JASMIN SANDELSON: 'a night of considered touches, and unfortunately, queues'.
Clare’s ‘Scheherazade’ theme promised a night of exotic opulence, and like last year, it was executed to perfection. Long before the gates were opened, queuing guests were entertained by a pair of camels. This indeed hinted at what was to come, in a night dominated by considered touches and, unfortunately, queuing.
As far as the touches were concerned, nothing was overlooked as Clare’s already beautiful grounds were dressed with Arabian flourishes. Gardens glittered with tea-lights and courtyards were lit with coloured lights and ornate lanterns. The decor was breathtakingly beautiful and the theme was authentically enacted, with belly dancers, snake charmers and fire jugglers mesmerising guests through the night with unostentatious performances.
A menu of Middle Eastern treats saw Falafel and Baklawa on offer alongside traditional Ball fare. Some guests bemoaned the lack of substantial savoury food, with just three ‘main’ options plus a self-serve deli, but by far the biggest complaint about food was the waiting. Within minutes of the main gates opening food queues stretched to half an hour, and only the ice cream was quickly accessible on an already chilly evening.
The drinks on offer were fantastically diverse and, importantly, plentiful (the champagne tent served until well after dawn) but again blighted by queues. The main ‘Hidden Rooms’ bar, around which hundreds jostled expectantly, was staffed by just three people during peak hours, encouraging guests to down shots and leave. The delicious cocktails on offer required saintly patience and active elbows.
The night’s Ents merit a special mention, with gleeful revellers lapping up Tinie Tempah, and the predictably crowd-pleasing Faithless. In addition to the anticipated and successful main-stage lineup, the Ball boasted a jam-packed Ents schedule timed perfectly to keep energy levels high. At 2am a potentially flagging crowd were boosted by Truly Medly Deeply’s set of acoustic ‘Cindies’ classics which filled their tent as well as the headliners.
Manicures and massages were also popular, with velvet beds, cushions and shisha in abundance for some much welcomed and indulgent downtime. Punting was another nice touch although again not for those unwilling to stand in line.
Overall the Ball buzzed until sunrise with a fantastic ambience through the night. Dawn came much too soon to end an unpretentiously triumphant and enchanting evening.
Food and drink:
Value for money:
Star attraction: A toss-up between the stunning decor and the spectacular ents
Biggest turn off: Spending hours shivering in queues