Dine or Dash: London Belle Supper Club

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Dine or Dash: London Belle Supper Club

By Weston Wood

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Main street is the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, boasting a bustling night-life underneath its skyscrapers. Within these few city blocks, there are hundreds of bars and restaurants to choose from. Yet, one bar and restaurant, or rather “a supper club,”  has a particularly unique standing within the community. 

 

The Ingredients 

The London Belle supper club opened nearly two years ago, but has quickly become one of downtown’s most popular locations — odd when you consider that the location seems almost invisible from the outside. Only a silver sign, two heating lamps and a large door reveal its existence. On the weekends, however, you’ll be able to tell where it is from the line that stretches halfway down the block.

Stepping inside, guests are greeted with a long, gorgeous room. There’s a DJ balcony that overlooks the seating and a bar that stretches across the right side of the room. The establishment is dimly lit with tinted windows, setting a relaxed mood that reflects coming home at the end of a long day. The bar has a piece of art consisting of metal rods hanging above it while the walls covered with various other pieces of contemporary artwork. The London Belle is a versatile little area — after 9, the place closes its kitchen and becomes a bar and nightclub.

While the inside is intriguing, it has nothing on the history of the restaurant and the buildingThe restaurant is a homage to a woman named Dora B. Topham. Her origin is a mystery, but her legacy lives in infamy. Most people know her as Belle London, one of Utah’s most infamous madames back in the 1900s. 

Topham ran the only legal prostitution ring in Utah’s history. She was a state-sanctioned madam who, as it is rumored, used the very building and entire city block that the London Belle operates out of today as one of her many brothels. Her ring was composed of and ran entirely by women. Topham went on to become Salt Lake City’s shining star of the red-light district before being shut down a few years later, after a 16-year-old was found working at the brothel. Topham was imprisoned, but her conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court. She moved to California with her two daughters, where she later died from a tragic car accident. 

The history of the building doesn’t deter head chef Matt Anderson, as he is no stranger to running such an establishment.“When I was 18, I was a GM ⁠— general manager ⁠— at three restaurants,” Anderson said. “So I did the whole front end, did catering, and then I decided I wanted to learn the back of the house aspects.” He went on to graduate from Scottsdale Culinary School in Arizona. 

After helping run many high-end restaurants, Anderson was approached by four owners who wanted his years of expertise in running a restaurant. He was able to design his own kitchen and restaurant, starting from scratch. “It’s always different. It’s always challenging. It’s always hard,” Anderson said. “We ended up with 8 feet less of kitchen than our blueprints. But that’s okay, I always liked smaller kitchens,” he said, pausing to laugh while he relayed the story. “I also helped pick out the equipment and helped hire the staff, which was all really fun.” 

Anderson also designed the menu for the London Belle. His strategy was simple. It was to go around to other restaurants and bars around the downtown area. Then he designed his menu to be completely different from what he observed. His original intent was for the menu to be rotated and updated every four months, but Anderson explained the issue they experienced when quality meets demand. “When we opened, people thought we were an English restaurant. So they kept asking where the fish and chips were, so we had to do that,” Anderson said.

It seems that people thought that the London Belle was an homage to London, England, and not actually Utah itself. “When I was researching dishes in London, I found that the most common dish  was actually chicken tikka masala. You know, the Indian dish,” Anderson said. From there, he took inspiration from the Indian population in London and adapted the menu to reflect those tastes. “We wanted everything to be fresh, nothing we use besides food you can’t get unfrozen, like lobster and crab, is frozen. Everything is fresh.”

Even down to the vegan options, everything on the menu reflects Anderson’s culinary skills. Where creativity meets demand, Anderson gets the masses to come back for his specialty dishes. A few of which end up permanently on the menu. Anderson and his team use a lot of specialty sauces, marinades and glazes for their small plates. These are cheaper and a little easier on your stomach, so I would recommend these dishes. There’s a wide variety of selection within these smaller plates and they fill you up quickly. In particular, I’d recommend the Loaded London Belle Frites, — the blend of cheddar gravy and pork belly over the fries can only be described as melt-in-your-mouth good. This taste combined with the zest of the house pickles and scallions makes this dish out of this world.

 

The Verdict

With a changing menu of hand-picked fresh food, a wide selection of drinks and a deep history, this restaurant is constantly on the move, much like the brothel it used to be. The London Belle is more on the expensive side, but when you consider the atmosphere, quality and meticulous attention to detail in the cuisine, it’s worth it.

Aside from the food, the staff is experienced, friendly and professional. The versatility of the restaurant and bar makes for a great weekend getaway, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself completely lost in the history, food and fun of the London Belle. 

 

4.7/5 stars

I would go again. Between the courteous staff, great music, wonderful atmosphere and food, there’s no supper club quite like London Belle.

Recommended Plate: Bison Tikka Masala. A staple-post of London Belle’s culinary inspiration, this plate really shows what a great marinade and slow-braised bison can do to your tastebuds. I would recommend if you’re a fan of buffalo burgers.

For location, menu and contact visit the London Belle website.

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@westonwood8