It blows my mind that a year and a bit ago I was stepping back into the workplace, my first proper full time role really, after suffering from a serious deep battle with depression.
I didn’t really know what to expect and if nothing else hoped it would provide some steps to talking to people and not spending every single day staring at four walls alone. In that time though I have learned a lot and developed a huge variety of skills resulting in me being a key part of the team.
And one night in October I joined colleague and the two directors of my workplace at The Grand Sapphire, Croydon for the 2017 Croydon Business Awards. We had made it to the final of the Customer Service award and had high hopes of our daily efforts being rewarded.
The venue itself was stunning. Arriving at the front of venue in a dodgy red 2010 Ford Mondeo from a local cab company, a reminder of why the service we provide at work is a breath of fresh air to many, I was not looking too impressed. The building does not at all look grand or worthy of hosting an awards night.
Moving around the corner though I was amazed to encounter a golden entrance alongside a red carpet and fully suited and booted guy welcoming people in. The entrance around the side of the building looked pretty spectacular and the interior with its lights and chandeliers was just as stunning. It was certainly a venue that suited the event and helped to provide a feeling of comfort and belonging, once we had got through the entrance itself and away from the harsh white exterior and uneven tarmac outside.
The tables were tightly packed with booklets, place names, table gifts and all the usual glasses and cutlery making for a cosy affair of accidental foot kicking and clashes of arms but it was nothing too extreme and whilst the compact feeling was obvious and with a room full of people it was only slightly uncomfortable on the heating front. The sort of uncomfortable that makes you regret wearing new shoes as your feet get increasingly warm and jarred in some tightly strapped on heels and that makes listening to Kevin Day properly a real challenge.
But I still wasn’t really sure of what to expect and was a mixture of being fueled by excitement, optimism and the usual anxiety monster lurching within. Given the size of the room and the way that the venue presents itself I imagined it had a number of staff and agencies it could call upon to provide table service, drinks deliveries and general organisation but it all felt rather disjointed…
The food, by the time the highly inexperienced and very clearly sixth-form kids had actually figured out how to get food to tables and follow up the fact that several tables were missing several plates of food rather than them dashing off to random corners of the room with it, was fairly tasty and the portion sizes were incredibly generous. The staff in the kitchen clearly had their act together a lot more than the waiting staff (mainly due to a lack of a head waitress or common sense kicking in to remind them to do one table at a time and follow the same order as tables as the others pouring out of the kitchen). I have a real bugbear for bizarre table service and this was peak levels of frustration…
The mozzarella and tomato stack was a great fresh way to start the meal as the ingredients were clearly brought in and prepared the same day and there was the added complexity of two different types of tomato to help bring that added flavour punch as well as texture difference. I even managed to take apart the tangle of fresh leaves on the top and get some taste of green from them as well. All in all a good start to the meal, once y’know it actually arrived 15 minutes after the rest of the table got the same plates of food, and it gave me a sign of hope for the following courses.
After a few more awards were dished out it was time for the mains to be plated up and distributed. I had opted for chicken on a bed of potatoes with a variety of greens, in this case a hefty piece of broccoli and wilted spinach, and at first sights I was a little unsure. The greenery had been put into the middle of the dish and I feared that would cause it to continue cooking and end up going from just right to over-cooked.
It was however well balanced and delicious. The chicken had managed to remain juicy and full of flavour, the vegetables still had a tiny crunch to them and the potatoes were buttery and melt in the mouth delicious. The vegetables had been served in sharing dishes before the main dish arrived so that needed to be eaten first and the plates could have done with being a little warmer given the peculiar serving method but the food itself was tasty and a sprinkle of pepper really helped to finish the dish off. Such a hefty portion in a warm room with an evening gown on meant that I was super stuffed and ready to burst afterwards so I was pleased of more awards being on the menu.
Given I was so incredibly full after the main course I only took a simple item off of the afternoon tea tiers placed on the table.
You might think me overly dull for going for a little bauble style ball filled with fruit but if I told you it was some of the freshest, most full of flavour and juicy fruit I had eaten in a long time you might think differently. An intense burst of fragrant freshness was just what the end of the meal needed.
It sounds like I an being particularly grumpy about the whole thing but, if you read my posts here and on social media often you will know, I am not.
The evening was a wonderful experience and the food was delightful too. My place of work happened to come second and as a relatively new SME we can’t complain too badly about that.
I would certainly recommend to be venue but if you’require planning on holding a big do there probably best to be get your own waiting staff in as well as providing a logical distribution plan.