"It was great to have a taste of what's to come for Christmas and the immersive set-up was really fun!"
After launching our 2020 Christmas themes in December 2019, we had already whetted the appetites of our key clients and agents. On 28th January, we invited them to join us for the official theme launch and our first gastronomic event experience!
In a change from our previous launches, the focus of this year’s launch was on the food experience. Furthermore, the menu itself was almost entirely vegan; a major change from our usual events and an exciting proposition for our talented chefs.
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WONDROUS WONDERLAND
Guests received an exciting invite from the elusive to the King of Heart’s feast in the Wondrous Wonderland, combining our two 2020 themes! With their presence requested by the King himself, guests were given one hint for the mysterious lunch: come hungry!
Arriving in the ruby-red throne room, guests were given a hint at the King of Heart’s opulent and fantastical balls. His throne sat pride of place, where guests could sneakily snap a picture as they enjoyed canapes and cocktails.
Suddenly, an urgent announcement from the King of Hearts' head servant! The enigmatic King is unable to attend the day’s festivities, but he still wishes the guests to experience in his feast fit for royalty. In his benevolent nature, he has allowed for the vortex to the Wondrous Wonderland to be opened specially, giving guests the chance to discover the magic that lies ahead.
Served up is an amazing vegan feast where not everything is what it seems. Sitting down to the tree-topped table, guests are presented with an orange. However, hiding instead is a smoked cauliflower mousse, cleverly disguised with spiced butternut puree!
After starters, the King of Hearts' head servant returns to inform guests that their main banquet is ready. All of a sudden, lights on the main table rise revealing a feast fit for royalty! A spread of beetroot cream horns, saffron scones, basil coral, and chickpea cupcakes compliment the scrumptious root vegetable wellington, with lashings of mushroom broth poured atop.
Once the indulgent feast had come to a close, we had one final surprise in store. Finally, the secret clearing was revealed, where everything was edible – yes, including the foliage!
THE TALENTED TEAM BEHIND IT ALL
The extensive changes we made to the format of this launch gave our sister-company, event management specialist AlchemyLive a chance to shine! We spoke to Ellie Tuohy, the amazing event manager for the launch event, and Nate Brewster, our Food & Beverage Director, to find out more.
How did the planning of this launch differ?
Ellie T – Well, it was the first Christmas launch I’d planned completely by myself, so there was a lot of difference for me! Using the much larger spaces of the Annex and Old Billiard Room was also a big change as it meant we had to make the same budget work in a different way to make the spaces feel full and interactive. Being able to have such flexibility and changeability of the space was great for my creativity, though.
Nate B – The biggest change for the kitchen was incorporating a vegan menu. We were very keen to showcase that using plant-based ingredients does not necessarily mean you have to sacrifice creativity.
What were the day’s biggest successes?
ET – Definitely seeing and hearing all the great feedback from the agents. They really enjoyed the extra elements we added to the day. For instance, changing seating places each course as they changed tables giving them the chance to interact with other groups.
NB – The Dessert station was a huge success, especially the edible branches and plant pots! So much so that we will be looking at incorporating elements of these into future spring/summer-themed stations.
And the biggest challenge?
ET – As it was our first time doing a vegan menu for a Christmas launch, we were apprehensive that people would have a preconceived idea of what food we’d be serving. The food was one area where it could have gone wrong, especially as we usually serve indulgent breakfast menus, so it was a big risk to make such a change.
NB – The biggest challenge for us was working with vegan ingredients. In particular, we had to employ setting agents that we wouldn’t normally use and had to adapt to not using the more stable dairy fats. It was a challenge we were ready for, however, having invested 250 total man-hours over the event for testing!
What were your inspirations during the planning process?
ET – With the themes being so closely related to Alice in Wonderland, I took a lot of inspiration from that source material. Having creativity when it came to the set-up and layout of the room was also really helpful for stopping the event feeling stale.
NB – For the food, we leveraged the flexibility that a three-course lunch gave us. We themed each course to reflect a different element of the Alice in Wonderland theme. The starters and mains were heavily themed around the Mad Hatter’s Party but from completely different perspectives.
The starters used minimalistic plating and had guests able to ‘forage’ for their own food on the table-center trees. Mains, by comparison, had more outright playfulness across the table setting, including bringing in brighter colours across the dishes themselves.
The dessert station took a lot of inspiration from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Designed to cover the five senses; sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch, in a culmination of what the starters and mains laid the groundwork for.
How did this event affect any plans for Christmas 2020?
ET – The launch is really fantastic for giving the Christmas planning team an idea of guest reaction. Did the guests understand the theme and was it translated well enough? What elements need more or less emphasis for the Christmas period? Answering questions like these is key to our continuous delivery of flawless Christmas events. The launch gave us a great idea of what worked and what didn’t and has definitely given me some more ideas for the Christmas theming this year!
How did the vegan menu change any plans you have for future menus?
NB – Absolutely, we take inspiration from everything we do. Whenever you deviate from the norm there is massive scope for inspiration and innovation. This event, in particular, helped to show us what is and isn’t feasible with certain setting agents, giving ideas for the future of our menus. The Wellington also was a particular success and something we will look at incorporating into menus.
Our Christmas 2020 dates now available, with the King of Heart’s Ball and Wondrous Wonderland proving immensely popular. For more information on booking your Christmas party at 8 Northumberland Avenue, contact our team today.