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Posts Tagged ‘wedding’

Not wishing to over-egg the pudding, there’ll be no more wedding talk after this post, I promise! In my defence, this isn’t about our wedding but our friends’, who chose to do something a little different, somewhere quite special when they got married in October.

M and E wanted to keep it small, intimate and low-key but didn’t want to miss out on any of the indulgence you really ought to afford yourself on your big day. The result was a highly personal registry office ceremony in Richmond, followed by a brisk walk along the river to Petersham Nurseries and then a big house party.

Pass through the gateway to Petersham Nurseries and you feel like you’ve walked into a page of Homes and Garden magazine. It’s an idyllic oasis just a short step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This English country garden of old oozes elegance, is über-photogenic and enchanting.

Arriving early, there was time to explore the nursery, bask in the autumn sunshine and relax in the teahouse before they were ready for us. The restaurant is housed in one of the Victorian greenhouses within the nursery and as you walk through the door you’ll be instantly astonished by the impeccable attention to detail and decadence. Yes, you’re walking on a gravel floor more suited to your wellies than your stilettos but you’ll definitely want to dress up for the occasion.

Surrounded by plants, stunning candelabras, antique dressers, crockery and textiles and seated at chic mismatch tables and chairs complete with price tags should you wish to take one home with you, it’s easy to see why Petersham Nurseries has such a good reputation and is the place to be seen for ladies who lunch. Which girl wouldn’t want to experience this fairy tale place?

Serving a group of 18, it was understandable that the menu was short, though no less interesting than the full weekly menu; a selection of antipasti style starters followed by a choice of three mains and two desserts or cheese. Head chef, Skye Gyngell, uses local produce combined with authentic ingredients to create a menu with a very definite Italian slant, perhaps influenced somewhat by the nursery’s Italian owners.

To whet our appetites we were brought pane carasau (a wafer thin Sardinian bread) with olive oil before we moved onto the starters; sharing plates of buffalo mozzarella with roast artichoke, seasonal vegetables with bagna cauda (an Italian dip made with olive oil, garlic and anchovies), bruschetta with San Daniele ham and tomatoes, and bruschetta with wild mushrooms and garlic. With such good quality ingredients, there’s no need to doing anything fussy, and indeed these dishes weren’t over-complicated, just well-executed.

     

There was a meat, a fish and a vegetarian option for the main course as well as a child-friendly linguine with parmesan. Sadly no one opted for the endive gratin, mache (lamb’s lettuce) and walnut dressing but there was an equal split between the polpette (large meatballs) with fine beans and polenta and the sea bass with roasted fennel and tomatoes, Roseval potatoes, olives and capers. Impressive portion sizes, perfectly cooked fish, good, balanced flavours – very satisfying plates of food.

          

Not having a sweet tooth, I went for the cheese, a tangy pecorino with Muscatel grapes (but surprisingly no biscuits or bread!), a couple went for the chocolate fondant with crème fraiche but the biggest hit was the boozy pud; raspberries with mascarpone and Savoiardi biscuits heavily soaked in grappa.

A special mention must go to the Prosecco and wines which were of a very high standard. The wine was chosen before-hand by M and E so we didn’t get to see a list but from our experience I’m sure you wouldn’t go far wrong with any bottle you plump for.

Nothing wrong with the service either; friendly, smiling staff were attentive but not imposing, service during our leisurely four hour lunch was relaxed and there was no rush to get us out.

We did finally make our exit through the gift shop (do so at your own risk, you’re bound to be tempted by the goodies!) heart-warmed and left with a lingering sense of delight from a visit to a place whose memory is sure to bring a smile to our faces for some time to come.

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It probably wouldn’t surprise you to read that food played a big role in our wedding. The wedding breakfast was particularly important but the munching didn’t stop there.

The beauty of Folly Farm was that the venue was ours for the whole weekend. It meant we could arrive on the Friday to decorate and set the rooms up as we wanted then share dinner with close family and friends that evening around the big table in the Old Dairy.

That dinner consisted of Brazilian pork and black bean stew and a black bean chilli which, just weeks before the wedding, I’d spent a weekend making and then froze (thanks to Heidi for the loan of space in her chest freezer!) ready for my mum to re-heat once we’d finished decking out the rooms.

My mum also kindly made a selection of family-favourite desserts; chocolate mousse, pavlova and apple crumble. The chocolate mousse was clearly a big hit with my four year old goddaughter who had four helpings!

Banished from the kitchen on my wedding day, my presence made itself known at breakfast in the form of American pancakes, a weekend brunch favourite. The same weekend I was busy making stew and chilli, I also made a huge pile of pancakes for everyone. Served with maple syrup and raspberries, it was a great way to set us up for the day. I particularly enjoyed mine sat in bed with a cup of tea, chatting with friends!

We would have hated for anyone to go home hungry and/or not having had enough to drink so sausage sandwiches and cheese were in order late in the evening.

Ian at the Cheese Shed helped us construct our own ‘cheese cake’ of wonderful South West cheeses, decorated by our friend, Mel, who also did an amazing job with my bouquet.

From top to bottom:

Gevrik (goat’s cheese)

Eve (goat’s cheese)

Black-Eyed Susan (organic, Jersey cow’s milk cheese)

Miss Muffet (semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese)

Wild Garlic Yarg (cow’s milk cheese wrapped in wild garlic leaves)

Beenleigh Blue (blue ewe’s milk cheese)

Six Spires (unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese)

The sausages were lovingly cooked by our WOMAD friends, Gordon & Alex, as a wedding present! Bread rolls came from the independent artisan bakery, Mark’s Bread, on North Street and the sausages from our usual supplier, the brilliant Bristol Sausage Shop, in Bristol’s St Nick’s market.

Having road tested our shortlist of flavours with our fellow WOMAD-goers this summer, we decided on the three favourites: the Lucifer (a pork sausage with a chilli hit), black magic (pork and black pudding) and pork, red onion and ginger. There were also lovely veggie sausages from the Naked Kitchen.

The food didn’t stop there! We couldn’t ask people to help clear up on an empty stomach so laid on bacon sandwiches on the Sunday morning. Our friends know us so well – Emma, Ed and Hattie bought us amazing Chatsworth House cured bacon as our wedding present and made their own ketchup and brown sauce to go with it. A special thanks to my mum and dad, Phil and others who helped make sure everyone was fed and watered before getting on their way.

They also put together ‘party bags’ of leftover cake, cheese and biscuits, sausages and bread for people to take with them. I hate food going to waste so it gave me great pleasure to know that there were plenty of picnics had on the way home and friends’ children had the best packed lunches the following week!

The clearing up done, everyone on their way home and the hangovers setting in, we headed to the Michelin starred Pony & Trap for Sunday lunch. Melt in the mouth Gloucester Old Spot pork loin and tender rare-breed roast sirloin of beef with all the trimmings were a fitting end to an incredible and unforgettable wedding weekend.

After such an indulgent weekend, I have high hopes for married life – may we be lucky enough to continue to share and enjoy many years of love and fine food together.

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When Jed finally proposed whilst we were on holiday in Stockholm last year (he doesn’t like to rush into things but after 13 years decided I probably was the one!), my thoughts immediately turned not, as I imagine most girls would, to my dress, shoes or hair, but to food!

Good food and sharing a meal with family and friends is a big part of our life. If there was one thing that had to be just so, it was the food for our wedding breakfast. Not only did it need to be the right food, cooked well, but it also needed to be served in the right way, family-style.

For some time I knew that if we were to ever get married it wouldn’t be a traditional wedding breakfast that we’d be feasting on, it’d be curry. All I had to do was find a) somewhere which would allow us to bring in our own caterers and b) a caterer that would cook our food of choice to a high standard. Sounds simple enough!

Folly FarmWe found and secured the right venue soon enough. The Folly Farm Centre is set within a 250 acre nature reserve managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust. It’s a beautiful venue which is yours for a full weekend, with several function rooms at your disposal, views across to Chew Valley lake, grounds, orchards and woodland to wonder in, its own kitchen garden, a professional kitchen, a choice of caterers on tap or the ability to bring in your own and plenty of accommodation for you and your guests to stay in.

Finding a caterer wasn’t quite so easy! The frustration seemed endless: a complete lack of response or quick to respond initially and then you’d never hear from them again, inability to cater for so many people, far too expensive for our budget, only willing to cook set menus, only provide a buffet service, willing to provide the food but nothing else. The hurdles kept on appearing.

That was until I stumbled upon a relatively new catering company in Bristol called Whisk!. Mike was more than happy to take on my challenge. Looking back now, I feel sorry for Mike who, after saying yes he could help, was then bombarded with detail, suggestions and requests. But even that didn’t put him off! In fact, he came back with a bespoke menu which encompassed my wishes and which clearly showed that he’d thought about his client and the brief. The menu even included a dish from my favourite Indian chef, reminiscent of family meals as a child at our local Nepalese restaurant.

Next came the tasting session. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of Mike coming to our house (yes, he came to us!), cooking items of the meal in my kitchen, serving it to us for dinner and chatting through our ideas and comments. The food we tasted was stunning and there was no question at that point that we’d found the right caterer.

Fast forwarding through the to-ing and fro-ing over practicalities and the order of proceedings, the big day arrived. Keeping me out of the kitchen was always going to be a tall order, friends had even joked that they wouldn’t be surprised to have seen me in my frock getting stuck in! Thankfully I had the photographer on hand to capture the best bits for me and hair and make-up to focus on.

Following the ceremony, we gathered in the courtyard where our guests were treated to a selection of canapés with their Prosecco. Hopefully a hint at what was to follow. The vegetable samosas, spicy lamb skewers and onion bhajis didn’t hang around long – the chefs battled to keep up with the greedy hoards and so many of our guests commented that the bhajis were among the best they’ve eaten!

Poppadoms and home-made chutneys were on the tables as our guests sat down for the main event. Platters of Indian breads and large bowls of pilau rice, Kashmiri lamb curry (an Atul Kochhar recipe), achari paneer (achari being one of our favourite types of curry), tarka dhal (my father-in-law and I always fight over who’s going to finish the last bit) and saag bhaji were then brought to us for everyone to help themselves to.

We had toyed with various ideas for dessert but in the end, as my mother-in-law had spent so much time and done such a great job making the cakes, decided to serve them with coffee, tea and chai. A good decision as I don’t think they would have been enjoyed as much had we left it until later to serve them.

I’d been nervous in the preceding weeks about whether the food would be as good as it was when we did our tasting but I needn’t have worried. It was all delicious and there has hardly a scrap left!

Not only had Whisk! done us proud with our meal but they had also catered for a couple of guests with very special dietary requirements to the same high standard everyone else received. The catering staff were brilliant; very friendly, smiling, attentive and highly professional. Explaining what all the dishes were as they brought them to the tables was a lovely touch. Satiated and satisfied we left them to clear up so we could get on with the party!

There’s no doubting that choosing a ‘self-catering’ venue and our own caterer was extra work and a little stressful at times but it was more than worth it for the result which was everything we had wanted. Not only a day but also a meal to remember.

Thanks to Matthew Lincoln Photography for the photos.

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