Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Nibblr, The Social Dining Network

Good food + good company = good times, according to Nina Koo-Seen-Lin

When it comes to networking, I am happy to admit that I am what people would call a joiner, but not an avid participator. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, MeetUp, Creative-Bloc, LinkedIn, Blogspot, Pinterest and Tumblr.

As you can see, I have a lot of accounts to look after. So I ask myself the question – do I really need to sign up for another social networking site? The answer is yes, I do, if the social networking site I’m thinking of joining is nibblr.

nibblr is a London-based social dining network for the real foodies and socialites out there roaming the capital. Whether you're a foodie or a networker, new in town or just passing through, or simply looking to meet new friends, nibblr is the social dining network that brings you together with great company over tasty food.

Founder, Neil Rafferty believes that food is the solution to getting people together to socialise more. “Some of my best experience happened over food,” he says. He explains nibblr’s aim in a simple yet effective sum:

                                   good food + good company = good times

Indeed, good times did occur throughout the night on a cold, wet and windy February evening at Le Chinois in Millenium Hotel, Knightsbridge. It was the week of 2013’s Chinese New Year so the restaurant and bar setting seemed apt. I was already in cheerful spirits having just waved back at a Harrods window display of golden lucky cats beckoning rich shoppers in with their right paws.

On arriving, and seeing a crowd of people already gathered around the bar, I started to worry. Would I be able to slot in to a group and join their animated, champagne-bubble induced chatter? Or would I make a Bridget Jones gaff and laugh like a lunatic until confirming I was one when asking for directions to the loo during a debate on the definition of a novella? Thankfully, the Gods bestowed the former rather than the latter.

With a glass of bubbly in one hand and a black pepper prawn cracker in the other, I engaged in an animated conversation with fellow foodie folk.

The amazing company was graced with amazing food:
To start, the table shared half a Peking duck with pancakes, sliced spring onions and cucumber. Shredded Peking duck will test any friendship, old and new. If you can share graciously and get as much satisfaction seeing someone enjoy a duck pancake roll as eating one yourself, you’re friendship will surely last.
The duck (or empty plate where a duck once rested) was followed by a lobster and spinach broth. Yes, it looked like a bowl full of something I coughed up during the winter flu of 2002, but oh wow, did it taste gooood!
Choices for mains were pan-fried rack of lamb with honey and black pepper sauce, steamed fillet of sea bass with ginger and spring onions, or braised mixed mushrooms with pak choi. I opted for the sea bass with a lotus leaf packed with rice. I never knew the true meaning of melt-in-your-mouth meat until that night. I will forever remember it.
Dessert was a vanilla crème brûlée. I always try to imitate the cute and whimsical Amelie in the French film. I don’t think I pulled it off but by then my mind was muddled from the generous top-ups of white wine served throughout the meal.
Joining nibblr is a simple process. The first thing to do is sign up, free of charge, either manually, or via Facebook, Twitter etc. Create your profile (you’re encouraged to provide a photo of yourself). “You’d be amazed how some people are reluctant to provide a picture of themselves when they first sign up,” says Neil. “They prefer to upload an icon. Once they’ve enjoyed the nibblr experience they then feel quite comfortable to put their pictures up.”

Once you sign up you can browse the site, look at the city you live in and look at the food and venues on offer. They host about three events a week. You can see who’s signed up for what meals and decide whether you’d like to join in too. You buy the meal (average price is £25-£35 a head – that doesn’t include drinks), sit back for your confirmation, put the date in your diary and turn up on the night. All you’ve got to do is eat, drink and socialise.

Neil and the nibblr team plan to roll the concept out to nine other cities in the UK, including Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol over the next 12 months. I will be signing myself up to nibblr. Good food + good company is a winning sum for me. Perhaps I’ll see you soon.

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