When you think of the award-winning QEII Centre, you think conferences. Unsurprisingly, as that’s what it’s most known for and what it does best. But when we entered through a foliage-covered, fairy light-lit tunnel to the Bloom showcase, we couldn’t recognise the place and were mesmerised by what the event team had put together.
Let’s be honest, although conferences are educational, interesting, professionally beneficial and necessary, they are traditionally a bit, well... dry. We can assure you though that there was nothing dry about the QEII Centre’s showcase the other night, when it invited more than 150 event professionals to show off its creative calibre.
Scroll down to the bottom to see the video from the night!
The fifth-floor Cambridge room (normally a classic conference suite with grey carpets, white walls and concrete pillars) had been entirely transformed into a leafy, underground burrow. The QEII’s event theming partners, EventTrees, installed living walls covered in ultra-instagrammable flowers, a central bar serving tasty cocktails and little caves for people to explore during the reception.
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The flowery, fairy light-lit tunnel leading into the reception
The evening’s three hosts, Ms Rabbit, Mr Badger and Specs, were all dressed up as animals and dished out signature cocktails. Ms Rabbit’s gin, sugar snap pea, lime and mint went down well, but our favourite was Mr Badger’s vodka with vanilla and chai. The Negroni-lovers, on the other hand, drooled over Specs’ Tequila, mescal, aperol and rose vermouth drink.
The Cambridge room has an internal staircase leading up to the Mountbatten room, where dinner was served. Equally unrecognisable, the room had been transformed into a giant daffodil, with the dining tables nestled inside its petals – extremely pretty, effective and clever. Fields of daffodils were also projected onto giant screens while the sound of swooshing flowers and the buzz of bees came out from the speakers. What a nice touch.
Our hosts for the evening: Specs, Ms Rabbit and Mr Badger
Before dinner was served, Mark Taylor, chief executive of the QEII, appeared among the daffodils to welcome us all – a sign of the developing trend of remote attendance made possible through technological advancements.
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The dining tables set within a giant yellow daffodil
We’re seeing a shift in the type of food that is being offered at conferences and conference centres. More emphasis is being put on sustainability, healthy food, variety and catering for different dietary requirements. This is evident at the QEII Centre, as demonstrated by the three-course dinner served at the showcase.
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Head chef Jean Michel Viala (previously head chef of banqueting at The Dorchester) gave us a starter of vegetables – a fresh salad of asparagus, tenderstem broccoli and rainbow radish with a white bean hummus, garnished with edible flowers – perfectly in tune with the evening’s theme. The main, though, was just a smack-you-in-the-face piece of deliciousness. The surf 'n' turf featured a melt-in-the-mouth piece of beef with oxtail ravioli, lobster pot and a pommes-anna with micro vegetables.
Our surf 'n' turf main course
Dessert was an almond financier, vanilla yoghurt gel, poached rhubarb, white chocolate mascarpone, custard spheres and almond crisps. Before we headed down for some more cocktails (hello Espresso Martinis), our animal hosts appeared on stage for some sultry cabaret performances.
Wow. What an evening and what a showcase of the QEII Centre’s events team’s capabilities. Although we’re sure your average conference won’t be delivered with foliage-covered walls and bottomless cocktails, we’re now even more convinced of the venue’s enormous versatility and flexibility. The QEII Centre is not just the place for a conference, but for kick-ass, impressive events with entertainment and decorations. Another item to add to the list of things it does best.
Tempted to host your next event here? Check out the QEII’s event page for all crucial info. You can also watch the video from the night below.