80s music, 80s office party, Abigail's party, Alice Hodge, Amanda Bellingham, artichoke ravioli, broth, cosmopolitan, flutes, games, Haggerston, London, Moro trained chef, paradigm shift, pickle, pickle shot, pickled butternut squash, pop up, ravioli, rose lipman building, set designer, smoked quail, supper club, The Art of Dining
Wednesday night marked the opening of The Art of Dining’s Pop Up 80s Office Party which took place at The Rose Lipman Building in Haggerston. This was my first Art of Dining experience, therefore I wasn’t really sure what to expect however any evening that’s 80s themed can’t be bad, hey?!
The venue definitely didn’t disappoint. I went along with my friend, Adrian who had attended their Abigail’s Party dinner and said it was one of the best events he had been to, due to the attention to seventies dinner party detail and the characterisation of the Abigail’s Party hostess. We both loved the décor, designed by Alice Hodge who has previously done several of the set designs for Art of Dining events. The room was laid out with several rows of tables consisting of blocks of eight, with a wonderful bar a level up at the back of the venue where pickles (a key ingredient, to say the least of the evening) were on display and you could order a special pickle shot in line with the themed office exercises.
There was also the option of buying wine flutes for £20, which offered a flute of wine for every dinner course, which I was very tempted with – however we wanted to try out the cocktails as pina colado was on the list and a special cosmopolitan (renamed as The Paradigm Shift). To keep the theme in the forefront, we had floppy disks as coasters and a staff manual doubled up as a menu on every seat. There was also an overhead projector and a selection of photocopiers strewn around the room, as well as office folders to fully flesh out the office environment. The playlist was a nice addition as there were a range of power ballad-esq ranging from Hungry Eyes to Love is a Battlefield, which definitely make us feel as though we had stepped back in time.
Due to most people attending as a two, although you could go with more people, it became a real social evening and we had a lovely couple sitting next to us who we ended up chatting to for most of the night, pooling our eighties knowledge with and getting immersed in the tasks. I was a little apprehensive about how interactive the evening would be, especially as audience participation occurred from the moment the event begun, but all the games were brilliantly concocted throughout, and so much fun. Amanda Bellingham, the host and CEO for the evening – as well as the Margaret Thatcher of condiments, introduced herself as the owner of the pickle factory we all worked for; it’s fair to say she very much knew how to manage us, as well as the room. She was fantastically wry in her characterisation and very much played her Thatcher-esq character to the hilt.
She was looking to hire a special personal assistant so we all needed to be on top form and try and woo her over by undertaking exercises to demonstrate our love of pickles. The evening flowed very fluidly and was successfully punctuated by the courses, so you would be quite absorbed in one of the games and then the first course arrived which consisted of artichoke ravioli and a broth to pour over.
I saw the broth on the table and had no idea what it was but the flavours together made a delicious combination. There were five courses in total. The packed lunch made us feel like we were in America with our brown paper bags and consisted of a pork bao bun accompanied with a crunchy delicious apple salad encased in a snow white type apple ornament. My favourite dish was the tea smoked quail with white wine braised potatoes, pickled butternut squash and sweet herbs. The only problem I had was that there wasn’t more of it!
During the courses we were asked to write a goodbye card to a member of staff at the pickle company, their 82 year old canteen lady, which Amanda thought was despicable that she was leaving! We had a lot of fun with this game and Adrian’s card got chosen as the favourite. The other game was to draw a portrait of Amanda, which conjured up some brilliant pictures. There were some really creative ones, some over the top ones and then the best one, which was chosen as top choice, was just super funny and original (no spoilers given so you don’t get any ideas!).
Before we knew it the desserts arrived and the evening had come to an end. Five courses later, some delicious cocktails, a pickle shot, and lots of amazing 80s tunes to keep us entertained, it was time to leave. It might have been my first Art Of Dining event but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last.
The Art of Dining 80s Office Party runs from now until 16th April. Make sure to get tickets before they’re sold out! Buy tickets here.