'Dressing Up' - Venue Focus Feature

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One of the most recognisable, yet hard-to-access locations in English sport is now available for select events. Mark Sansom discovers that the home dressing room at Lord’s makes a stunning opener for dinner

Have you ever wondered what the atmosphere would be like in an international changing room after a big win? Well, now you can come close to finding out, with an ultra-exclusive Dressing Room drinks package. Even though the players will have long since left, the Champagne can still flow – as we discovered on a frosty night in February. Open to a select number of events each year (and available by application only) one of sport’s hallowed changing rooms can be yours for an evening reception. Assistant secretary (catering) at Lord’s, Simon Swift, invited us and a select group of representatives from London venues to celebrate the launch of the package, enjoy a sumptuous dinner and exchange our views on the events industry. Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the official guardian of cricket and the body that owns Lord’s, is surrounded by tradiition; to be asked into the historic Pavilion, let alone the changing room, is a rare occurrence indeed (as the sign below suggests). It’s also an invitation that few people would turn down: ‘It was an absolute blessing to be asked to come,’ said Maria Duddin, general manager at the Brewery. ‘The changing room is a really special place with such heritage. It’s amazing to see it in the flesh.’ With the faint aroma of musky kit still in the air, you couldn’t ask for a more authentic setting. Standing on the balcony and looking out over the spot-lit pitch is a memorable moment for any sports fan. ‘I can’t wait until next time I see the players sitting here. I can tell everyone, “I was there!”’ said Lucy Jennings from BFI IMAX. Players from The Professional Cricketers Association are available for hire should you put on an event at the venue. Lord’s kindly arranged for three of the most charismatic English cricketers of the last generation to be on hand to answer questions and pose for pictures with our guests. England’s most-capped test cricketer of all time, Alec Stewart, regaled us with memories of what the dressing room meant to him. Mark Butcher (who, we learnt, was a dropped catch away from being the second player to appear on both the batting and bowling dressing room honours boards) summed it up best: ‘I used to adore playing here. I hadn’t regretted retiring until I stood at the bottom of the stairs to the changing room tonight. It brings back so many memories. It really makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up’.

And On To Dinner...

Taking the same route that players use when going out to bat – down the spike-trodden stairs from the Dressing Room and through the magnificent Long Room – guests were shown into the Writing Room for dinner. From the moment the amuse bouche was served, along with a fabulous white Burgundy, it bore all the hallmarks of top-end fine dining. Showcasing the heights that the catering at Lord’s has risen to – since boldly going in-house four years ago – the ingredients-led cooking was second to none. Classically matched with a choice of clarets, the Pipers Farm lamb – sourced from Devon and elegantly handled by the chefs – was worked three ways to produce an impressive trio (rack, shoulder and sweetbreads). A honeyed Grand Cru Sauternes accompanied pudding, while a cheese trolley to rival London’s top restaurants was wheeled in. It was a special touch that we’d not experienced at a venue-based dinner before. The whole evening showcased polished service and seriously accomplished cooking. ‘The lamb was remarkable,’ said Carol Anderson, director of events from The Mermaid Conference and Events Centre. David Owen, head of marketing from etc.venues, agreed: ‘this was certainly a special menu’.
Lord’s Cricket Ground, tel: 0844 824 6206, squaremeal.co.uk/lords


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