In the past couple weeks, I’ve been to three work Christmas bashes. Two off site, and one in the company. Out of the three meals I’ve had, I’ve not really enjoyed a single one. Maybe my standards are too high? But then I even enjoy eating at TGI Fridays and still love KFC burgers although now that I’ve seen the amount of calories they contain I’ve stopped eating them.
Bankside EC2 was the first, we went for a long lunch with the rest of my technology department, around twenty people in total.
It’s quite hidden away down an alley way (not surprisingly in the EC2 postcode in London) and is entirely underground. The place is massive, it easily seats over one hundred people with a fairly large bar area. They server us rather acidic champagne and cheap mulled wine when we arrived, which was a nice gesture but rather unpalatable.
The one thing I detest about planned Christmas lunches or dinners at these type of restaurants is how they cram as many people into a table as possible. Our relatively small table had eight of us getting friendly. Then they lay a three course set of cutlery, a bread plate and knife, and the three wine glasses for all the different types of alcohol on the table. Along with the crackers and wine coolers, this leaves you with as much space as Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.
For Â£29.99 a head, you get a reasonable choice of dishes, I had the deep fried Cornish brie as the starter, which was very well cooked and very well balanced. However I was disappointed with roast leg of lamb for the main. It was dry, cut like a steak (far too thick) and lacked flavour. I struggled to finish it. Also our vegetables and roast potatoes arrived much later than the meat. The dessert selection was grim, as was the taste and that was also the uniform opinion of everyone. Over sweetened sludge is all I can call it.
However, the after dinner coffee and drinks were very good, and I did have a good time overall even if I didn’t enjoy the food.
Merrill Lynch Snow Ball
This was a major undertaking. The whole of GPC was invited, including all the big guns. We were shuttled to a big garden in Chelsea, where they had set up a big marquee, which once you were inside you couldn’t tell the difference from a permanent building.
Again there was a big reception area where we were served champagne and orange juice if you’re that way inclined. They must’ve wanted us drunk, as we had our glasses regularly refilled by a rather nice waitress who I flirted a bit with.
The dining area had a glass roof that showed we were next to very large illuminated trees, quite a nice touch. However the food left a lot to be desired. The salmon and pancake starter was rather uninspiring and lacked flavour and portion size. The main of what I think was pan fried lamb was a bit too undercooked, although better that than overcooking it. The surrounding mash and gravy were again plain and boring, and the portion was far too small. The dessert of raspberry cheesecake/moose was too sweet. However I couldn’t fault them on presentation, very Michelin in style.
To make up for the poor meal and especially poor dessert, there was a white chocolate fountain, with an assortment of fruit, marshmallows, mini doughnuts; the works! The chocolate was incredibly rich and creamy, just the way you want it in a fountain.
The highlight of the evening had to be the casino gambling. We were given a fake $100 bill which we cashed in at a table for chips. I started off at the Blackjack table, where after twenty minutes and one Blackjack, I managed to get my stash up to $1000. I then moved onto the dance floor and boogied for half an hour or so. I must’ve been feeling lucky, as I then proceeded to go onto the Roulette table and put all $1000 of chips I had onto red. I won, so I played double or nothing, and won again! I then played red again with $4000 of chips, and won again! At this point, I was thrown off the Roulette table as I’d cleared the dealer out of money.
Unfortunately, I then had to catch a train home so I left, after what was a very enjoyable night for a company party.
The final Christmas lunch served on site at the company today was the worst out of the bunch. The starter was a smaller and even less tasty version of what I had the Snow Ball. The turkey was dry, the stuffing was boring, the potato was undercooked and the gravy was bland. To top it all off, the mini sausage that came with the turkey had bacon that tasted like plastic. Fucking plastic. Dessert was chocolate moose, and again far too sweet.
Seriously, I thought I would get at least one decent meal out of three attempts this Christmas, but it seems the most places are glad to fob you off with large quantities of cheap and nasty alcohol in the hope you’ll get drunk and forget about the taste of the food.
I’m very disappointed.