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Through her work travelling the world as a sports presenter Clare Balding has seen – and held – her fair share of events. She signs us off with her favourites.
I love to host a party. Mainly because if I’ve invited everyone, I can’t get stuck in the corner answering questions about why the BBC doesn’t cover enough racing or why it dropped Grandstand. I had a fabulous 40th birthday party at Les Ambassadeurs in Mayfair and made the dress code red and black, like a roulette table.
Dawn French is the best to meet at a party because she gives you a massive hug and is just the most lovable person on earth. She will take you by the hand, introduce you to everyone and is genuinely interested in how you are and what you’re up to. I’m always pleased to see people I work with too – Sue Barker
is great fun and quite naughty.
Last year I went to an amazing Comedy Awards night at Old Billingsgate with Dawn and Jennifer Saunders as the main guests. I was sitting on the Have I Got News for You table with Paul, Ian, Jo Brand and, bizarrely, Lembit Opik.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Oval for the final Test when we won back the Ashes. It was monumental in terms of sport but we were also next to the wives and girlfriends of the players so when they were celebrating, they came to our end of the ground to wave up at their families and pose for photos. Olympic Opening Ceremony tickets would be top of my wish list though, as I suspect they would be for a lot of people.
I stayed recently at Chewton Glen in the New Forest, which was sensational. The food was incredible, the staff really friendly and the spa was lovely. Dubai is great for big racing events, my favourite hotel there is Mina A’Salam.
The Natural History Museum and the V&A are lovely settings for an event, but it’s a bit scary if you’re hosting at NHM and have to walk down that big staircase without tripping up.
I’d recommend Skylon for the view and the food, but my favourite party bits are substantial nibbles or bowl food so that you can keep talking and moving round the room but don’t end up feeling as if you haven’t eaten anything. Les Ambassadeurs did it really well for my 40th – bowls of stir fry, chicken korma, mushroom risotto, all of which only needed a fork.
I love gin fizz or a good white – Sancerre, Chablis or Mersault.
BEST OF THE BEST
For my ultimate party, my school and university friends plus my family would be first on the list. I’d probably take them somewhere like Fowey Hall in Cornwall or Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District, take over the whole hotel, go for a long walk to watch the sunset on the first night, followed by a sit-down dinner in the restaurant. We’d play golf on the second day and have a big party that night, stepping outside to watch fireworks in the night sky. If it was in Cornwall, you never know – Dawn might come! That would make my night.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, spring 2011