The world of the private club is, to Cat and Matt, epitomised by the Drones Club – Bertie Wooster‘s London gentlemen’s club. A fictional place where chinless hoorays lob bread rolls at each other, drink cocktails and hide from indomitable aunts.
An alternative view of the private club is offered by Dorothy L Sayers; in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club deep-buttoned chairs upholstered in blood-red leather are occupied by gin-sodden colonels whose whiskers twitch in time to their snoring.
Having managed to procure a ticket the Royal Corinthian, Cowes’ ‘Not New Year’s Eve’ party, M&C were unsure what to expect. They were advised to dress ‘black tie’, so knew it would be fancy. But should they wear wipe-clean attire in anticipation of a food fight, or perhaps Cat should bring her new Kindle to while away the hours to the rhythm of a ticking clock and the whisperings of sailing types?
Arriving promptly for once, Matt and Cat installed themselves at the bar. Matt rubbed his finger around the inside of his collar and Cat fiddled with the clasp on her satin clutch bag. Those of you who know the reviewing duo in person will gasp at the unlikely scenario of Matt in a tie and Cat in a party frock with a dainty clutch, but they had scrubbed up quite well. They certainly didn’t draw any disparaging looks from their fellow guests so they figured that they’d made a good simulation of respectable party goers. Their spirits rose as jolly people entered, the place filled up with lively chatter and their glamorous acquaintances arrived. Drinks in hand the throng moved to the dining room at the sound of the gong.
A seating plan of sorts had been on display at the entrance to the dining room but, at all of the tables, there was much light-hearted jostling and place-reconfiguring. This seemed to be a traditional part of the evening. Cat, unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of such direction, was moved out of her first designated seat, directed to another and sat down with relief, as her five inch heels were starting to make their presence felt.
M and C’s dining companions were all extremely pleasant and, although some were strangers to each other, the ice was soon broken by a team task. On each table there was a vast and robustly constructed toy wooden yacht, complete with rigging. Alongside was a pile of coloured and glittery papers, sellotape, scissors, string and pens. The object was to decorate and name the boat between courses. This was a fab way to get to know the others as the table’s team beavered away to make the best-decorated ship in the room.
The waiting staff – faced with the chaos of all this paper, unfurled napkins being employed as sails, and the debris left by the obligatory party poppers – did an excellent job of serving the food. What’s more, the food itself turned out to be impressively good. The starter of smoked haddock and scallop gratin was delightful, if slightly salty. However, this maritime dish was very in-keeping with the nautical theme of the table task and Cat was inspired to suggest that little paper sailors be made to decorate the rigging like cadets. Her dining companion Fran made a most excellent job of cutting out the paper matelots, even ensuring that each had a face from the adeptly-used snowman-themed paper. It became apparent that the purpose of some of the discreet pre-dinner shuffling had been to ensure that those known to be competent in the scissors and designing department had been positioned close to the toy boat, whilst those (like Matt) known to be unapologetically cack-handed incompetents had been kept away from it.
Four course meal plus coffee & half a bottle of wine
£45 per person
The main course was one of Cat’s favourite dishes – fillet steak. Again, how the kitchen and waiting staff managed to cook and deliver about 150 plates of this spectacular meat simultaneously was nothing short of miraculous. The Rioja and thyme marinated tender steaks had all been cooked medium to satisfy the majority and were accompanied by delicious Dauphinoise potatoes, olivette carrots, green beans and tossed spinach. Not a hint of anything kept hot under a lamp, or oversteamed. Matt remarked that he’d struggle to serve a single steak in as good a state as this one, let alone more than a gross of the things. There was a pause in the hubbub while everyone chowed down.
Once the main course had been cleared away the atmosphere of the Corinthian Yacht Club – already a far cry from the Bellona Club – entered entertainingly into sociable Drones territory. No bread rolls had actually been thrown at this point but, the freely-flowing wine seemed to help the creative juices. The boat adjacent to M and C had been rigged with some impressive sails made of toilet paper and gaffer tape, billowing with the aid of a hairdryer (where did that come from?), employed to add an authentic gust. Teetering around the tables to see what her competitors were up to, Cat observed a variety of merrily creative solutions to the boat-decorating competition including one with a fiver sellotaped audaciously to the rigging; a most blatant bribe!
The next course was a twice-baked Westcombe cheddar soufflé with pear and prune chutney. This delicate dish is hard to get right in laboratory conditions so its success under such trying circumstances was to be applauded. The little flans were piping hot; the almost acid cheese complimented perfectly by the fruity chutney.
By now, the boat-decorating contest was coming to an end. Matt had employed his expertise to create a functional cannon out of cardboard and one of the remaining unexploded party poppers. The little sailors were standing to attention on the rigging and Cat had woven a crow’s nest which was occupied by a paper sailor who for some reason had no legs – such inclusiveness was worthy of the Jubilee Sailing Trust. The boat was named ‘POSH1’ after the table’s sophisticated hostess. As the judges approached, the confident team popped the poppers, including the cannon, and gabbled furiously pointing out the vessel’s exquisite details. However, the the judges seemed more interested in figureheads – taking particular note of the ladies’ cleavages. Un-PC it may be but plenty was on display, which may account for the table coming second in the contest! Hoorah!
Pudding was next to be delivered and Matt and Cat’s table cleared some room from the mountains of snipped paper and spent plastic cartridges of party poppers. The dark chocolate and crème de menthe torte with warm spiced cherries was absolutely delightful; the bitterness of the torte soothed with the sweet cherries. Each of the four courses was beautifully presented, delicious and plentiful.
Coffee and saucy games with chocolate coins followed before the diners upped-sticks and made their way to the dance hall. Here they jiggled about to the retro sounds of the Accelerators. By this stage Cat’s stupidly high shoes and Matt’s tie had been discarded but no-one seemed to mind about this lapse in decorum – after the cleavage-ogling and chocolate coin larks, it seemed that anything goes.
Whilst the Royal Corinthian is not directly open to the public for casual dining, it is apparently available to all for events and is well-used in this way. If the club can gracefully produce such lovely food in such great quantities it must surely lend itself to events such as weddings and private parties where their art of mass catering would be essential. They really know how to throw a good party, with brilliant food delivered in a chaotic but very friendly environment. Bertie Wooster may have the edge on food fights but, unlike the mythical Drones, the Royal Corinthian is a very welcoming and accommodating place, that even allows women in. Recommended, what-ho!
Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Cowes