Guests had barely stifled their gasps at the amazing surroundings before they were offered their next treat – a choice of scrumptious cocktails or a mini Moet, complete with a straw for relaxed sipping. We offered a classic bramble, as well as a virgin Cosmo – our "Not So Cosmo” – and a signature drink for the evening, The Ampersand, a tempting concoction of white and dark rum, orgeat, cranberry and lime juice.
While guests enjoyed their drinks, there was plenty of food to try too. Gorgeous canapés were circulated, including our famous beetroot macaroons with goat’s cheese, steak and triple cooked chips with béarnaise sauce, baby brioche with wild mushrooms and truffle hollandaise, scallops, gin and tonic salmon and smoked chicken, avocado and mango salad on a tortilla croute with crème fraîche and coriander.
Tables were also abundant with nibbles: tall straws of pork crackling with apple sauce, sausage rolls with puff pastry crackling, and a selection of pesto, sun-dried tomato and original cheese straws.
Finally there was a feasting table, groaning with delicious dishes. Salmon ballotine with pistachio crust, edible sand and compressed watermelon with mint and coriander; harissa marinated chicken, chicken scratchings, crispy wings with lemon and lime crisps; and goat’s cheese panna cotta, red onion marmalade jelly and puff pastry galette radishes were the mains on offer.
For too long salad has been considered dull "rabbit food”. We decided to show just what we can do with this incredibly versatile staple. Alongside the mains, the feasting table was abundant with compressed cucumber, red chilli, red onion, coriander cress with poppy seed vinaigrette; roasted squash and aubergine with almonds; roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and sage crisps; Israeli cous cous, cherry tomatoes, red onion with mint, parsley and lemon oil; roasted Cheltenham beetroot, pickled Chioggia beetroot and orange cured golden beetroot with chervil leaves, all with toppings of a simple herb salad, crispy grapes, or dehydrated crackling.
Attendees were free to mingle and network as they enjoyed tasty treats, beautiful surroundings and fine company. A space like this just invites visitors to make themselves at home, so it was the perfect setting for the relaxed, happy atmosphere we created, and, with the whole venue in use, there was plenty to see.
An electric banjo artist, Wandering Hands, added to the fun laid-back atmosphere and helped to bring the venue to life, while the Den provided the perfect get-away with old favourites Grease and The Goonies and, of course, plenty of popcorn.
The kitchen is housed within the main space, so guests were able to watch and interact with the chefs as they created the fresh fare that would occupy the feasting table. Those that prefer quiet could hunker down in the garage, a relaxed space with stools, blankets and heaters, while others still chose to check out the "honesty bar” we had created in a bedroom.
A favourite moment of the night has to be the unveiling and then destruction of our dessert "boudoir”. Our amazing pastry chef had created a sweet tooth’s fantasy, a bedroom dedicated to all that is sugar coated. The bed was a riot of colour, texture and gorgeous flavour, covered with all kinds of dessert treats, including all kinds of meringues, gels, spheres, pop cakes, chocolate shards, and chocolate-dipped fruits – pick & mix for grown-ups. "Ampersand” was spelt across the pillows in delectable thick slabs of chocolate. To help guests dress their desserts, brownie bites, chocolate buttons, jellybeans, baby meringues, chocolate dipped shortbreads, coulis and sauces all sat atop the dressing table or nestled in drawers. The bedside table was home to jelly for adults – a vodka spiked rainbow – while the shelves were neatly stacked with rows of rhubarb and vanilla panna cotta jars and espresso cups filled with chocolate orange mousse. Guests were invited in to marvel at the gorgeous room and then aid in its destruction. Decadence most delicious!
We had one final sweet treat for our guests before they departed. To help them fend off the November chill, we handed out rich hot chocolate with mini doughnuts to those who were headed home.
We had a wonderful time; the event was exactly the laid back, fun party we had hoped to create. Thanks to all who joined us – we hope you loved the evening as much as we did.