Clockwise from top left: Our Take That Progress Tour tickets….Adam’s birthday meal at Pearl….Summer party at the Tower of London….My personal best on iPhone Trivial Pursuit….Prettys at The Waldorf Astoria Syon Park….Vintage Geekery for Adam’s Birthday Party….
June was a busy month for work and saw the start of the summer party season in earnest. Our first party of the month was for a wonderfully fun repeat client for whom we created a Super Heroes in 3D party at Old Billingsgate, just a few minutes from home. We’d had the idea from all of the super hero films coming out this year and that so many of them are boasting super-high-tech all-singing-all-dancing 3D effects….we made it gorgeously retro though by creating 2D props printed in anaglyph style 3D effects (Kapow! and Zoing! Etc.) and styling in vintage comic book primary colours. After a bit of negotiating and luck, we managed to bag the marvellous Essentials (mentioned in May) for the reception tunes, and then after dinner it was the incredible Mad Hen who took to the Super Hero suits and filled the dance floor. Later to play at Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall’s wedding, they’re possibly my all time favourite party band, and we couldn’t help but have a dance from the viewing gallery whilst they played Sex on Fire, Jump Around and Professional Widow.
They were to join us at our next big party too, as we hosted a very jolly summer fete at the Pavilion at the Tower of London. Right in the moat, we set up old fashioned stalls and guests could try their hand at ‘Skittles’, ‘Bunco Booth’, ‘Hook a Duck’, ‘Tin Can Alley’, and ‘Coconut Shy’, whilst inside our beautifully painted backdrop of the Tower was set up with a full tea party prop display in front ready for the photographer to direct everyone into wonderful scenes. And of course the whole pavilion was filled with bunting. Of course.
The only problem with big summer parties of course is that one pins ones hopes so much on fine weather and spending time outdoors. And we especially wanted to make the most of the stunning grounds for our next party at the Waldorf Astoria, Syon Park. We’d even brought in giant inflatable games and laser clay pigeon shooting, but alas the British weather was yet again against us and everyone was bound indoors (apart from a few intrepid guests who were eager to try and happy to don our lovely ponchos!). Still, the Waldorf Astoria is exquisitely well decorated and full of beautifully well thought touches of design, and so we didn’t mind being indoors too much at all. Especially with the pastry chef’s incredible sweetie station to keep everyone going….like something from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, this table of sweet treats was laid out for pudding and filled to bursting with lollipop toadstools…. apothecary jars of nougat….. footed bowls of marshmallows…. jellies…. honey comb chocolate…. popcorn….. Bliss!
There were more sweet treats as we visited the elegant Apsleys for High Tea at the 5 Star Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner. The gorgeous room, topped with charming symmetrical chandeliers and framed by wonderfully dramatic collages of classical paintings, is the perfect setting for an elegant tea. And the knowledgeable waiter who told us all we needed to know about the exceptionally comprehensive tea menu brought us our chosen infusions in niftily labelled silver pots before talking us through the contents of the various pretty plates and tea stands he brought to follow. It was important to continue to look elegant of course as we ate our way through little quiches, brioches, finger sandwiches and darling and colourful fancies. And I think we did. Until they were all gone!Afternoon Tea at Apsleys….
More treats were in store as I took Adam out for a special birthday dinner to Pearl at the Renaissance Chancery Court. As we were celebrating his 30th birthday, I’d spent an age umm-ing and ahh-ing over where to take him, trying to think where he would most enjoy, rather than just where I really wanted to go. In an attempt to choose a ‘manly’ option I very nearly opted for Comptoir Garcon for its gamey, meaty offerings, which I’d told myself was more fitting than Les Trois Garçon where I’d been hankering after. But after I’d raked through dozens of reviews, and at a risk of choosing somewhere with ever so slightly girlier décor, I opted for Pearl for the incredible sounding french dishes created by the precise hand of our much admired Jun Tanaka.
Perhaps because it was a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was pretty quiet when our cab pulled into the darling courtyard of the hotel, set back from busy Holborn. Inside though, we were delighted by our quiet corner table and the atmosphere travelled in from the busier bar so that we weren’t to feel lonely. From the off, the service was impeccable and we were looked after by no less than four members of the impressive team, although we were never confused as to the role of each. Having been slow to finish our gorgeous pre-dinner cocktails, I decided on a wine to go with our mains and the expert sommelier was sent for. This charming man helped in my choice with confidence, grace and honesty, and then helpfully readied our bottle in time for our mains service.
Dinner began with the presentation of a very pretty amuse bouche of cucumber foam, after which we both chose the same starter: ‘BEEF’ Roast Marrow Bone with Onion Confit, Beef Cheek Croquettes, Watercress Dressing and Wild Garlic. Adam had not had much experience of offal so I was surprised to see him choose this, but as a big offal lover myself I could not wait to try this very delicately presented offering. The marrow bone was beautifully rich and buttery, and the cheek croquettes incredibly delicious alongside the wild garlic. The pretty, tiny portions didn’t take us long to devour but there was so much flavour we didn’t feel cheated and we only looked forward to our main courses. For me it was ‘CHICKEN,’ (Roast Spring Chicken with Macaroni, Lemon Confit, Asparagus and Lemongrass Consomme) which was gorgeously comforting and summery at the same time. And for Adam, the ‘SOLE,’ (Cornish Sole with Artichoke Gnocchi, Roast Baby Artichokes and Seashore Vegetables) which was meaty yet perfectly delicate.
We weren’t brought our ordered desserts until we’d been served ‘pre-desserts’ in the form of tiny glasses filled with creamy couscous and fruit coulis, a sort of european rice pudding. Then we did swaps on our two desserts (we often struggle to choose so have half and half)….. ‘GRAPEFRUIT’ (Grapefruit and Ginger Trifle with Lemon Cake, Stem Ginger Ice Cream) and ‘LYCHEE’ (Lychee Jelly and Raspberries, Rose Ice Cream and Pink Praline). Both were wonderful in their complexity and thoughtfulness, but we were only to be wowed again as our lovely waiter brought out to Adam a decorated plate of chocolates wishing him a happy birthday! We finished up with more cocktails in the gorgeously elegant bar, which we also vowed to return to for an evening of indulgent drinks too. All in all, we couldn’t have been more impressed by the impeccable service, the incredible finesse and the refined originality of Pearl.
After dinner….walking home and opening presents….
It being a special birthday, we of course extended the celebrations for a good few weeks, and the weekend after Adam’s special day saw a trip to his home town of Hitchin for a curry supper with friends and a catch up with family. As ever, we relished the excuse to spend some time out of London relaxing, and in fact on the Sunday ventured over to the second hand book shop in town (quite literally only a stone’s throw away from Adam’s parents’ cottage). The darling shop, much like many of its ilk is crammed from floor to ceiling with shelves upon shelves of exciting texts, positively exploding and toppling with carefully catalogued treasures which I could explore for hours. The smell is familiar of course, that combination of dust, leather and old wood, and so wandering the enchanting isles of this place and delving into a huge hard back makes you feel like some intrepid explorer in a scared, secret cave. Upstairs there are armchairs, coffee table and rugs, which I found far too inviting to pass up and found myself flicking through pretty picture books in comfort whilst Adam investigated the History section. Most impressive though are their beautifully bound sets of Dickens, Shakespeare and collections of Classics, which Adam and I dream of furnishing a grand library with (complete with those slidey ladders and an ancient Globe of course).
We couldn’t let a special birthday pass without a party though, and so once back in London preparations began for Adam’s ‘I don’t want to be a grown up’ party. Adam had asked everyone to dress as their favourite kids TV show character from the 1980s, and we’d themed the party snacks to match….. Adam donned a cavalier’s outfit with ears and a painted nose as his hero Dogtanian, whilst I couldn’t choose between Penelope Pitstop and Velma from Scooby Doo, so did both and switched half way through the night. We also saw friends dress as Mr Ben, Bagpuss, John Craven, Evil Edna, a My Little Pony and Tigger. For the yums, we made Penny Crayon Bread Sticks (I painstakingly sharpened the end of bread sticks and applied colour to the tips to make them look like crayons), Foghorn Leghorns (spicy breaded chicken goujons), Porky Pig Three Ways (sticky worcester sauce chipolatas, chorizo and parma ham), Turtles Pizza, Slimer’s Jelly, Pink Panther Pie (pink blancmange with pink glitter sprinkles and marshmallows on top), Family Ness Puddings (Butterscotch Angel Delight set with wiggly worms to look like swimming lake monsters), and Bananaman Cake. With 80s tunes, Dogtanian on TV and the bubble machine at full pelt, we were far from the sophisticated dinner parties I’d usually aim for, but with many a Gummy Berry Juice and Ectoplasm cocktail inside us, we partied way past bed time.
Family Ness Puddings….Bananaman Bread….Bubbles….Pink Panther Pie….Guests….Barr Lemonade….
With summer in full swing, it was time for a new season’s fads and fancies to come around. And in terms of music it was the 70’s fashions trend I think, that kicked off my constant replaying of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and The Eagles’ Hotel California. All of a sudden we could hear them everywhere too and for a while I didn’t want to hear anything else as they brought me a kind of sunny, lady back mood. For food fads, it was a light bite lunch that got me obsessed with the couldn’t-be-simpler tomatoes on toast. For some reason they were my savoury of choice for every meal, and for weekend lunches I’d slave away for twenty minutes, preparing a vine of cherry tomatoes to perfection with our home grown thyme and basil, Heston’s vanilla salt, black garlic and olive oil, before grilling them and devouring them on toast. But it was the frozen yoghurt that became the super-fad of the summer as I went crazy for plain fro-yo whenever I could get it. It seemed that there were plenty of places cropping up too, just in time for my new craving, and so I’d often opt for a large fro-yo as a grabbed lunch between meetings rather than the sandwiches I’d been getting bored with. And I would like to think its low or no-fat benefits helped make up for all the summer barbecues too!June Barbeque at Casa Wapping….
It was in June that we finally got to see the much anticipated Svengali by the intriguing Derren Brown at the Comedy Theatre in Covent Garden. I’ve enjoyed his TV shows a lot, but unlike Adam I’ve never seen one of his live shows, although I was lucky enough to work on the creative for the gorgeously designed Circus show he toured a few years ago. A few friends had already been to see the show but Brown had sworn them to secrecy so I knew nothing about it, and went with an open, but excited mind. Now likewise, we too were sworn to secrecy, so technically I’m not to divulge anything from the show. But never one to keep my mouth completely shut, I will offer my ambiguous critique…..
I suppose it is the cheeky parlour tricks and mystical stunts that make Brown’s shows ever popular, and of course his showmanship is what holds these together and sets him apart from his competition, but for me a large part of coming to a show like this one and what would usually impress me is the high production value. The build up created in the sound, the lighting and the setting really interests me, and if it’s done well can really draw me in to a good production. And many things did impress me in Svengali, including an intriguing set, and thoughtful distractions such as notes passed around the audience to involve us. But when it came to the suspension of our disbelief, sloppy props and rather naff stunts did somewhat spoil the magic for me, and after all, we were all there to be fooled and taken in by the misdirection. And what is a great showman without his box of tricks?
Now really the close to this post ought to be my memories of a certain concert that made one of my favourite bits of June, but at the risk of comparing two vastly different medium (Derren Brown and a pop concert that is), and angering two huge fan bases (of which I would count myself member of both) I’m going to have to rave about what I expect will be one of the most impressive productions I’ll see this year in a separate post. And I’m not ashamed to be posting an entire blog on Take That’s Progress tour, nor the thousands of words I’ll no doubt spend ranting about how wonderful it was. But at least this way, those of you who find the prospect utterly toe-curling have had your warning!