What an honour and privilege it has been to be involved with the Midlands dinner in one way or another since 2003. The first Midlands dinner event that I attended was in 2002 at the Hilton Metropole Hotel. I was then the General Manager of the Burlington Hotel.
In 2003 I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Val Simpson and we held the dinner at the Burlington for the first time and as a venue we really wanted to show the wider audience the level of quality that the Burlington could provide to match the wonderful Champagnes.
We decided to make a real focus of the 16 Grandes Marques House Magnums that were on display, to be raffled off after the dinner, so we built a tower, behind the top table which was clad in black cloths. The 16 magnums in perfect order on top, beautifully floodlit and appearing to be floating in the air. At the end of both sides of the magnum display we placed an ice bucket full of dry ice so that when all the guests entered the room it really looked like all sixteen were floating on top of a cloud.
Perfect, or so I thought. I was half way through my fish course of sea bass & seared scallop, with black truffle risotto, when I looked up and realised that the banqueting team had used “Mercier” Ice buckets for the dry Ice, my heart stopped and as I rose to get them removed I was met by one of the French principals in full flow. She had noticed at the same time and was on her way over to forcefully remind me that Mercier is not a Grand Marque. And so the ritual of ensuring that all houses are treated completely equally started.
Eventually Val decided to move South to be closer to her family, so I took on the task of arranging the Midlands dinner.
Apart from the early years at the Burlington, we have always ensured that we never stay at one venue for more than two years. My task initially is finding a venue that really understands the essence of what we are trying to do each year. That is to produce and deliver a high-quality dinner menu that simply shows off the beautiful wines that the Presidential and Vice Presidential houses have decided to showcase.
Since 2009 we have held the dinner at the following venues :-
Falcon Hotel - Stratford Upon Avon