Sometimes, when I’m clearing up the tables the day following a dinner, I see evidence of what my guests have been up to during the meal. Whether they are anxious, drunk, flirtatious, have played with their food, been entertained or bored, what I cannot glean on the night from my sporadic journeys out of the kitchen, I discover the next morning when tidying away. I’ve found napkins twisted into animal shapes, a heart shape traced into a pile of salt, noughts and crosses scribbled on a piece of paper, items of clothing, mobiles, wallets, undrunk bottles of wine, fruit casually carved into shapes and examples of ‘table art’. On New Year’s eve, the combination of champagne corks, wire cages and gingerbread led to the example pictured below, a rather charming candelabra.
Seven thirty pm is the usual dinner arrival time at The Underground Restaurant. Seven thirty pm on New Year’s Eve: the room was set up, everything prepped, candles flickering, table linen glowing starchily white, cutlery gleaming, plates warmed, champagne opened, fire lit, waitresses fastened up in their black dresses and vintage pinnies, me with my heels on, my feathers and glitter in my hair, my big ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ pressed cotton apron. 7.30 ticked past. Matt Day from Mumm Champagne suggested drinking a glass each. By 8, no guests had arrived. On my third glass of champagne I started to wonder if I had the wrong night. At 8.15pm, I ran to the computer, checked wegottickets.com, yes it was the 31st of December, but ah! I’d said arrival time was 8.30, clever me, as it’s a long night. By this time we were all a bit drunk.
The door bell rung and guests piled in, shrugging off coats and scarves, faces happy and excited. I always say the dress code is ‘dressy’ for I love to see the ladies’ dresses. Sequins and ballgowns, vintage frocks, petticoats, kilts, starched shirts and bowties, Sunday best, night on the tiles outfits have been turfed from the back of the wardrobe for a night out at The Underground Restaurant and it gladdens my heart. I only wish I had a red carpet and flashing paparazzi to do proper justice to the glamour of my guests.
I often ask guests as they are leaving: ‘Which course did you like best?‘. When each of them answers differently I think the food in general must have been a success. The New Year’s Eve menu was specifically matched with different Mumm champagnes, here are the pictures:
Matt Day opened all the champagne at the beginning: “Won’t it go flat?” I asked. “No, good champagne will stay bubbly for a week” he replied.