& The Table: The Supper Club Turning Strangers Into Friends
Upon arriving at my first & The Table dinner, I’m greeted warmly by the host before she promptly asks if I’d like a drink. In her living room, four other women are chatting around a candlelit dining table decorated with personalised place cards. Small talk is abandoned in favour of travel horror stories, restaurant recommendations and shared laments about the London dating scene. Our ages and occupations are varied, yet we’ve all voluntarily signed up to dine with five strangers.
Founded by Samatha Wolfson, & The Table is a platform that enables women to host or attend local dinner parties focused on specific conversational topics. Tonight’s is ‘Fork in the Road’ – perhaps the perfect dinner party pun.
“Our mission is simple: connection at any age. We’re driven by the notion that you never stop growing and meeting new people that can add to your life,” says Wolfson. After relocating to Amsterdam from the US in 2017, Wolfson started hosting dinner parties for six, inviting women she met while out and about, as a creative way to make friends as an adult. “Friendships and connections get f*cking harder as we get older. You don’t often find yourself in natural spaces to meet people if you don’t want to swipe on an app or go to a networking event.” She continues, “I wanted to find casual settings where I could talk about topics that maybe aren’t the norm but are important and get perspectives from new women.”
The dinner parties underwent various name and format changes before becoming & The Table in March 2022, following a COVID-19 hiatus. Within two months of creating an Instagram account documenting the dinners, Wolfson had over 500 requests to attend. “It became real at that point. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ve hit the pulse of what women want.’” Currently, there are 114 & The Table hosts across 10 countries. Over 300 dinners have been held, with conversational themes ranging from lifestyle choices such as freelancing to bigger questions, such as, ‘what is love?’
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“Human interaction, for many of us, is what genuinely fuels us. We hit the right time of women questioning ‘How do I get myself out there in new ways?’” Wolfson says. Since COVID-19, there has been a rise in online platforms dedicated to fostering offline interaction. For instance, The Girlie’s Guide uses social media to arrange ticketed in-person meet-ups for women in England. There’s also Timeleft, another dinner party platform that operates on a subscription model. Clinical psychologist and university professor Dr Mendez believes the pandemic played a “huge role” in our increased desire for in-person interaction because although “people tried to maintain relationships online, they became frustrated with the lack of connection, becoming lonely and anxious.”
“In-person connection leads to a greater sense of calmness and emotional wellbeing,” he adds. He cites empathy as the cornerstone of meaningful connection, demonstrated through both “verbal and non-verbal communication”, which is more feasible in person. While online interactions serve a purpose, especially when alternatives are limited, the importance of in-person socialising for mental health shouldn’t be underestimated.
In between courses that our host has prepared, the group is presented with two questions that point back to our dinner’s theme: what is a fork in the road you have faced, and how did you rely on your intuition? We take turns answering and listening, drinking up the details of each other’s lives and finishing off our wine. Advice is passed around, along with the cavolo nero salad. One woman talks about her reluctance to take risks when it comes to decision-making. The woman to my right offers up an astute observation in response: “I mean, coming tonight is a risk – you had no idea how this would go, but you showed up anyway.”
“Some people think we’re the end point but, really, we’re the starting point for connection – for how someone can feel nourished in their life,” Wolfson says. People have met friends, housemates and even business partners through & The Table. She hints at how, in the future, & The Table will be expanding beyond dinner parties. This spring it will introduce the Nourishment Walk: a guided meditative experience accessible from anywhere. The dinners, walks and whatever else Wolfson has up her sleeve for & The Table are all merely just means to an end. A woman messaged Wolfson after attending a ‘child-free living’-themed dinner, expressing her gratitude for discovering a community of like-minded women having experienced criticism elsewhere for her lifestyle choice. “I hear about connections being built so many levels outside my own hold,” says Wolfson. “That’s my driving force in all of this.”
Samatha Wolfson’s 5 Favourite Conversation Starters To Ask At A Dinner Party
- What did the people that raised you teach you about the world?
- What are the three words your friends would use to describe you? Then the three your family would, and then the three you would use to describe yourself.
- What does ‘success’ mean to you and how does it look?
- What is a core memory in your life that you would want to relive?
- If you had to give a title to this chapter in your life, what would you name it?
Jamison Kent is a freelance arts and culture writer based in London