do you sell gigantes beans?
No one bought them. British people won't spend money on pulses. 2016 was the year of the pulse, but the British won't try expensive beans, which are so much better. Middle Eastern food is still big. It's that relaxed way of eating. Beautiful big salads. Dinner becomes more casual.

One thing I can't buy in this country is good artichoke hearts. 
We can get them, but they are expensive. Where did you get yours?

In Sicily. The only equivalent I've seen was in Borough market and it was £17 a jar. 
That's the issue. It would have been £17.

In Sicily it cost about 4 Euros. I ordered some Spanish ones off the internet, but they were mushy. Then I read in the Brindisa book that the Spanish like them more squidgy. The Sicilian ones were tight little buds. So gorgeous. I ate them for breakfast.

Tell me more about your start. 
I left my job. I worked in venture capital. I had savings. I thought about lots of ideas. I wanted to do something in food, but that's difficult. It's my passion, therefore perhaps I shouldn't do it. I kept thinking, this isn't serious.

I think you were onto the zeitgeist. Now loads of people come from the City into food. You were one of the first.
I thought I should do something less enjoyable. I wanted to understand the restaurant business and the business environment. I wanted a business making veal stock, which I love, using a waste product, bones. I wrote to a bunch of restaurants and Gaulthier said 'yes sure, come and work here'.

I hurriedly wrote down all the things I might have to do in a restaurant: mayonnaise, hollandaise, making bread. I thought I had to learn how to do all of these. So I learn them quickly the day before. Fortunately on my first day they asked me to make a hollandaise sauce. I stayed for about three or four months.

Were you paid?
No, it was like a stage. I loved it. I asked the chef: so if one of my friends in their 30s wanted to be a chef. Not me, 'a friend'. He immediately said, oh they are far too old. In France you go straight to a kitchen at 16.

That's when you have the stamina.
I'd finish work at midnight, I'd be just dead. But I loved it. That's when I came up with the idea for Souschef. They had beautiful ingredients in the kitchen. And obviously they could get them. So I wanted to create that shop for me. I started working on it probably about March, June that year. By about September/October, I got the website developers.

What year was this?
2011. Then I got a website commissioned. Later that year Nick was made redundant. Which helped.

Was he keen on the idea?
Yes he was.

What does he do in the business?
Nothing. (Laughs.)
He's much more the operation side. Finance. Planning. Managing the warehouse.

You do the more creative stuff?
He enjoys that as well. We work very closely together. We are very collaborative, but we argued so much when we first started. Just in terms of having to make a decision. It took us about a year and a half to make our roles separate enough so we could just do our jobs. It's easy to have your roles overlapping too much.

You had your first child last year?

How old are you? 
I'm 36.

So you just pipped one out, in the nick of time. Would you like to have more?
I'd like to, I think. He's very sweet.

You like him?
Yes. I didn't expect to. It'll be great when he's in his 20s and he'll bring friends home who I can cook for.

In your late teens and early 20s, you stop cooking because you're going out. I wrote about this in my book Get Started in food writing. My daughter, when I was her age, we went to gigs and clubs. Now young people go out to eat together. 
Breakfast and lunch is cheaper than dinner. No alcohol. No desserts.

Is it weird that you are both called Nic(k)?
I can tell by the tone of voice that someone is using which one of us they are calling.

Is it confusing? It's a bit like Sam and Sam (two married chefs) of Moro.
It's ridiculous they are both called Sam. (Laughs.)

We take a look at the warehouse downstairs. I'm in heaven: shelves and shelves of interesting things. Japanese pottery, copper coffee filters, tiny bottles filled with pea-sized scarlet chillies, small jars of crystallised flowers.

Just before I leave, Nicola gives me a bag, like a rice sack, of products to take home. I love the sack, it's fashionably utilitarian but also stylish.

You should make those into bags. Just stick handles on them. 
Great idea!

Here is a list of what she gave me:
  • Truffle crisps to take home, oily and crunchy and moreish. You end up licking the salt off your fingers.
  • Valrhona 'Lait Carmelia' milk chocolate. Nicola says you can eat lots of this without feeling sick.
  • Kikkoman raw unpasteurised soy sauce. They've brought out raw 'Nama' soy sauce with whole beans. This is very interesting, unpasteurised, with a greater depth of flavour. 
  • Verjuice. Subtler than vinegar.
  • Violet sugar. Not healthy but pretty.
  • Christine Ferber Jams. She is renowned in France as one of the best jam makers. Her family makes them in Alsace. She was Alain Ducasse's pastry chef. Every morning she has her copper cauldrons and she's tending them. Everything is hand-made. I ordered strawberry jam and got the response 'Christine will make you some this week'. It's a much softer set with big pieces of fruit. Eat within eight days once opened - you'll get through that in three pieces of toast. When I compare them with Bonne Maman... there is no comparison.
  • Truffle paste. I love this paste. On a cracker with a sliver of parmesan.
  • Hot smoked Paprika from Spain. The tin is so pretty. Piquante.
  • Sardines. Really nice. So big and plump. I love the tins, which are a trend.
  • Salted cherry blossom. Put them in rice when it's cooking to add flavour. Plus it's pretty. But rinse it first, or it's too salty...
  • Peppers. We are really into pepper. Vietnamese Kampot. Nepalese Timut, really fruity. Long pepper is powerful and pungent. It's hard to grind because it's so big. Cubeb is very clovey. 
  • Midas Japanese Stoneware dish. Gorgeous mother of pearl colours. 
  • Chocolate Covered Cigarillos. These have been flying out the door.
  • Salted Liquorice sweets. I'm addicted to these.
Later Nicola emailed me. She'd counted and she had "a paltry 600-700 cookbooks". I still haven't counted mine.

What does Vogue eat?

The Hatch cafe at Vogue House.

Tony Batalho, The Hatch at Vogue House
salad bar at The Hatch at Vogue House
Salad, sandwiches, cakes and chocolate.The Hatch at Vogue House
The Hatch at Vogue House
The Hatch at Vogue House
I went to interview the Vogue House in-house café owner Tony Batalha of The Hatch to find out what kind of things Condé Nast staff eat. (It's called The Hatch because they used to have a serving hatch in the wall. Just sayin', I love a serving hatch.)
I've spent 23 years working at Condé Nast so far. Before I worked for someone else, but then I took over.
What's the most popular meal here?
Avocado and smoked salmon on dark rye bread.
Is that what the models eat? Can you tell when they are models?
No. Everybody looks like a model in this building.
How many portions of avocado a day do you sell?
We sell avocado all day long. At least 32 portions a day of avocado on toast.
What other dishes are popular?
We have some traditional Portuguese bread, pao casero. House bread, made of rye, and the Portuguese custard tart.
I've noticed there are some cakes here. Who eats the cakes in Vogue House?
Tony laughs and shakes his head.

I look at the dishes on the menu; specials are posted overhead.

You started the courgetti about a year ago? Due to popular demand?
Yes. It's very popular. They like it with meat, like spag bol with courgettes. They want low fat.
And people don't want carbs. Who is eating all these carbs then?
That is a secret.
Tony and his assistant giggle.

Secret carb eaters?
In the morning, people are very worried about calories; they are very careful. But by the afternoon, they don't care. That's when they eat the chocolate.
Are there many vegetarians and vegans?
A few but not a lot. Not really. 
Do you get the editor of Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, coming in?
Is she a Twix woman?
Normally she takes some nuts.
So she's quite healthy?
Yes, and she likes a tricolore salad: avocado, mozzarella, tomato.
What about famous people? Do you get them in here?
Yes, sometimes. We don't ask them. We don't know them. They aren't dressed up.
Have you got any plans for this place?
In January, House & Garden is going to do this place up. Change the cutlery, put in banquette seating, more tables. 
At the moment there are only two tables off to the side, although there is a wall of work by famous photographers. Mostly people eat at their desk.
Water is very popular as a drink. We sell 10 to 15 boxes a week, and each box has 12 bottles.
Tony explains:
We have two seasons. In the winter, we make soups and jacket potatoes. All are homemade, freshly made. We have pea and ham; butternut; basil and tomato. Also porridge in the winter. 
In summer, it's salad and juice. We sell at least 20 green juices a day. I had a deal where you got 10 juices a week. A diet plan. Carrot, orange, apple and ginger goes well.
But around here we have too much competition, with Pret and Eat and Caffè Nero. People come here when they have five minutes, grabbing something to eat at their desks. And people are careful with money since Brexit.
I thought they were all rich here.
No. Even people in Vogue House are being careful.
marmite on toast, The Hatch at Vogue House

Tony serves me Marmite on toast. It's fantastic. The bread is similar to Poilane - thin, sour, chewy, with caramel notes - and covered with melted salty butter and Marmite. Then I try the homemade tomato and basil soup. Fresh, thick and hearty, it's perfectly seasoned.

I meet a slim, fashionably dressed young woman from editorial. 'This Marmite on toast is so good,' I say to her, mouth half-full.
I can't eat bread. I can't do gluten. 
Are you coeliac?
No... but I find it makes me bloat.
She then pays by credit card for a courgetti dish.

You even accept credit cards, Tony?
Yes! And I have a credit list. 
Is there anyone that owes a lot of money?

Tony laughs.
We get it docked from their wages.
I think he's joking. Do you do Portuguese coffee? I order 'um galao'.
Yes, we do, but they want flat white here. They want Australian coffee. I can do galao but it's very milky, which they don't want.
juice menu, The Hatch at Vogue House

Searching for pibil in the Yucatán

cochinita pibil de Julio, Holbox ,Yucatan, Mexico

cochinita pibil de Julio, Holbox ,Yucatan, Mexico
cochinita pibil stall at Holbox market, Yucatan, Mexico
cochinita pibil de Julio, Holbox, Yucatan, Mexico
Donde esta la casa de Julio?
I asked again, this time at Holbox's only gay bar. I'd wandered down the starless flooded back street, stepping over sleeping dogs like furry puddles, looking for this mythical house, the only house in Holbox, a tiny island a few miles from Cancun, that makes pibil. Pibil is a Mayan oven where food, usually pig, is cooked for hours on a low wood fire. It's Saturday night, around 11pm.

I knocked on Julio's door. No lights were on. Eventually a tiny woman in a cotton Mayan dress answers, blinking.
Hay Julio aqu? Es la casa de Julio?
She hesitates. Eventually:
Soy una jornalista de Inglaterra, especialista en la comida. Soy aquí por descubrir la cocina de Yucatán. La gente me dijo que Julio hace la cochinita aquí. (I am an English journalist, specialising in food. I'm here to discover Yucatan cooking. People told me that Julio makes cochinita pibil here.)
She nods. But doesn't move.
Se puede verla? Quiero sacar fotos. (Can I see it? I want to take photos).
She shuts the door. I'm not sure what's happening. Is that a no? I wait. Eventually a brown man with a kind face cracks open the door.

I do my spiel, adding that I'm here to cover the gastronomic festival in Holbox but also want to find out about traditional Mayan cooking techniques. Julio comes out, closing the door behind him, and leads me around the side of the house where a mutt is dozing, round to the back, which is black as a moonless night. I follow his sombre form through to an open roofed room at the back of his yard. Julio whisks off a giant metal lid. Underneath a half-metre wide pot is bubbling with white pork fat over a concrete semi-circular oven. I move around to see the fire. Julio kicks a log further into the flames.

He then shows me a tray of rich ochre liquid.
'Muy saborosa,' he growls, eyes blinking with sleep.
I'm holding my camera and a light, I have no hands free. He sticks his finger into the dripping liquid and feeds it to me, placing his stubby finger directly in my mouth. This is discomfitingly intimate but I don't want to be rude by flinching. I nod enthusiastically:
'Muy rico.' (Very rich/tasty.)
This is a mixture of achiote, bitter orange juice, onions, salt and spices. Julio pours the tray into the cauldron, stirring and smiling.

The tiny woman is his wife Alejandra, who is no more than 4' 5". All the Mayans are tiny. I'm all for small podgy people. They are my tribe. Us shorties need to stick together. Mexican hobbits.

I let them go back to bed. Cochinita in a pibil oven is a once-a-week treat on Sundays. In the morning I see them at the market with their daughter. They promise to make me a vegetarian pibil next time.

I came across another pibil stall, but they'd made it in Cancún and transported it here to Holbox island. There was a queue. My favourite thing is the big buckets of pink pickled onions that garnish every dish, plus the habanero tamulado sauce.

There was only one problem with this pibil: it didn't take place in an underground oven. Which means it isn't totally authentic. I get my chance later, when staying on the mainland, in Coba, a jungle town around a lake.


pyramid, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
cenote, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
cenote, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
cenote, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
Coba is famous for Mayan ruins, pyramids that are sickeningly steep to ascend and cenotes, fresh water pools, many underground. I cycle nine kilometres to the most dramatic cenote, a vast turquoise cavern accessible via a slippery wooden circular stairway several floors down.

On the way I see smoking fires deep in the jungle. Pausing, I wonder if they are making a pibil. It was a bank holiday, the sort of day where a family would prepare a feast.

On my return I park my bike by the side of the road and walk through the trees, broken up by slanting green shafts of sunlight. Smoking piles of leaves are everywhere. I call out.
aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
A short handsome man in his early 30s walks towards me. He's happy to show me around, explaining:
We are a group of six families setting up a typical Mayan village here in the jungle. We want to explain our culture to tourists, so you are our first tourist.
He shows me a smoking pile of leaves.
We are cooking pumpkin here, pibil-style. It should be ready now.
With a friend they shovel off the dirt, then the hot stones and burning embers, finally tearing off the banana leaves and revealing around 25 whole pumpkins of different sizes.
digging up a pibil oven, aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
calabaza cooked in pibil, aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
How long did it take to cook?
One hour 20 minutes.
Which seems remarkably precise. Are all of these smoking mounds pibil ovens? I ask, waving my hand.
Many of them, but some are just smoke to keep the mosquitos away.
Cooking pumpkins in this way means the flesh is sweet and dense. We serve them with honey and a pumpkin seed sauce.
calabaza, pumpkin cooked in pibil, aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
We walk further into the forest, where men and women are building a hut: making a thatched roof from palm leaves tied together with jungle ropes. Everyone speaks Mayan - Spanish is a second language. I use my one Mayan phrase: Iin kaabai Christina. I am called Kerstin.
Building a house takes a month. We cut the trees during the new moon, otherwise the insects eat it and turn it into dust. 
aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
aldea maya, coba, Yucatan, Mexico
His grandparents rested on hammocks while children ran around. The entire family is there.
We are also building a well, so we are completely self-sufficient here. Dig down 17 metres anywhere in the jungle and there is water. We have 5 metres more to dig. Do you know this tree?
He points to a tree with black resin on the bark.
This tree 'Chechem' burns you but we use it as medicine. 
In English this is known as Poisonwood. The tar will burn your skin. He then points to another tree: 
These are jungle bees, they are very rare now. They are so vulnerable; they don't even have stingers. 
We watch the bees cluster around a kind of bark pipe sticking out of a tree.
The honey is in the tree. If the bees are attacked they close up the opening, as that's their only defence.
stingless Yucatan honey bees
He gives me a blistered pumpkin to take back to my hotel for dinner. I'm staying at the Coqui Coqui Coba residence hotel, which only has two rooms. Each of them are in different wings, that is two pyramids joined by a rope bridge. It's a long climb up. The hotel seems ancient but it's fairly new. Every aspect of it is beautifully designed: from the stone bath tub to the handmade toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, insect repellent and eau de toilette. This place was started by perfumer Nicolas Malleville and his wife, an interior designer. There is a perfumerie where scents made from local ingredients are captured under tall glass domes: vanilla, orchid, jungle honey, Mexican roses from Valladolid, sandalwood, tabacco, agave, orange blossom.

I gave the calabaza to the chef, who gave me half and the rest was shared by the hotel staff. I have dinner on my own at a white linen clothed table, at the top of my pyramid room, on the terrace. I ate it as I watched the sunset, the bats flying from the tree, the crocodiles slinking around the lagoon, the crickets rubbing their legs. The steaming pumpkin, served on a platter covered by a silver dome, was sweet and smokey. The rare honey wasn't thick like normal honey, but almost watery and savoury, sweet with lemony notes.

hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico
a jungle tree, hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico
,my room, hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico
hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico
bath hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico
breakfast hotel coqui coqui, coba, yucatan, Mexico

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