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SYMPTOM: We’re bored of the same old Christmas dinner format. Can you help us spice things up a bit?
REMEDY: With many Londoners eating out regularly throughout the year, guests are more food-savvy than ever. Combine high culinary expectations with the fact that food and drink are the main focus of any party, and it’s no surprise that you’re feeling under pressure. If you stick to the classic Christmas roast dinner, it’s vital to make sure it’s immaculately executed. On the other hand, you’ll also win points for a novel alternative. But, with more and more venues serving restaurant-quality food, there’s no excuse for dry turkey.
Approach caterers with a good idea of what kind of meal you’d like. Do some background research before you consult the experts. Collect a couple of menus from your favourite restaurants for inspiration, and ask for menus from potential caterers/venues. Discuss these with a selection of colleagues, who should be only too happy to offer input. It’s always better to seek a consensus rather than going it alone.
A tasting session is a vital part of the preparation for any corporate event. A good caterer or food-orientated venue such as The Brewery (tel: 0800 068 1288) will invite you to taste the menu options for your event. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, particularly about the provenance of the food. Make sure that the beef you’re eating at the tasting is the same as the beef you’ll be eating at the event, for example.
Don’t assume that a sit-down three-course meal or traditional buffet is the best format for your party. Consider contemporary alternatives such as interactive food stations for added entertainment, or an eye-catching seafood bar or bowl food for a more sociable event. Or swap dessert for miniature ice-creams served by glamorous hostesses like the Ice Angels (tel: 020 8691 6001). Include details on the invitation, so guests know exactly how much food to expect.
Don’t make vegetarians and guests with other specific dietary requirements feel like an afterthought. A goats’ cheese and red pepper tart might seem novel to you, but it’ll be the hundredth they’ve eaten this year. Involving them in the menu planning will ensure the veggies are looking forward to the party as much as everyone else.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.