Thursday, 28 June 2007

Wedding (it's not) Fare

I know this is an age-old complaint which began eons ago, before I was even a twinkle in my father's eye, etc, etc... but why, WHY, is it not possible for reception venues to provide wedding guests with more than just an adequately-nutritious-yet-nevertheless-totally-tasteless meal?

I attended an otherwise lovely wedding on the weekend. After the gorgeous and moving ceremony (held in the stunning treetops room at the Melbourne Museum) I was eagerly anticipating celebrating the marriage of two very good friends... with a few glasses of sparkling, some witty conversation and a decent dinner. The venue, I knew, was very highly regarded. This was no Springvale-Road-Nightmare, designed to cater for hundreds of irritated guests. This was not a tight-arsed affair. The reception was held in a beautifully restored home, located in a leafy inner-Melbourne suburb. A venue of choice, if you will. I admit, my expectations might have been a little high, but I experienced what can only be described as bitter disappointment the moment the first round of 'canapés' were circulated. Note to all Function Coordinators: prawns become soggy and cold very quickly, even when encased in a bizarre, desiccated coconut batter. The Samosas were a little lacking in flavour but definitely the best of the three options, but the third 'vegetarian' selection... well, let's just say I don't often pity herbivores (you make your own bed, etc), but in this case, my indignation on their behalf was profound. My theory is that the kitchen staff had realised too late that they had run out of the real finger food, so decided to nip out to the supermarket to purchase some capsicum dip, a jar of those sliced black olives and a several packets of pre-cooked mini quiche cases, et Voila! Canapé!

Please don't mistake me; it was by no means the worst wedding food I have ever eaten (that award goes to the Croydon venue where I was served some approximation of a chicken vol-au-vent for entrée, followed by Beef Wellington, followed by apple strudel. A puff pastry ménage à trois of nightmarish proportions). The entrée was actually very nice; a Peking-style duck Maryland served with some thin and buttery crepes and slivers of spring onion. Yummy. The problems really started as the main course was served. I was offered the chicken. Putting aside any issues I have with alternate setting service options (when you are paying $100 per head for a meal, I believe that it is not unreasonable to expect at least a limited à la Carte menu), the chicken was not up to scratch. It appeared to have been crumbed, seared and baked. Reasonable start. Then, for some inexplicable reason, some genius had obviously decided that it needed 'jus', but rather than creating something that would compliment the dish, decided to use up the plum sauce left over from the afore-mentioned Peking Duck entrée. This was accompanied by some mashed potato from a packet, and several severely wilted vegetables, including a piece of corn, a snow pea and a floret of broccoli.

It's important to point out, I feel, that I in no way intend to deflate or belittle my friends or their planning of the wedding. This is not their fault. To blame are the owners of reception venues everywhere, who hear an imaginary 'ka-ching' every time the word 'wedding' is mentioned. And, I hasten to add, that I have no problem whatsoever paying over $100 per head for a meal. What I really want to know is, if your average local restaurant can handle 100-plus covers on any given night, why on earth can a venue designed specifically for the purpose of catering to large numbers at once not serve up anything more exciting than a piece of overcooked chicken and some mixed veg that's become far too familiar with a bain-marie?

Food for thought.

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Roz said...

If/When I get married, will you help me find a good reception venue? I don't want to be in the firing line of your critiques! :)
Oh, and by the way, does the crappy beef wellington and apple strudel beat no food at all? If not, I can tell you a great story about another wedding...

Sue Mattson said...

It's always the problem of the wedding celebrants when they're looking for caterers that serves quality food that everyone will love and won't leave a bad taste on their mouth or criticize for tastelessness. Due to me attending a lot of parties and wedding receptions, I already know which is bad and which is delicious. But there is one time in Sonoma, my friend had her wedding reception on their spacious backyard with a canopy giving us shade, and I must say that the selection of food is fantastic, without a doubt, it wasn't done cheaply (though, it was in fact cheap, but it doesn't show on how it is served).