Get Creative with Event Theming

Planning an event and not sure what style to go for? Using a theme whether it be about a colour, a topic or season can help create a co-ordinated feel at any event. Hobbies and interests can make a great theme choice and add a really personal touch.

When choosing a theme, try to keep in mind what or who the event is for. If it’s not for you, think about what this person enjoys? Do they have any interesting hobbies? Do they love a particular animal or colour? Or perhaps pay homage to where they are originally from? The latter, is what Kate and Rick did when deciding to use a Purple Asian theme to style The Chelsea Town Hall for a 50th birthday celebration. Playing with lighting, texture and colour they created an Asian extravaganza to delight their guests.

Teamed with authentic Thai food both as canapes and a food station, the hosts used white Ostrich feather plumes and Dahlia flowers to further enhance the theme. The real key to good theming is to incorporate elements within the venue decorations, table centrepieces and food and drink. You don’t have to be bold, the smallest subtle hints can make all the difference.

Here are some photos from past events where creative theming has taken the event to dizzy heights:

Chelsea Town Hall – Purple Asian theme

The Orangery in Holland Park – Sicilian birthday bash

Rugby World Cup at Cooks & Partners HQ

Credit goes to Matt Chung for the photography featured above.

How To Plan A Successful Event

Planning an event and looking for some top tips on how to make it a success? Working closely with a number of clients across an array of industries, we guide them through the event planning mind-field focusing on every element from menu theming to providing posh tents outside should it rain at your summer gathering. There’s a lot to think about and for the novice or even experienced party planner it can be daunting. Every venue is different. Every guest will have a different set of needs and expectations. So how do you keep everyone happy?

Here are our top 3 tips to help you plan a memorable event:

  1. Keep it simple not boring – event catering is very different to restaurant dining. A hot, fluffy, perfectly risen soufflé is fine to do but it’s a bit of a different ball game for 500 guests… Keeping menus simple ensures the quality on large capacity events is still achieved. Cold starters work really well as they can accommodate impromptu speeches while also looking absolutely beautiful! How about our ‘Kent cauliflower panna cotta with Cornish cured lamb, summer leaves and flowers, black olive crumbs, seeded flatbread and olive oil’ anyone?
  2. Make sure it tastes good – use fresh and seasonal ingredients, not only are you doing the planet a favour but they also taste considerably better. Tastings should always be done with your event manager ahead of any large scale event as it gives the opportunity to play around with different flavours and cooking techniques. Our recent addition of a Sous Vide (effectively a water oven) has been a total game changer for many of our meat dishes.
  3. Tweak ‘standard’ menus to fit in with current trends or theming – event food is cool, so keep it current and creative with your own tweaks and touches to fit in with your branding.

Below is a perfect example of theming at its best. We recently covered a Sicilian themed 21st birthday at Holland Park. Check out the gorgeous use of colour in these 3 dishes and how it really conjures up the true Italian spirit from The Med. It really served to evoke memories of home for the guests.

Organise, organise, organise!

Organisation and starting your prep early is the real key to successful event planning. We usually meet with our clients several weeks in advance so we can gain a true understanding of the requirements. This then gives our team an insight into what you want. We can then recommend venues from our list, arrange tours, draft menus, prepare tastings and ensure everything will be at its best for your occasion.

If you want to hear more about our approach to event planning or arrange a tour at any of the venues listed here, please contact the team today on 0207 731 5282 or alternatively email enquiries@cooksandpartners.co.uk.

Credit goes to Matt Chung for the photography featured above.

Summer hosting in the city – your perfect garden venue

Despite the unseasonal rainy weather, it’s summer and most of us are looking for that perfect green space to relax and unwind in after work or on a weekend. We’ve put together our favourite leafy spaces within easy reach by public transport so you can enjoy a few Proseccos or should that be English Sparkling Wines and not have to worry about getting your car home.

  • The October Gallery – a hidden gem in the heart of the city with an old stone courtyard with plenty of charm, space and greenery.
  • The View from The Shard – this year’s annual installation is a majestic garden with colourful flowers and 360° views across the city.
  • Shepheard Churchill Room at Harrow School – a complete haven situated the perfect distance away from the centre of town with a relaxed and calming atmosphere.
  • Eltham Palace – with parakeets flying overhead Eltham Palace offers a truly magical setting.
  • Hedsor House – pristinely maintained garden and grounds in Buckinghamshire with vast trees and grand driveway.
  • Royal Hospital Chelsea – Home to Chelsea Flower Show with a number of beautiful acres of greenery and foliage in West London.
  • Museum of Brands – This quirky and creative museum has recently moved to Notting Hill and has a great hidden garden out at the back.

And don’t forget about the many beautiful parks that make up part of our wonderful city!

  • Battersea Pump House in Battersea Park
  • The Orangery in Holland Park
  • Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath
  • Ranger’s House in Greenwich Park

Which English Sparkling Wine?

If you have been to your local supermarket recently to buy some Processo, you might have been disappointed. Demand for the stuff is far outstripping supply and supermarkets are struggling to get their mits on the UKs must have drink. So what’s the next best alternative if you find yourself at the shops without your fav tipple? Have you ever considered English sparkling wine? Here are a few of our recommendations.

Bluebell Vineyards Blanc de Blancs 2010/11

The original 4ha of Bluebell Vineyards were planted in 2005 on the fringes of the Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. This vibrant Blanc de Blancs uses the estate`s best grapes, slowly matured to capture a fine mousse and crisp citrus palate preceded by aromas of quince, brioche and elderflower.

Grapes: Chardonnay

Hindleap Rose Bluebell Vineyard Estates Sussex 2011

Produced by the traditional method, this elegant pale sparkling rosé has been blended from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay varieties to capture a crisp fresh fruitiness, lending hints of red berries on the nose and a succulent citrus palate.

Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rose Brut 2012

Camel Valley is located near Bodmin, Cornwall. With vineyards planted in 1989, they are one of the top producers of English Sparkling Wine. A lovely rose with characteristic aromas of wild strawberries and raspberries. The palate is very well balanced with fresh notes of summer fruits combined with a pure and refreshing acidity. The mousse is creamy and the red fruit flavours linger on the palate.

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Denbies Whitedowns NV

Denbies, located on the North Downs in Dorking, Surrey, has been producing wine since the 1980’s, with the largest Vineyard area in England (265 acres). This is a rich floral and fresh English fizz with delicate spice on the finish. Rich, yeasty and sophisticated this is a seriously classy wine.

Grapes: Chardonnay, Dornfelder

Want to know more? Give us a call at the office on 0207 731 5282.

How to Host a Brazilian BBQ

The Olympic Games this year are fast approaching and with the sun shining here in London, what better way to get into the Brazilian spirit than by hosting a BBQ with a Latin twist.

The Brazilians are not only famous for their love of Carnival but also for their love of grilled meat. The Churrasco, as native Brazilians refer to the BBQ is a staple part of their diet. So to get you in the mood to Samba your way through the games, we’ve put together a short guide to creating a sizzling hot BBQ guaranteed to be a hit.

Food & Drink

A typical Churrasco will feature a variety of highly seasoned meats on skews. Pop down to your local butcher and pick up a selection of cuts including pork, chicken, beef (fraldinha aka flank) and lamb. Picanha is also commonplace in Brazil.
Chicken hearts feature predominantly at a Churrasco but may not be met with same enthusiasm at a British BBQ. However, should you want to serve chicken hearts here is how to prepare them.

It’s worth noting, that some butchers offer ready skewed meats. This can be a great option and can be a real time saver on the prep front. For a Brazilian style spice mix, try blending and rubbing your meat with paprika, ginger, salt, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander seed, coriander leaf, allspice, cinnamon, pepper and chilli. Add a small amount of olive oil for easy coverage.

Drinks

The national cocktail of Brazil is the Caipirinha, pronounced ‘Kie-Pur-Reen-Yah. Its made from cachaça (derived from fermented sugarcane), sugar and lime. The drink is prepared by smashing the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor. It quite a nice touch to serve this in a punch bowl so guests can help themselves.
Should the Caipirinha not tickle your fancy, try one of these instead.

Side dishes

Here are two side dishes, rated in the top 10 best Brazilian recipes by The Guardian, to be eaten alongside your meaty medley.

Pão de queijo – small baked cheese rolls.

Makes around 20-25

Ingredients

  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g tapioca flour
  • 125g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
  • 1 free-range egg

Method

  1. Boil the milk with the oil and the salt, remove from the heat, put all the tapioca flour at once in the pan and mix well.
  2. Add the cheese and the egg and beat the dough until smooth, then knead into a ball shape.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Let the dough cool enough to handle, then grease your hands with some oil, take small portions of dough and form golf-sized balls.
  4. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and space the balls 2cm apart. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are puffed and are golden. Serve warm.

Feijoada – sliced spring greens with sausages, rice and garlic

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1kg dried black beans
  • 400g sun-dried beef, cut into pieces, or 400g smoked pork ribs
  • 400g smoked bacon, cut into chunks
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g large smoked sausages, cut into big chunks (Portuguese sausage is best, but chorizo will do)
  • 300g small Portuguese spicy sausage or n’duja (regular sausages will suffice here if neither spicy versions can be found)
  • 400g salted pork ribs (or any other cut of pork on the bone from the butcher)
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 orange, peeled, whole
  • 1 shot of cachaça (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 orange to serve, peeled and segmented

Method

  1. In separate bowls, soak the beans, the sun-dried beef or smoked pork ribs (whichever you are using) and the smoked bacon overnight in cold water. Change the water in the morning and continue soaking to get rid of excess fat and salt.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in a very large saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 30 minutes until tender.
  3. Rinse the soaked sun-dried beef (or smoked pork ribs) and smoked bacon well, add to the beans and cook for a further 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a very large, heavy saucepan and pour in the olive oil, so it entirely covers the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened. Add the sausages, salted pork ribs, black pepper and bay leaves. Pour in the cooked beans and meat and top up with water to cover them. Place the peeled orange in the centre of the pot. Let the stew simmer for 1½–2 hours or more, topping up with water as necessary, until the meat falls off the bone. Just before serving, fish out the bay leaves, add a shot of cachaça and serve with the orange segments.

Furniture & Decorations

Your guests will of course need somewhere to sit. Work out roughly how many chairs you will need. Ask the neighbours and even your guests if you don’t have enough.

If your garden is in direct sunlight, you should provide your guests with a shady option. A large parasol or gazebo should provide adequate cover.

Colour inspiration for tableware and decor can be drawn from the Brazilian flag. Think yellow, green and blue. Party Delights stock a variety of party supplies in these colours. Why not collect your ideas using a Pinterest board like this one.

Music & Entertainment

Aside from watching the games themselves, the Samba can conjure up the Carnival spirit at your BBQ. Said to be an iconic symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival, this musical genre and dance style can help get the party started. Spotify have numerous ready-made playlists. Just search for ‘samba’ and try some out.

Image sources from top to bottom: BBQ Meats,Caipirinha, Chicken Hearts, Feijoada, Pão de queijo, Carnival