I met the most patient and creative food photographer at Leiths food styling cookery course just before Christmas, so naturally Stuart www.stuartovenden.com was my first choice to take some photos of our food for the coming season.
Here I have taken the highly acclaimed and locally produced Tunworth cheese (Even Raymond Blanc raves about it!) and spiked it with some sprigs of fresh thyme and a splash of calvados, warmed it up and popped it into a scooped out loaf, with crusty croutons to dunk you can imagine how hard it is to only have one, crostini not cheese!!
I love the tempura squid, we reduce soy sauce down until we get a syrup, add honey, grated fresh ginger and toasted sesame seeds – Yum!
These waffle cones are a fun carrier for a variety of fillings, here I have used some local smoked river Itchen trout in one, sundried tomato with an antipasta filling and also a light Hampshire goat’s cheese topped with caramelised red onion.
Thank you so much for everything you did for our wedding. You made everything run so smoothly on the day and we are incredibly grateful.
The food was delicious from start to finish, the drinks were amazing and all your staff were so kind and helpful. You were so helpful from our initial meetings to the food tastings, to the day itself – suggesting ideas and saying yes to everything we asked for!
On the day we were so impressed at how you organised everything so well, to cope with that heat and we felt incredibly well looked after. We cannot thank you and your team enough for making the wedding reception so special. We will be recommending you to everyone! All our guests were asking who had done the catering as they were so impressed.
Thank you so much
Love Susie and Alexis.
(Wedding at Avington Park July 2013)
We were delighted to make it through to the final four of the National Entrepreneurs Awards for Best Business Video at the ICC in Birmingham last week, had to be content with second place on this occasion!
Watch it here …. creative catering and marquees
Video produced by MWS Media
Planning a party can be fantastic fun; it allows you to be creative and innovative, so that your guests can let their hair down and have a great time. From small celebratory get-togethers to large Wedding Receptions, there is always a reason to party!
With 23 years of experience of party planning as well as partying ourselves, we have created a full proof blueprint on how to create fantastic parties every time.
However, unfortunately, over the years we have been invited to some parties Where simple common errors have been made leading to the event being a bit of an anti-climax and not living up to expectation. Even when a huge amount of effort has gone into the planning.
So we have decided this has to stop, and it’s time to reveal a few of our secrets on what makes a party a Creative Catering Party!
Common Mistake 1
Not confirming the date early
It is all very well having a fantastic theme, the best caterers and the latest DJ but if you have no one coming! what’s the point?
- Confirm the date early but make sure your family and friends are available on your preferred date before announcing it to the rest of your guest list.
- Once you have got your date and you are happy that the “VIP’s” are free, then make sure you send out invites and get RSVP’s.
- This will then give you a far better idea of how many to cater for in terms of food and drink, as well as giving you the option to invite more people if others aren’t free, without it being embarrassing!
Common Mistake 2
Assuming that it will never rain on the day.
- Great Britain and its weather have a love/hate relationship with their residents. So by having a party in the middle of July does not give you the right to assume it will be glorious sunshine, as does having a party in the depths of winter mean it will be miserable and raining!
- Always have a back up plan.
- Make sure that if you are preparing a summer BBQ outside that your house inside is presentable and ready for guests if the weather turns. All good caterers will provide cover for a BBQ and will be able to produce the food in most weather conditions. So you need not worry about them.
- Alternatively have a marquee if your budget can stretch to this. This will mean that you don’t need to worry about the weather and you can always open the sides up if the weather is nice.
Common Mistake 3
Trying to plan the schedule minute by minute
- Please don’t get me wrong being prepared and planning is essential, however when trying to plan an event to such small detail, may leave you feeling stressed and ‘clockwatching’ through out the day.
- Speeches may overrun, guests will be ‘fashionably late’, food might take longer than expected. This is a fact of life, however if you start to plan to such an extent of
- You will not enjoy your party, so allow for variance in your times and you will relax and enjoy the party and not be forever checking the schedule
Common Mistake 4
Having too many suppliers.
- This may seem a strange mistake, and surely having others do the hard work is a good thing? Yes it is. However, by having lots of different suppliers providing you with a range of different things, it is very hard to keep track of who is responsible for what.
- For example by having a marquee supplier, an equipment supplier and a caterer, items may get missed. Who is supplying the kitchen equipment needed?
- By having as few suppliers as possible, responsible for multiple things, any last minute checks or changes can be made with one or two phone calls
Common Mistake 5
Not having enough food!
- This seems very obvious, yet too many people fail to do this! We have all been to a party which states that food will be available. You therefore don’t eat before arriving, as you don’t want to be rude and say you have already eaten. Yet you arrive to see a few crisps in a bowl, some breadsticks and a quiche on the side.
- Talk to your caterer, a good professional caterer will have years of experience in what you should provide and how much. Imagine what you would expect?
Common Mistake 6
Setting a vague or optional theme!
- Having themes can be great fun and create a buzz about your party before the event. You need to be clear about the theme and never leave it optional!
- Having it optional may lead to some dressing up and others not, therefore causing embarrassment to your guests and leaving them feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the evening.
- By setting clear guidelines for everyone to dress up or for everyone to wear “black tie” this will give confidence to others who wouldn’t normally join in. It will let people really get into the mood of the party beforehand so that the atmosphere is electric when guests arrive.
Common Mistake 7
- It is crucial that when booking entertainment you research personally. Don’t take recommendations for DJ’s or bands without listening to them first, people have very different tastes in music. It’s your party so you need to enjoy the music.
- If you are having your own music, spend some time making playlists beforehand which suit the atmosphere that you are trying to create. Don’t have one playlist which you are determined to use, sometimes you can make the wrong decisions, so always have a few back ups.
- Sometimes parties can peak too early and guests lose enthusiasm. Have a few games or entertainment ideas up your sleeve. (Remember your guests and keep it ‘clean’)
Common Mistake 8
Know your guest list!
- When planning a party it is all too easy to get carried away. This isn’t, necessarily always a bad thing, focus on the varying age groups and cater for all their needs.
- Look at your guest list, (if the vast majority are over 70. Emphasis should possibly be focused on a quality sit down meal, not drinking the night away with party games and a bucking bronco. Whilst if you are hosting a party for a 21st, bacon butties and pizza might be more appropriate to soak up the alcohol and keep people on their feet!.
Common Mistake 9
Keep it realistic!
- Finally know your budget! Prioritise what is the most important aspect of your party. Don’t go and blow the entire budget on a band or DJ if you want luxurious food as well.
- Be “Party Savvy”! Hunt around for the best drinks deals.
- If you are having a theme, try and negotiate a good deal with the local fancy dress shop.
- After all the time you have spent planning, enjoy it!
So now we have shared a few of our secrets, you have no excuse to hold a sub standard party.
If you would like us to help you host a fantastic party using our formidable blueprint, get in touch!
We have been enjoying some wonderful sunny days and thankfully weekends over the last month, ideal for dusting off the barbeque and getting a chance to eat out-doors.
Here are a few shots of some of the dishes we have been cooking during July.
Sharing boards placed on each table have been very popular this summer, accompanied by lovely summer salads this gives a very casual dining option.
Using our wood fired terracotta ovens to cook in, adds great flavour to the food
A simple, yet delicious summer plated lunch party dish for 180 guests, to accompany the char-grilled aged Hampshire beef fillet we served minted summer new potatoes with warm melted butter and our own home grown summer salad leaves
Super wedding at Avington Park in Hampshire this weekend. The groom used to waiter for us in his University holidays!
180 guests enjoyed the family’s own Trinidadian rum made into a wicked rum punch which had 90% of the guests dancing along to the steel band even before the wedding breakfast! The highlight of the wedding had to be the brides solo although a close second was the bride and groom leading their band with the most fantastic singing, keyboard and lead guitar, a very talented couple and a great party!
They chose our new peaked roof marquee style which was attached to Avington Park House, which is a truly fantastic setting for weddings in Hampshire and well worth a visit if you are considering a venue for your wedding reception.
We are loving our new peaked roof marquees making their debut this summer. They give you the external look of the traditional pole marquees with the added benefit, internally of having no poles, which gives you a better use of space. Also, as the picture shows you can light the peaks for a dramatic effect once the sun sets.
Your Wedding and how we go about helping you plan your great day
It all starts with you phoning us or sending an email. You will have given us a brief outline of what you would like for your wedding; number of guests, the venue , whether you want a plated meal or a buffet. At this stage you may not have booked the church and therefore know your service time, don’t worry, we can work on an estimated average time for staffing. We will send you our menus along with a price guide for what you have asked for. We do this because very few people know what it is going to cost and when we ask, quite often have not thought about a budget. So once you know the ball park figure and you are happy with that, then we can meet up and get more detail from you and put together a personal proposal for your day.
Things we will go through with you are;
- Time of your service and what time to you will arrive back at the venue.
- How long do you want for reception drinks, during which time you will have photographs. We advise on about one and a half hours for this, as we have found anything longer then guests start to get tired legs and ask us when dinner will be served! Also, don’t under-estimate how long it takes 100+ guests to sit down! From announcing and our staff circulating amongst your guests to ask them to be seated, you need to allow half an hour.
- Most people like to serve some canapés during the reception stage, and they are always well received! This helps take the edge of the Champagne, especially if your guests have not had chance to have lunch before the service. If you are sitting down to a 3 course meal, then 4 canapés a person is enough, however, if the canapés are to act as the starter then we recommend 8 per-person.
- The most popular style of wedding breakfast is a plated meal, with waitress service. Another nice option is to have some anti-pasta /mezze style sharing starters, but do bear in mind there is not lots of spare room on the tables, once you have flowers, wine and water to dodge around.
- After dinner, would you like us to run an evening bar for you, or are you happy to continue with the wine you have been drinking with your meal? If we leave you to it after dinner, yes this will save you some money, but please do not under-estimate that 100+ people in a marquee or venue do need some looking after and I would always advise you have a least a couple of bar staff to stay and run an evening bar for you. They will keep the party area tidy, make sure over-indulgent guests are offered a glass of water or a coffee, if the need arises! And best of all tidy up at the end of the evening and assist with calling taxi’s etc.
Setting up the interior of your marquee or venue
- Regarding the setting up of your marquee or venue tables, we like to do this the day before your wedding. (Based on your marquee going up mid-week) This then gives you time to meet with your Event manager and go over any final points before the day, also you can then personalise the tables to suit your style. This also allows your florist to come in on the morning of your wedding and place your table flowers in situ.
- We provide an easel on which you can display your table plan layout.
- We will have taken delivery of all your drinks earlier in the week and have these chilling ready to be transported to your venue in a refrigerated van, where they remain for the duration of your wedding. Afterwards we can arrange collection of these by one of your ushers.
- With your tables all set and everything in place, the Champagne chilled and the cutlery polished, we are all ready to go. Your Event Manager and team of waiting staff will be ready for the arrival of your wedding party, on hand to collect coats and wedding gifts and serve the all important glass of chilled fizz. They can make a cup of tea if anyone wants one and deal with children asking for endless juice!
- Your Event Manager will have a copy of your time plan for the day and at the appropriate time will liaise with your Best Man to announce the Wedding Breakfast, she will also circulate amongst your guests assisting them to find their seats.
- Dinner is served and if your speeches are held after pudding, your Champagne glasses will be filled ready for your speeches and to toast the cutting of the wedding cake. After which we shall whisk it away to be cut and wrapped in napkins to appear with coffee.
Once your speeches are over, your bar will have been set up and ready for action, along with the DJ or band primed for your first dance!
The dining tables will be tidied after dinner and wine left with guests who are enjoying sitting and talking at the tables, or if the wine is not required, we move it across to the bar.
After dinner your bar staff will look after guests with drinks and generally keep the area tidy of dirty glasses etc.
At the end of the evening our staff will tidy up, leaving you to climb into a taxi and kick off your dancing shoes !
Avington Park House is a truly beautiful venue in Hampshire, 10 minutes from the centre of Winchester. Here are some pictures of a marquee being erected and the finished look.
The marquee is linked to the library at Avington Park House, and to start with the boys lay out the leg bases, in relation to the size of the marquee.