In September of this year, as summer began to fade into fall, Tinder turned 10 years old. If not the original dating app, match.com could claim it, or perhaps the forgotten kiss.com, the launch of Tinder marked the moment when online dating happened. a last resort at the first port of call. And so, as their first decade drew to a close, the expected response might have been a sense of celebration, awe, gleeful gratitude from singles with super-strong thumbs. It’s not like that.
As it was, the opposite happened: countless heavy-sighing think pieces appeared, each wearily denouncing Tinder and its ilk. Dating app fatigue is in season. But for childhood friends and one-time housemates Lucy McCallum and Gabi Adams, that weariness set in before the day was over.
“We were both living together and we were very involved in food and cooking and throwing dinner parties,” explains McCallum (the “Luce” in the phonetic cast). “And at the same time we were single and absolutely sick of dating apps. I’d been stood up, we’d both been ghosts all the time and we were sick of the games. And we were sick of him hooking us up.”
It was 2018. Frustrated by the endless rounds and the weakness of meaningless dating, the couple began to look for other options. “We thought: how nice would it be to meet someone at a dinner party? And why isn’t there a facility where you can meet someone at a really lovely dinner and get to know them and what they talk about, so you can see if you really get along and have chemistry? says McCallum. The goal, then, was to recreate that feeling of meeting a stranger at a friend’s house, only without having to wait for the latter to welcome, or for the stranger to show himself. And so the couple started a supper club. “Gooce is like coming over to a friend’s house for dinner, only with better food and everyone’s single,” its website says.
Catfished no more: Lucy McCallum, left, with Gabi Adams
/ Lucille Flood
“It wasn’t for us!” Adams River With her a trained chef and WSET-certified McCallum then working at PR Restaurant, the couple had enough of a supper club idea to give it a go. “At first there were only 12 people in ours,” recalls McCallum. “And people would bring a couple of bottles of wine and stay until one or two in the morning, until we had to kick them out.”
“After the first one, we closed the door and sat at the foot of the stairs,” Adams says. “And we went – crikey, that was full of… but cool.”
And so it went on, with the duo perfecting their hosting (partly with the help of a rom-com or two: “What’s that line in Bridget Jones? ‘Introduce people with thoughtful details’; it actually helps!”, says Adams) and figuring out the shape of their nights: drinks to mingle, three courses with a change of seat twice, time to hang out and exchange numbers afterwards. Gooce’s approach is soft and smooth: no wedding, no individual seats. It’s communal, relaxed, low pressure. Awkward icebreakers don’t look; instead, the couple says they tip the food, drink and music to spark conversation if there’s a lull. His smooth, soft approach worked, and then the world shut down for a couple of years.
When reality returned, or at least its 2022 incarnation, Gooce was ready. But the pair discovered they had a happy problem: After spending so much time in isolation, the Londoners had a built-in desire to do things IRL. “We suddenly realized there was so much demand for what we were offering, we just didn’t have the capacity to cook for that many people,” says McCallum, sounding happily bemused. “So we thought about partnering with a restaurant. Also, and even though we know how to cook, we thought people were more likely to trust a meal from Brother Marcus than, uh, Gabi and Luce. She River.
We want Gooce to be there for everyone who wants to go outside of apps, not necessarily for any demographic or age group.
“One of the most important moments for me was the Valentine’s Day special [this year], when we had two separate people come up to me and say “you’ll never guess what, my friends came over on the first Valentine’s Day before Covid and now they’ve moved in together”. I thought it was amazing that two different people had friends who had such a good time…,” says Adams.
Since then, in addition to brother Marcus, the couple have found partners in Marsha and expanded beyond the basic supper club model to run workshops with Pasta Evangelists. Last week, they headed to Clapham’s Little Orange Door for a night out. “We like to match sites with the specific demographic,” says McCallum. “Since they have a bar and DJ available after dinner, we targeted 25-35 year olds and most of the guests stayed chatting until the early hours.”
With more arenas to be announced before the year is out, Gooce hopes to match more broadly. “It’s exciting to diversify our offering, whether it’s a small local-style restaurant in a market or a bright restaurant on the Southbank. We want Gooce to be there for everyone who wants to go outside the apps, not necessarily for any demographic or age group. That’s what we’re looking to build with it,” Adams says.
Accordingly, while the events thus far, Adams says, “have had boy-girl seating plans,” both hope to expand.
“We want to make sure we put on the best events, and that’s about understanding the different audiences,” McCallum says. “Personally, I really hope that in a year we will be doing events for a wider demographic. That’s important to me.” He says they’re looking for the right partners for LGBTQ+ events. “We don’t want to be presumptuous and think we can only put on an event for a demographic we’re not in,” adds Adams. “But we’re looking to learn.”
They are also looking to do more for more ages and go beyond meals. There is an upcoming appointment with Brother Marcus once again, and they will share their other plans shortly. Valentine’s Day details will be below. So they are busy.
“We’re in a place of momentum right now, which is exciting,” Adams says. “The fact is, people seem very happy, because they’ve needed an alternative way out for so long.” And it looks like Gooce might be offering just the thing.
For more information, visit goocesupperclub.com
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