Recently I was asked to manage the on-site music at the Cosmetics To Go Book Launch for Lush. The event was held at The Italian Villa at Compton Acres in Poole. Despite having lived in Bournemouth/Poole for almost my entire life, I've never quite made it to Compton Acres.
The event was held a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday evening, and after a super quick post-work lipstick-on-corporate-dress-at-the-ready change that Clark Kent would be proud of (I even brushed my hair for the occasion!), I zipped over to the venue to suss it out.
The launch was held on two floors, with a champagne reception, presentation and speeches held on the lower floor, and dinner served on the floor above.
After checking in with my bands and ensuring they were all safely en-route to the venue, I gave the lovely Rachel a hand with place settings for the tables. I was amazed at the lengths she'd gone to to ensure the event was breathtaking, and her attention to detail was incredible.
The guests arrived through the beautiful ornate gardens of the venue, and were met with champagne, before sitting down to watch a presentation given by Mark Constantine (Co-Founder of Lush). The waiting staff were superb and were dishing out little tubs of popcorn from an old fashioned machine for the guests, the whole place smelt delicious!
For those who don't know the story of Cosmetics To Go/Lush, here's a little insight! Originally the team who founded Lush started with a lovely mail order company called Cosmetics To Go in Poole in 1987, unfortunately the company went under, but spurred on by the kind words of customers and a newspaper reporter the team started Lush, the company thrived and now has stores open across the globe! The event was a celebration of the work of the original team of founders and also of the company's new book, Danger! Cosmetics to Go- Mira Manga
Rachel then asked me if I'd like to join the guests for dinner (would I ever?) at the press table?! Of course, I jumped at the chance and hopped over to the 'Ginger' table (all tables names were Cosmetics To Go themed, of course!) and sat with some lovely folk from all sorts of exciting places.
The table settings were exquisite, and everything was beautifully themed. The centrepiece of each table was a box wrapped in brown paper and string, covered in Cosmetics To Go stickers. Each table had a different coloured tablecloth and the boxes were topped with brightly coloured pairs of Dr Martens boots, filled with gorgeous flowers! The napkins were folded into hearts, and each guest had a lovely fabric rose/flower sticker with their name on!
We started off with some lovely fresh baked bread in an assortment of flavours and sizes, with dipping oils and butter. The first band, The Hot Tin Roofs, usually a 5 piece, stripped down to a semi-acoustic 3 piece for the occasion, began just as the first starters were being served, and played a stunning hour long set of swing and rhythm & blues.
The dinner was put on by the Italian Villa in-house caterers, and I'm assuming the menu was specifically requested, as I can't find a trace of it online, apologies for any slightly inaccurate descriptions! We were offered the option of vegan or fish, I opted for fish.
Our first course was a beautiful scallop served on a square slab of slate with a light foam and purple puree, I've never eaten scallops before (the opportunity has never really presented itself), but this guy was delicious! So flavoursome, and an amazing consistency. The purple puree, although I'm unsure of its content, complimented the scallop perfectly, and the foam was fragrant, and added a crisp flavour to the dish. I'm almost salivating at the mere memory!
I love a good silver service dinner, and the staff at the venue definitely knew their stuff! I popped off to check on the bands (who were having a wonderful time wolfing down their delicious buffet upstairs) and when I returned my wine glass had been refilled to the brim (oh dear) and the waiting staff were bringing out our second course.
This course was a little Heston-esque, with the dish served in a wide bowl covered with a glass. The waiting staff removed the glasses, and smoke wisps escaped, a beautiful effect. This course consisted of a top layer of deep pink smoked salmon stacked on a fish and egg mix base. The stack was topped with a leafy sprig, and was wrapped tightly in seaweed (sushi style) with caviar scattered across the dish. The whole thing looked amazing, the salmon was melt-in-the-mouth, an the only bit I wasn't too fussed about was the egg/fish mix, although I generally don't like the combination of egg and fish, I hate it when fish pies include egg, eugh!
A quick trip to check on the band who nibbling their way through a pile of brownies, and I hopped back for a lovely berry sorbet palate cleanser, with a vanilla-ry cream topping.
Lovely and fruity, but there's not much else to say about this, sorbets tend to be delicious...although the glass this was served in was freezing! Took some stealthy manoeuvring to avoid frostbite!!
The main course, served next was huge! I'm not entirely sure of all the components, but (partially fuelled by the wine) I was enthusiastic to try and consume as much of it as possible! This dish consisted of meaty white fish (I'm so awful at identifying fish, so apologies for the vague description) on a garlicky, creamy mash with green beans, served on a layer of mushrooms, they looked very much like Chanterelles. The dish was served with a white wine, rich sauce with a piece of pancetta, crisped up skin and a little greenery for decoration.
This course was deliciously rich, and the fish was cooked to perfection! I was disappointed that I was already so full that I had to leave some, to ensure enough room was kept in my tummy for dessert!
Dessert was a trio of miniatures, a tiny lemon meringue pie, a thick chocolate mousse creature with crushed nuts and dried strawberry pieces, and a miniature tart. The lemon meringue had a beautiful creamy custardy middle, and was (unfortunately) gone in two bites; the chocolate mousse was extremely rich and dark, with an amazing truffle consistency which complimented the sharp dried strawberries and was lovely with the crushed nuts. The tart was topped with a vanilla cream, had a sweet glaze, and the pastry was flawless! The entire meal was exquisite, and extremely well thought out, although because all of the dishes were amazingly rich, they may have been a little too much for some, but definitely not for me!
The meal was followed with a champagne toast, and guests were then told to help themselves to pick 'n' mix from the vintage style cart! This was such a sweet (!) addition to the dinner, and it was sweet to see guests dressed to the nines fighting to get their hands on a candy necklace!
Post-sweets guests were herded outside to watch a Cosmetics To Go themed firework display, and to ride a vintage fairground carousel before heading downstairs to have a dance to Old Dirty Brasstards, a 10 piece covers brass band, who cracked out the perfect combination of tunes to get everybody in the party mood.
Smiley Booth provided an impressive private photo booth with some brilliant props...I may have visited it a few too many times! I love that the booth was shut off from the rest of the party, I hate it when you just have to stand in front of a green screen and pout, I think people pull much better faces when they're not being watched by the rest of the party!
The last surprise of the evening was some Cosmetics To Go/Lush themed treats! A little booth was set up in the corner and some lovely folk were serving Honey I Washed The Kids mini ice cream cones, which to be honest were a little too cold for my tongue to handle! They were also serving flavoured foam (I'm not quite sure what flavour) with edible snowflakes and tiny bottles of Hot Toddy!
The evening ended with a crowd-pleasing set from Russ Jones- The Hackney Globe Trotter and the party was only just winding down when I headed home at 1am! An amazing night, with some incredible people, delicious food and brilliant creative touches!!