Court & Livery Dinner – Grocers’ Hall

Although it was a bright evening, the chill in the air reminded us that this was the spring court and dinner and not, yet, a summer event.

Grocers’ Hall is one of those absolute delights in the City of London. Tucked away in the shadow of the Bank of England and rather anonymous, it hides a trove of historical treasures. This is the Grocers’ fifth hall after losing its first hall in the Great Fire of 1666 and its second in 1965, in the worst fire seen in the City since the Blitz. Halls three and four were demolished. How the other half live!

Everywhere you look in Grocers’ Hall, there are opulent and yet rather tasteful nods to the company’s eminence and grand history. The left facing camels and the clove motifs –  references to its spice trade origins – appear on everything from glassware, to carpets and furniture.

At the reception, we were refreshed with a choice of Laurent Perrier La Cuvee, Pickering’s Gin and Johnnie Walker Double Black Label. This was held in the Piper Room and it was impossible to miss the epic tapestry running the width of the room depicting diverse spices, their provenance, purity and those two great fires in the company’s history.

At the third, or maybe fourth, attempt The Beadle finally managed to drag us away from the reception and upstairs to the Livery Hall. There, dinner was taken under the watchful eye of Charles II, which felt fitting given his reputation for frivolity and merriment. On the other hand George III, whose portrait also hangs in the Livery hall, likely would not have approved!

Torched fillet of mackerel with celeriac and pickles was paired with a delicious 2016 Beaune Blanc du Chateau 1er Cru from Bouchard Pere. In a nod to the seasons, Cornish lamb and Jerusalem artichoke puree with a perfectly rich rosemary jus was accompanied by a 2015 Domaine Belle Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle. Cheese souffle followed and the meal was completed with a delicious Honeycomb parfait, perfectly paired with an Eden Valley Botrytis Reisling from Heggies Estate, which hit all the right notes.

As is now customary, in this post-pandemic world, we shared a virtual loving cup of Hayman’s Sloe Gin, though thankfully not via Zoom video conference.

Toasts and speeches were heard with the help of Dows Bonfin 2004 Port and Glenfiddich 12 year old Single Malt Whisky.

Once the Master had proposed the toasts, Nigels Mills CBE kindly welcomed guests, to include a great many new Liverymen and a new Corporate Freeman. He also welcomed the Master’s Principal Guest, Mr. Ted Young.

It fell to Mr. Young to remind us of the Master’s many erudite passions – and his inexplicable love for Status Quo – before entertaining us with stories from his time as editor of various newspapers, including those under the apparently close management of Rupert Murdoch. He then toasted both the Company and the Master.

The Master closed the evening with a full and entertaining response, before delivering his parish notices and a rare three line whip!

Stephan Russell