IoD Piano Dinner 30 September
On Wednesday 30 September the Institute of Directors opened up its restaurant to host a 3-course dinner with a classical piano recital given by Francois Xavier Villemin – the first live dinner held under the auspices of the IOD’s new Music and Arts Special Interest Group (SIG’s): following the SIG’s opening webinar on July 21st with Katie Derham, Karena Johnson and Hugo Vickers in conversation with the SIG’s Chair Tom Petzal
And what a start – perfect social distancing included! An outstanding glass of Bottega, included in the menu, was served on arrival from a magnum. It was the best glass of prosecco I have ever tasted, probably also because it came from a magnum. The dinner was sponsored by the famous Bottega family, having started making prosecco in 1600 in Treviso in Northern Italy, who are also one of the sponsors of the Venice Film Festival.
In-house cheese straws and Bella Di Cerignola Green Olives were served on arrival with the prosecco, which complimented each other very well.
The waiters were so pleased to see us. The impeccable service was delivered by lovely, friendly staff who were incredibly happy to be serving patrons again.
I was slightly panicked seeing the musical repertoire which contained no less than 16 entire pieces, a mix of Bach, Mendelsohn, and Chopin mostly, that we were not going to get through it in under 5 hours. Given Francois’ galloping rate of playing, every set finished and started more or less exactly on time in under 3 hours over 3 courses, a tribute to the restaurant manager and the performer.
The starter was a delicious Sweet potato hummus with pickled carrots, crisp chick peas and pardon peppers, which was served at perfect room temperature. Although the description is understated, the words do not do it justice, the starter was outstanding – exactly crisp, fresh and tasty in equal measures.
The taste of the still-crunchy vegetables was not overpowered by the houmous but complemented the tartness of the pardon peppers. We ordered a bottle of 2018 Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet which was served at the right temperature. I order Picpoul over Pinot Grigio for its depth, but it can have a tendency to be shallow or come with a steel aftertaste as this one did.
There was no danger of the evening resembling a rendezvous with Classic FM, the first set being sufficiently obscure to provoke interest in non-afficionados and yet providing a nice familiarity for casual music lovers. In awe of Francois’ technical skill, we raced through a selection of pieces including Rachmaninov’s wonderful Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in D flat major which was a triumph, my favourite piece of the evening.
Oscar Wilde apparently said listening to Chopin made him feel as if he was weeping over sins he’d never committed and mourning tragedies that were not his own, a sentiment with which I completely identify! Although Chopin usually brings tears to my eyes, on this occasion he was not played sadly, so I was left unaffected!
The main course was the most delightful vegan version of roasted root vegetables with celeriac puree, wilted chicory, puy lentils and salsa verde. The soft and crunchy vegetables with homemade salsa verde and warming lentils made the perfect Autumn course. My dinner partner ordered spiced lamb rump which came with goat’s cheese mash, pistachios and sweet and sour peppers which he said was very good: it looked to be the right temperature and very juicy, and he ate it all! With the lamb he ordered a glass of 2018 Maison Jaffelin Pinot Noir which was again disappointing being too warm, underdeveloped, and altogether tannic.
The final set was a theme of water starting with Ravel’ Jeux d’eau followed by Poissons d’or by Debussy and concluding with the notorious Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel, apparently the second most difficult piece of piano music to play ever created. Unphased, Francois raced from beginning to end breaking not a bead of sweat!
Pear poached in red wine, zabaglione mousse, cantucci crumble concluded the meal. I usually do not enjoy cooked fruit but tasted a tiny mouthful and could not resist devouring the entire plate!
It was altogether a five-star experience and I look forward to the next dinner! It’s timely that a Music and Arts SIG has at last been formed at the IOD; not only to organise meetings occasions across the entire spectrum of the arts ( poetry, jazz, design, rap, writing novels, opera, garage ,drama you name it)for members to attend, bring guests to and enjoy; but also to make sure these are replicated across the fast developing hubs within our now devolving organization. And that there are webinars, panel-to-audience discussion live and on zoom – hybrids is the new buzzword- that not only bring celebs and top practitioners to our members but also feature and star our members, so many of whom have huge creative and artistic talents of their own – often hidden far too deeply under those business suits and headphones.
This dinner was hosted by Martin Dibben and his amazing team at the IoD.
Written by Vanessa Dal Busco
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