We tested some of London’s newest Christmas party offerings for every element of your do. Well, someone’s got to do it…
Where better to kick off a Christmas party than inside London’s own 41-storey snow globe, The Gherkin
? The iconic building has been part of the City skyline for 14 years, and this year it gained five new private dining rooms on its 38th floor.
We’re at Searcys at The Gherkin
, eating in the Nimbus room (all the rooms are named after cloud types), where we’re greeted with a glass of Searcys
’ own cuvée champagne and views that stretch to Tower Bridge and beyond.
The events team has briefed Fulham florist Lavender Green to create something special for us. The ivory-coloured wintry tree sculptures, planted in moss and adorned with glittering decorations, look especially pretty against that remarkable panoramic backdrop.
has a deserved reputation for its food, and we can see why. Our pre-lunch canapé reception brings light crab and avocado tarts matched with pork belly with crackling and apple purée. What follows is a five-course showcase in classic flavours and artful presentation. Pressed confit chicken comes with an earthy truffle emulsion, crispy skin and a brioche crumb, while hand-dived scallop is served with dramatic-looking squid ink polenta and puffed rice. A main of beef fillet pleases the traditionalists, ahead of both savoury and sweet dishes to keep everyone happy – baron bigod cheese with truffle honey and a delicious chocolate torte.
If your group numbers more than 30 you can use multiple spaces together. Whatever the size of your party, though, be warned that you may lose some of your people as they explore the wrap-around walkway that curves around the building. Don’t blame them – those views are worth it.
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This much-lauded offshoot from the team behind Gymkhana
opened with a bang this summer. It’s a whole load of fun for groups – a pool table, whisky vending machine and card games beckon. There are also three private dining rooms. Feasting menus are the thing here.
Alain Ducasse is at the helm of the Knightsbridge hotel’s headline restaurant. Its private dining room can host up to 12 guests. We recommend the elegant Spirit Room for pre-prandial drinks.
One of this summer’s more welcome arrivals on the events scene came from Puttshack
. It should be a memorable first Christmas for the Westfield London venue, which will be treating corporate groups over the festive season to its teched-up brand of crazy golf. Naturally, we were eager to see what makes this new concept from the team behind the Bounce
and All Star Lanes
venues so special.
The answer? It uses Trackaball technology, which means no pencils, no scorecards and no restriction on how many people you can be pitted against. Most importantly, though, it means no cheating (and, in turn, no room for allegations of foul play). Each player’s progress is tracked hole-by-hole and, for even more fun, holes-in-one can be ‘action replayed’ should you want to revel in your moment of glory (or, indeed, applaud the boss on their victory).
There are four different courses to choose from inside the warehouse-like space, which is festooned with neon lights. We go for the Sapphire course. It starts (relatively) easy – our prosecco reception drinks giving our confidence a boost, no doubt. Then comes the tricky stuff: the course’s curved edges mean that a swing too hard in one direction will make the ball fly off (cue hysterical laughter), while ramps and barriers sort the pros from the, well, slightly tipsy.
More unusual elements include having to pick between ‘true’ and ‘false’ holes, a 10-pin bowling-themed hole and a wheel of fortune. By the time we finish we’re whooping, high-fiving and (occasionally) distracting each other – well, they don’t call it teambuilding for nothing.
A round can last between 20 and 50 minutes depending on the size of your group: the venue
can cater for a gathering of five colleagues or a whole office of 750. Food and drink take the form of Christmas cocktails (we went for energy-boosting espresso martinis) and sharing snacks such as smoked beef brisket pizza.
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For a fun activity that will really make them work for their dinner, this Stratford trampoline park with its various attractions is ideal: just imagine taking on the boss at gladiator duelling and dodgeball. The venue has eight party booths, plus a Sky Bar and the Old Town Bistro, which can take care of festive dinners. If you want to keep the party going, head to sister venue The Curious Fox
, which has a late licence.
For something slightly more relaxed, consider this new venue from the team behind The Brewery
, which has a remastered vintage cinema called the Cutting Room. There’s a lobby area where your guests can gather for pre-film drinks before heading inside the 48-seat screening room. A showing of Elf
or Home Alone
? We can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t feel festive after that.
When Nobu Hotel Shoreditch
opened last year, it was the talk of London’s hospitality crowd. Walking down the steps into the hotel’s cavernous and ambient basement restaurant, we can see why it’s still causing a stir: the clientele are a sophisticated-looking bunch, and the decor is dark and stylish.
Going for a non-traditional (ie, non-turkey) Christmas dinner is distinctly 2018, so opting for the chef’s special ‘omakase’ feast feels both luxuriously novel and wholly on trend.
We eat in the slick private dining room at the rear of the restaurant. It has views of the kitchen and sliding doors that open on to the main floor, so you can choose to eat completely privately or make proceedings more relaxed. We opt for the latter, which makes for a livelier experience.
We’re greeted with a Japanese hot toddy (Suntory Chita grain whisky, cinnamon honey syrup, hot ginger sake and clove-studded lemon) before sitting down to eat at the long wooden table. What follows is a masterclass in high-end Japanese cuisine: salmon sashimi with jalapeños and a pretty tuna sashimi salad with the signature matsuhisa dressing are light and punchy – a refreshing change to the typically heavy Christmas starter. Creamy rock shrimp and assorted sushi and sushi rolls keep us happy before the arrival of the dish of the day: Nobu Matsuhisa’s famous miso-marinated black cod. Wrapped in leaves, the parcels of cod are like little Christmas presents. As if that isn’t celebratory enough, desserts come in the form of a Nobu bauble (which does indeed resemble an actual bauble), fuyu ishi (a snowball-style centrepiece with leaf-like sponge) and petits fours (surrounding a branded SquareMeal logo). Smoking cocktails in the bar afterwards are an optional extra that we’d definitely recommend.
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The Great Northern Hotel
’s restaurant will lay on three-course dinners for groups of up to 94, with the likes of honey and mustard-roasted suffolk pork belly on the menu. A new martini lounge, Anthracite, opens in October: groups of 140 standing will be able to enjoy pre- and post-prandial cocktails in charcoal-hued surrounds.
This quirky townhouse has two spaces to choose from: The Games Room and The Dining Room. Both come with vintage decor, unusual objects d’art and seasonal three-course menus.
Frolicking waist-deep in a mass of plastic balls may not at first seem like the most obvious of Christmas activities. However, the Peter Pan of nightclubs Ballie Ballerson
has a sure-fire knack of getting the most mature of adults playing like excited toddlers in its ball pits.
We prove no exception. We giddily make our way into the neon-lit venue and up to our VIP area. Here, we are treated to the Ultimate Christmas Baller experience, where, for £60pp, you get a prosecco reception, two hours of space hire, food and table service.
After our proseccos, we throw our shoes aside and descend, one by one, into our private VIP ballpit. Some of us take pleasure in just sitting among the balls (they prove remarkably relaxing), while others appear – an amusing sight, this – to regress back to childhood: cue playful pushing, star-fishing and ball throwing. So, yes, it turns out ballpits are for adults as much as for kids. In fact, the only thing that can tempt us out is the promise of a cocktail (the deliciously nostalgic Dibbie Dabberson, which comes with a Dib Dab and strawberry gin) and the theatrics of the staff presenting us with sparkler fountains.
Turns out, ball diving is also hungry work, so the party platters that come as part of the package are a welcome calorie top-up. Meat, fish and vegetarian options are available: mushroom arancini, bacon croquettes and mini mac ’n’ cheeses all get the thumbs-up. One more dip in the pit and our time is up. We aren’t finished, though, and we keep partying in the main bar afterwards until way past our bedtime.
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Like karaoke? Like drag queens? Then you will love this new dive from the guys behind Dalston Superstore. Large groups of up to 20 can take a table among the rabble, or you can have yourself a private party by taking it over completely.
Clapham Common will be turned into a Christmas playground with the experienced teams behind Street Feast and Field Day to thank. There’s a choice of 15 different bars, some legendary food traders and the entertainment includes Plonk Golf, a roller disco and ice skating.
The recovery breakfast
Ah, the morning after. If the boss hasn’t given the troops the day off post-party, you can guarantee that the hangover squad will be out in full force. An emergency Greggs might cut it for a bit, but chances are the post-party slump will kick in quick – and that’s if they even make it to the office. Which is where the recovery breakfast comes in. We called in the guys from Boulevard Events
to provide us with a healthy, revitalising brekkie after a heavy night out.
We have made it in, and we’re catching up on the previous night’s gossip (there’s always plenty); meanwhile, our boardroom is being turned into a power-breakfast station. Immune booster smoothies (spinach, apple, turmeric root and fresh orange juice) provide the necessary shock to the system while bringing up those vitamin levels, and turmeric bread is a stomach-settling first food of the day.
Next, crushed avocado with linseed crackers provides a good hit of healthy fat, while those in the mood for something sweet devour banana-split granola pots and sultana and apple bread (which some of us also save for mid-afternoon snack time).
Our favourite, though, is the aptly named bloody mary bake: potato rosti, tabasco, worcester sauce, tomato and celery, topped with bacon bits. It was worth the hangover alone.
The Boulevard team
will also take away the washing-up, so the troops can get back to – or should we say start – work. Happy staff, happy bosses and a happier hangover: Christmas party nailed, we think.
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Breakfast canapés from this office specialist will keep the party atmosphere going and minimise on washing-up. Kudos
’s menu includes savoury options (hello, welsh rarebit bites and brioche croutons with bacon and quails’ eggs) and sweet treats such as rice pudding dumplings with jam dipping pots and waffle bites with vanilla cream and berries.
Based in Battersea, this caterer has temperature-controlled vehicles, so it can bring breakfast to you, cold or hot. We like the sound of savoury breakfast scones and potato latkes with smashed avocado, as well as pigs in blankets and corned beef hash for those after something more substantial. A virgin mary smoothie tops off the hangover-friendly offering.
Photos: Tom Medwell & Will Bremridge