Naughty or nice?

The office Christmas party needn’t be a booze-fuelled night out. Team Square Meal puts two very different dos to the test. But which will you pick: a virtuous afternoon affair or something a little more outrageous?

Photos: Laurie Fletcher.

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Playing nice
Exchange the late-night shots for a skating lesson and a spot of afternoon tea. The plus points? Not only do you get a few hours out of the office, there’s also no crippling hangover to deal with the next day.

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14.00 Alexandra Palace: you can’t beat the views. You also can’t beat the sight of half the team scrabbling around on the ice while the others dance across it effortlessly. Our tutor (a former Olympian, no less) is patient and friendly – even for those who can’t stay upright – as he teaches us the basics. By the end of our session, we’re having fun and feeling confident  – plus we’ve worked up a good appetite for our next stop-off.

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16.00 It’s not everyday you get to sit alongside your colleagues scoffing lobster rolls and egg-and-white-truffle sandwiches instead of a Tesco meal deal. But that’s exactly what we’re up to during our afternoon tea in the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods. Once we’ve had our fill of macaroons, scones and mini lemon tarts, we spend an hour perusing the store to do some early Christmas shopping and drool over the Food Hall’s meat and cheese counters.

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18.00 OK, so we said no booze. But we’ve been good so far – we even skipped the champers at Harrods. So to celebrate our sobriety we enjoy a glass of fizz and some canapés before stepping into our own private screening of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. With the film done, it’s only 9pm and we call it a night. Virtuous indeed.

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The verdict

Laugh-o-meter *** Injuries sustained ** Calories consumed *** Team bonding **** Something different? **** Hangover from hell? 0

Breaking bad
Tequila, burlesque, circus-themed freak shows and facepaint: it’s all in a night’s work for the Square Meal team.

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19.30 The entrance may not be decorated like a sex shop but, like its Soho counterpart, Casa Negra in Shoreditch is just as bad ass. Besides a platter of flavoured margaritas, we also sample a whole bottle of the good stuff, neat. The food is varied and hot: our favourites include a spicy fried chicken dish and a plate of melt-in-your-mouth beef. We leave well fed and very well watered.

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21.30  Next stop, The Hippodrome in Leicester Square. We’re not actually here to visit the casino, but rather to watch its burlesque show. We’re surprised at how fast-paced and funny it is. Our favourite is Kitty Bang Bang, who performs a strip-tease to Alice Cooper’s Poison. We also end up having time for a quick flutter on the way out after all. No winners, alas.

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23.00 We stop off at Danish steak house MASH for a quick bourbon cocktail and a Five Dollar Shake. We’re big Pulp Fiction fans.

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00.00 Our final destination: Cirque le Soir. As we descend the stairs we enter a world of debauchery and decadence. It doesn’t take long to settle in as we’re served a magnum of vodka and a flaming bottle of fizz at a private table. Although there’s plenty of weird and wonderful action to see (a life-size model of the Elephant Man leaning over the toilets, for example) the real fun begins at 1am, when a troupe of macabre-looking, scantily clad performers flood the club and mingle with guests. We leave at 4.30am. Hello, hangover.

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The verdict

Laugh-o-meter ***** Injuries sustained *** Calories consumed ***** Team bonding *** Something different? ** Hangover from hell? *****

This feature was first published in the 2013 issue of Square Meal Christmas.