We love a rebel with a cause: In this case, the rebel is German designer-turned-chef Laurin Hackney, and his cause is bringing random people together over a home-cooked meal.
Hackney, along with furniture designer Travis Broussard, began serving drinks and small meals at a rogue daytime cafe in Berlin inspired by the leisure of a beer garden. When patrons began asking for evening meals, their higher calling—The Parlour Dinners—was born.
Soon, Hackney found a prewar apartment in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin and began inviting 30 guests into his living room every Thursday night. At first, the dinners were comprised of friends, then friends of friends, and eventually the evenings featured his desired motley crew. Guests sit on furniture designed by Broussard, at places set by Hackney's girlfriend, and dine on food prepared by Hackney himself. But The Parlour is not a place for avant-garde cooking. "I’m not a professional chef, so I’m not interested in serving something people have never seen before. In fact, I prefer to make something they have eaten at least once in their lives and can easily relate to." The Parlour is filled with Broussard's rustic, conceptual furniture designs, all of which are for sale. At dinners, he commonly takes orders for lamps, tables, and art installations.
Of course, supper clubs like Hackney's are not always fully legal, and The Parlour Dinners has had its detractors. After a year in the Berlin flat, The Parlour Dinners had been forced to move. Hackney has yet to resume the supper club, but says, "Thanks to you for celebrating with us, dining with us, for lovely discussions and cheering times. Signed, The Parlour Dinners—Still Cooking for Love!!!"
Above: Amateur chef and rogue restaurateur Laurin Hackney.
Above: The Parlour Dinners supper club in a prewar apartment in Berlin.
Above: One of Hackney's biggest joys is watching diners become friends; in a small, intimate setting, he says, "You're forced to talk to strangers whether you like it or not."
Above: A pallet wood table and glass jar vase play off the glamor of an antique brass candelabra.
Above: Furniture designer Travis Broussard uses the variation inherent in reclaimed materials to create a striped wood table.
Above: Hackney's girlfriend prepares flowers for the evening's simple tablescapes.
Above: The dining room functions as a showroom for Broussard's furniture—still available from Travis Broussard.
Above: The simplest table settings often achieve more than their fancier counterparts.
Above: Wood cheese boards serve as chargers and kitchen towels as napkins.
Above: Blue and white ceramic jars hold noodles and rice.
Above: A clever dual use for a magnetic knife rack; pot lids are always within easy reach.
Above: A swag of dried flowers and wheel of bread are among the rustic decorations.
Above: During the rest of the week, the space functions as Hackney's home and a sometime gallery and event space.
Visit another striking setting that doubles as a supper club in Alice in Wonderland in Australia. Heading to Berlin? Have a look at our hotel, restaurant, and shop recommendations in our Berlin City Guide.
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on May 3, 2012 as part of our Renovation and Reclamation issue.