“We eat with our eyes” so the old adage maintains, and never is this more true than in the heady world of event catering.
When responding to any brief, be it a sumptuous private banquet, a punchy product launch or the first night party of a new West End smash, the visual impact of our food, gets equal billing alongside the intensity of flavour and quality of ingredients.
The imagination knows no limits, and I still get a little frisson of excitement when a client imparts a new theme, giving us something to toy with, to experiment with and ultimately to mould to our own purpose, delivering delicious, memorable, and often witty and playful menus.
I remember doing Oysters Rockefeller with hypodermics of Hollandaise for a Breaking Bad party; edgy in design, luxurious in taste, although not for the feint-hearted. Also, a fabulous Gosford Park inspired 1940s party where all manner of classic Savoy-Grill style morsels were served on the finest vintage silver by feather festooned Follie-style waitresses.
For the first night party of Olivier award-winning “Kinky Boots” our team hand decorated hundreds of miniature shoes which were dotted throughout the party space – on canape trays, on food stations and on bars. They proved very popular with pumped up party guests who took them as kitsch mementoes of a really fabulous, if rather camp evening.
The interactive food station has taken the art of haute couture food presentation to a new level. A popular focal point addition at parties, these static, chef-led food stalls add a winning combo of theatrical design, chef interaction, and ease of service to the modern party format. With eye-catching design and food theatre, food stations entice guests to graze from a delicious selection of highly visual menus, often including a dish freshly prepared to order by imposing toque-topped chefs.
Most recently we were tasked by one discerning client to seek inspiration from 18th Century art to create an Italian food station. The result was an edible rococo still life. Oversize platters and rustic wooden bowls were raised on logs and interspersed with little clusters of woodland flowers and moss. The opulent and sumptuous banquet seemed to tumble off the table, and the addition of a whole parmesan wheel and a carved to order Parma ham only added to the drama. Food theatre at its best.
The seafood stall we created recently for an event at the Cutty Sark also stands out. Orkney Scallop Carpaccio and treacle cured Atlantic trout were served on half shells in a genuine rowing boat filled with crushed ice, tangles of seaweed and lemons – rather apt when entertaining guests beneath the bow of Victorian tea clipper!
Sometimes however its best to just let the food tell the story. For last year’s, Event Awards we took inspiration from the legendary party venue, the Eventim (Hammersmith) Apollo, and channelled our inner Prog-rockers to create a tribute in chocolate to Pink Floyd. The now infamous ‘Dark Side of The Spoon’ was a pudding-replica of the iconic album cover, a luxurious white chocolate sphere filled with Black Forest mousse and a rainbow tuille. By the end of the evening our pud was trending on the Awards’ social media platforms.
Theming or working to a brief allows us to stretch our imagination. The more original or elaborate the event, the more opportunity there is to produce food which appeals to all the senses.