Hannah Burton reflects on an evening of dazzling revelry and scrumptious food in Bristol…
As the nights draw in and the number of layers we wear increases, thoughts turn to Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year. There’s perhaps one event of the Yuletide season that makes me challenge Perry Como’s crooning, though, and that has to be the work Christmas party. Previous years at different companies have left me feeling jaded – at best I’ve suffered through mediocre food and awkward conversation before being able to make an early escape, at worst I’ve been trapped in the corner talking to a very drunk Nigel from accounts for hours, with only cheap wine and a terrible DJ for entertainment.
Happily this year I’m part of the lovely Food & Drink team so there are no Nigels to avoid, and, even more happily, we went with Relish for our end of year event. Our party was held on December 18th, and the atmosphere in the office was definitely festive as we sipped glasses of wine in our glad rags and waited to be whisked off to Bristol Grammar School for Relish’s Victorian Night Circus.
We were promised ‘the most spectacular night this Christmas’, and Relish delivered this with aplomb. The school is a stunning venue for an event, with its grand decor and high ceilings. The Great Hall was tastefully decorated, with birdcage centrepieces and incredible lighting that brought the Victorian night circus theme to life. The atmosphere was electric thanks to the music and entertainment – Bristol’s Invisible Circus and the students of the Bristol Old Vic milled around providing the entertainment as we dined, impressing us with their displays of juggling, unicycling, ribbon twirling and hula hooping. Face painters were on hand to make sure that everyone embraced the fantastical theme, and there was a photo booth complete with comedy props ready to capture the memory of the evening for posterity.
Mass-catered food can so often be disappointing and bland, so we were really impressed with the quality of the dishes we were served. Proceedings started with a fresh mulligatawny soup with thick slices of homemade bread while the main course was a traditional festive feast with perfectly tender turkey and fresh, tasty trimmings including honeyed roots and winter greens. For dessert we were treated to the indulgent Big Top Trio that included chocolate brownie, orange polenta cake and a salted caramel crème Anglaise shot – heaven. As well as serving a good selection of wine, beer, spirits and Champagne, the Concoctions Bar served an array of tempting cocktails and shots.
As the last dishes were cleared away after dinner, the fabulous Funkty Dumpty took the stage to perform an infectiously fun set of classic funk, Motown and current chart-toppers. Two singers and their accompanying brass band wowed us, and by the end of the first couple songs everyone was on their feet. When the band finished, DJ Harii-Bo took over and continued the party until the early hours, playing something for everyone and keeping the dance floor full. At one point we may even have taken part in an inter-company dance-off…
The whole event ran smoothly, from us being welcomed with champagne and canapés upon arrival and being served in almost perfect unison throughout the meal, to having taxis arranged by staff at the end of the night. The Victorian Night Circus couldn’t have been a better choice for our Christmas party, and we’re already looking forward to seeing what Relish have planned for 2015 – we need to come back to claim victory in the dance-off.