The 2017 Cateys brought the countryside to the capital, courtesy of the Pig group of hotels. Jennifer Sharp discovers how they did it
The Great Room at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, looked superb: majestic proportions, sumptuous chandeliers, magnificent curving staircases and a backdrop of twinkling stars against a midnight-blue sky.
But what's this on the tables? Instead of the sleek five-star glamour the guests expected, there were rough hessian cloths, wooden boxes and flowerpots with an unruly profusion of wild leaves and herbs. Simple garden lanterns held chunky candles and mismatched floral plates were paired with vintage cutlery with bone handles. What was going on, people whispered, but then Robin Hutson started to speak and they understood. The Pig had come to Park Lane.
Chairman and chief executive Hutson explains his reaction when Amanda Afiya, â¨editor of The Caterer, first approached him last October. "I thought it was a real curve ball - â¨perhaps even a poisoned chalice," he says. "We've seen a succession of 'god-like chefs', such as Simon Rogan, Tom Kerridge and Mark Sargeant at the Cateys, a real who's who of the food world. I needed time to think about it. But 24 hours later, I thought 'why wouldn't we do it?' It was an incredible opportunity for the team."
The diners' view Will Smith, owner, Sugar Boat, Helensburgh "The Cateys' partnership was thought-provoking and inventive. It was an interesting and creative change from what you might have expected. The tables looked stunning - an impressive achievement to create this feel en masse - and truly conjured the feel of a Pig dining room. I loved the food and style of presentation. It hit the zeitgeist perfectly - modern, natural-looking plates of food packed full of flavour. And what a treat to be poured â¨an English wine." Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor, *Good Food Guide* "I love the way the Pig hotel group grows its own food. For me, the gold medal in this farm-to-table pop-up goes to the pre-meal introduction - I'm booking into a Pig hotel at the earliest opportunity. Running a close second, the stunning green-themed table settings and beetroot starter - light, colourful and easy to like." Paul Adams, owner, â¨the Vincent, Southport "On walking into the Great Room, I was expecting the standard function-room layout with white linen, candles and shiny silverware. But I was pleasantly surprised to see the tables decorated with a beautiful outdoors feel. What particularly stood out on the hessian table cloth were my mum's crockery side plates and ivory-handled butter knives; all it needed was a scone, some jam and cream for me to feel completely at home." Maureen Mills, founder, Network London "The food looked beautiful and was delicious, especially the sauce on the lamb main course. I could happily have devoured a whole jug of it â¨and licked my plate clean."
The Pig and Matthew Clark Just like the creation of the food menu â¨and its home-grown ingredients, Robin Hutson planted the seed for the wine selection with Matthew Clark in late 2016. Our aim was clear: to bring an authentic â¨taste of the Pig to the Cateys for a one-â¨night-only pop up for 1,250 guests. A key criteria was to serve credible â¨British drinks, and this extended not onlyâ¨to the fruit of the vine but also to small-scale spirit producers. The Pig pours the excellent hand-crafted vodka and gin from William Chase, so we were keen to feature these â¨in some simple seasonal cocktails that â¨also showcased the quirky tonics of the London Essence Company. For the wines I looked to our growing English range, and I found an ideal partner â¨in the food-friendly Chapel Down in Tenterden, Kent. An early menu tasting â¨in March led me towards the Sauvignon Blanc-like flavours of the Bacchus grape â¨and the challenge then was to secure the quantity required for such a large event. Without wanting to sound crass, global warming has helped the English wine industry to produce better quality wines, â¨but on the whole, this country remains too cool to ripen grapes for the production of full-bodied reds - and this is the style I was looking for to match the lamb dish. I therefore looked to continental Europe, and a new wine from Sardinia that had caught my eye and palate at our annual March tasting. Our buyer had come across it when visiting one of our suppliers and their Passo Sardo Rosso shone for its quality and value. Finally, I'm always keen to put a glass â¨of dessert wine in the Catey guests' hands - â¨it remains a great opportunity for up-selling. The Pig's signature mint mousse is at once delicate and punchy, and many of the dessert wines we tried with it were simply too luscious, too dominant. However, I found an exciting match on a visit to Piedmonte at a tasting put on by the historic Gancia winery: the combination of lightness and sweet fruit intensity of their traditional method Asti Cuvée 24 Mesi worked perfectly. Nick Zalinski, business director, â¨Matthew Clark Videos from *The Caterer archives*