Clare May Ball

BEN DALTON and MICHAEL FREEDMAN review Clare May Ball and its amazing smoked salmon.

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Clare May Ball

18th June 2012, £130

Our sense buds begin to germinate fully on approaching the smoked salmon. Literally swimming through an entire shoal of succulent fish breast, one bejewelled reveller, eyes alight, testifies loudly to the serenity of the evening’s ambiance.

Long gowns whisper and tickle at the carpeted gardens of Clare, and even though we are told by the sweet shop lady that ‘things just aren’t quite ready yet love’, this does nothing to deter our excitement. Michael’s stomach has not incurred such butterflies since his Bar mizvah.

The triumph of the Clare May Ball aesthetic is to be found in the detail. Lights in the most unexpected of places bring subtle yet sumptuous attention to the shrubbery. Here is an elegance which lies not in the brash thump of a Trinity firework display, but in the mystique of a well-placed dry ice machine and in the animated twitch of the CCMS conductor’s baton.

The main act of the night, DJ Fresh, is an expected disappointment, trotting onto the stage, he looks from the beginning very much the defeated one-trick pony. Having opened to an energized audience, his later cries of ‘Jump! Jump! Jump!’ are met by several groans, and the exasperated slump of many the high-heel wearer. But we aren’t here for DJ Fresh, no siree! This is not a ball that needs to ‘get louder’. In fact we’re quite alright the way we are and we were doing just fine at the smoked salmon stand.

The unmitigated triumph of the evening proves to be the Ceilidh, complete with lovingly grumpy instructor. ‘ONE AND ONE DOESN’T MAKE THREE MADAM!’ he screams at a threesome attempting to polka their way around the room. With rigid imaginings of the gender of dance etiquette, males and females are strictly separated. We are transported back to a time where women were women and men were men, and in the ecstasy of the moment, we jump up and down with delighted behinds and sweaty monobrows.

The Avenue of Sins turns out to be our most treasured resource, and in fact the perfect tonic to any encroaching slumber, a fate endured by many languishing in the shadows of the Clare cellars. No throat is here left insatiated, as the lady at the smoothie stand playfully teases together bananas and kiwis aplenty; very much the tropical apothecary to all over our wearies.

A huge well done to the minder of the Buxton bottled water and juice stand who triumphantly stands by her liquids to the very death and is very much the face of the festival. Outrageous queues however are to be found at the caffeine stall, testament unfortunately not only to unprecedented demand, but also to the bumbling slowness of the staff. Clare Ball knows what we want. There aren’t so many surprises to be found here, yet old favourites and friendly faces such as the silent disco, smoked salmon and moneyless casino were carried out with aplomb. Like a Waitrose yoghurt.

A great night from a clearly dedicated committee.

Food and Drink:

Wow Factor:

Value for Money:

Star Attraction: Smoked Salmon

Biggest Turn-Off: Grumpy Ceilidh instructor