We thought we did too. But visiting four of its venues over four hours was quite an education – read on
Do you know where Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica was first published, or which duke the Royal Academy of Engineers’ HQ is named after? Want to hold your event in a venue that’s appeared in Bridget Jones’s Diary? Or fancy hiring a space where Richard Branson has partied? You’ll find the answers and locations referred to in all four of these questions in a small patch of SW1. We found them out for ourselves at this summer’s Westminster Collection venue showcase, which saw us hot-footing it between a quartet of the company’s 12-strong portfolio.
First up, The Royal Society. Inside the classic Regency-style venue there are 12 flexible spaces for event bookers to get excited about. But as it’s summer we’re on the outdoor terrace. It’s unusual to have such a large, private, alfresco area in this part of town, but this impressive space enjoys privileged views of The Mall and St James’s Park. The canapés are adventurous: sea trout tartare and liquid nitrogen wasabi sorbet is fresh and light, while English-mustard ice cream and air-dried meat delivers a punchy umami hit. Our favourite element, though, is the ‘make your own’ gin cocktail station: complete with classic and craft gin brands, fresh herbs and interesting tonics, this is a 2018 summer party must-have.
After a short walk to the adjoining Prince Philip House we sit down for our starters in the ERA Foundation room (complete with a painting of the Duke of Edinburgh). The venue is fresh from a refurb and its slick, contemporary interiors make a clean and bright setting for a summer event. This is mirrored in the presentation of the food. Caterer Harbour & Jones served us the prettiest dish of the day: a sphere of tennis-court-green cucumber jelly, outlined with a ring of Cornish crab salad, champagne-cured salmon, salmon roe and squid ink tapioca, and adorned with edible flowers. Instagram was buzzing.
It seemed only fitting that the main course should be served in one of the more traditional venues of the evening. Home to the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace
encapsulates Regency grandeur, with 11 unapologetically grand spaces for events where only period details will do. We ate in our favourite space, The Reading Room. Decorated in Wedgwood blue, with an intricately corniced ceiling, archways and book-lined walls, it’s a remarkably elegant room – and the Lake District cannon of lamb with potato terrine, Somerset peas and crispy courgette flowers that we were served felt just right for the space: fresh, light, but with plenty of depth.
Our final stop was perhaps the most surprising. On first impression, 116 Pall Mall
feels terribly traditional, what with its central, sweeping staircase, huge framed portraits of luminaries and numerous Georgian architectural features. But what we weren’t expecting were the two floors of contemporary meeting and conference facilities. We were also surprised by the underground, vaulted wine bar. Here, post-prandial cocktails and bowls of delicious desserts were eagerly consumed: grilled pineapple, chilli, rum syrup and coconut mousse; elderflower and raspberry jelly with peaches, amaretti and almond cream; and roast apricots with acacia honey, yoghurt and pistachio. Delicious. If you’re looking for modern conferencing backed by a members club ambience, this is the place for you.