10 November 2011

A Halloween Banquet at Petersham House

I had several excellent reasons for wanting to go to A Halloween Banquet at Petersham House, it promised seasonal entertainments, I fancied the opportunity to look around one of the grander local mansions (though there are quite a lot of these) and then there was the decadent feast by Petersham Nurseries` Michelin Star Chef Skye Gyngell.

The promotion said little more than that but it was enough to convince me to fork out £80 for a ticket. Ideas started to develop on what the evening might include, almost all of which proved to be completely wrong.

Far more people were there than I expected, something like a hundred (it was rather hard to count in the dark). We entered the garden by a small gate and congregated around a shallow pool with a glass of something bubbly while waiting for the official start.


I've been in the gardens at Petersham House a few times and was not surprised that we approached it from the long border and large iron gate than once released riders and horses on there way to the hunt.

The house itself was ready for us too with coloured lights and strange balconies on the balcony. More lights and roaring braziers guided us around the garden and kept us warm too.

Strange things were stirring inside the house.

Peering through the main door to the garden revealed a woman in white gently rocking in her chair all alone in the near dark.

Entering the house through one of the large conservatories that flank it started a trail of horror and shock.

Some of this was a simple as a man dressed in black suddenly jumping up and saying "Boo".

This worked remarkably well as the frequent screams confirmed.

Winding through the house we found several strange and disturbed people. And a lot of blood.

The bloody trail led to a bedroom in  a side-house where the white bed was empty and the room strewn with decorative and childish objects.

The effect reminded me immediately of the set of the Dolls House at the Arcola Theatre but I am sure that was co-incidental.

The memories of terror from the play only helped to heap on the tension of the night.

Just off the bedroom was a small bathroom where, it is safe to assume, the foul deed took place.

Just to confirm this, the duck in the bath looked rather distressed.

The trail continued outside where there were strange men doing strange things and graves being dug in the garden.

Elsewhere a bride was hanging over the bridal feast.

The strangeness continued for while, eased by more drinks, and then culminated with some form of exorcism.

And then the band began to play.

We were treated to half an hour or so of passable easy rock but I would have liked Monster Mash. The wind decided to become annoyingly brisk and cold at that time but the braziers were up to the task and were kept well fuelled with chopped wood.

The last act was the banquet and for that we moved on to the restaurant in the Nurseries.

It was clearly not geared up for such numbers and ten of us were squeezed on to a table that I suspect is normally asked to cater for no more than six.

The food was different from what I am used to in that there were unusual vegetables, unusual flavours and even more unusual combinations of the two.

However the unusualness had to battle against the cold and the crowding and lost. Not that there was anything at all wrong with the food but it was not up to my expectation of a £80 banquet.

The evening ended weakly with people drifting away once they had finished their meal, a coffee would have been nice, and we made our way the long way round back through the garden and along the torch-lit lane to the bus stop.

It was definitely a mixed evening overall and I'm generous enough to appreciate the best bit and to allow these to offset some of the disappointment. In the end, the uniqueness of evening won through and just about lived up to its promise.

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