Oh So Exclusive – Diary of a Wedding Planner
A few weeks ago, I was asked by the team at TRULY: Luxury Gift Experiences to try out one of their gift experiences, as a professional wedding planner considering its value as a wedding gift. I promptly replied that I would be crazy not to!
Let me start by introducing Truly to you, in their own words:
TRULY are the leading purveyors of luxury gift experiences in the UK and we believe that our gifts make the best wedding presents.
They are unique gifts that make the gift giver stand out from the crowd. For the newlyweds, they create memories that last a lifetime – an incomparable wedding present.
The team at TRULY kindly offered me a selection of potential experiences to choose from, which included amongst others:
I decided to go for the first one – Spanish Michelin Star Lunch for Two at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction – as to me ‘afternoon tea’ is more the sort of experience I would choose for a day trip with my mum or a gal-pal, and I thought it would be nice to try something as substantial as a lunch so that I could combine my day out with a trip out around London visiting some sites either side of the experience. Lunch also strikes me as the most appropriate husband and wife activity out of the given options too, but there’s plenty of options on the website suite to all types of couples, budgets and tastes.
I made my selection and a day later my gift experience voucher arrived at my door. Inside the box, wrapped in black, delicately scented tissue paper, was a piece of white card with the title of my experience and a unique customer code embossed upon it in silver. Very classy. All I had to do was contact the concierge team via email (a very friendly and helpful bunch of people) and book my date to attend. A few days before the experience itself, I was politely contacted by the concierge team again to see that all was still OK with my plan to visit, and was politely informed I would simply need to give my name on arrival. Nice and easy!
My lunch date and I arrived on foot and were immediately greeted with a smile and a welcome. The Halkin hotel, where the Ametsa restaurant is based, is a luxury hotel, and we were certainly given a luxury welcome as two waiters led us to our table, pulling out our chairs to be seated. A fragrant, spicy aroma filled the room as we entered – the result of a ceiling decorated with glass jars, each filled with Spanish spices – delicious!
We ordered our drinks (a bottle of the house white wine at £28) and took a look at the menu. The menu we were given was the set lunch menu, as this is what was purchased within the experience. I was pleased to note that the experience cost £55, so with the lunch menu priced at £27.50 a head, no sneaky added extras had been calculated by the cost of booking this treat through TRULY – it was an exact price match. Included in the menu (and therefore the experience) was entrée nibbles, bread and oil, a three dish tapas starter to share plus a shot of soup, a main course each, coffee or tea, and petit fours to finish. Any drinks and desserts were supplementary, but I’ll come back to this later.
The menu being a set menu is very restricted in its choices, limited to a set selection of the tapas dishes to share, followed by a choice each between two main meals only. This is great for me as I’m always completely hopeless at choosing from a vast menu (honestly, it’s embarrassing how long I take to choose!) but if you’re a fussy eater (or indeed your gift recipient is a fussy eater) you may encounter problems. I like to think though that the Spanish Michelin Star Lunch with Arzak Instruction is a pretty foodie-friendly choice of gift though, so hopefully this would be intended to be given to someone already known to be less fussy in their dining!
I also noted that there was not a choice on the menu for vegetarians. When I first made my booking through the concierge team I was politely asked whether either of us had any food allergies or dietary requirements. At this point, I let the team know that I am personally a pescetarian and this was noted in our booking.
Luckily, of the two main dishes available, one was a fish dish and there was squid in the tapas (although I had already decided I would be sampling ALL of the tapas regardless!). Our waiter – the restuarant manager – on seating us had again asked whether we had any specific allergies or requirements which should be noted by the kitchen. He informed us that with Arzak cooking there could be up to 30-odd ingredients in one bite of food. We informed him that this was fine, but I did wonder had I been fussier in my diet choices what options he may have come up with, because if the menu was anything to go by then veggies I’m afraid you’d be a little more stuck for choice!
I’d also have been interested to know more about those 30-odd ingredients in a single bite, as the menu gave very little away in its description of the dishes on offer.
I know from my earlier research online that: the menu showcases the best of new Basque cuisine, pairing the earthy flavours and techniques of Spain’s Basque region with modern, surprising twists featuring locally-sourced and organic produce from land and sea – and from what I had researched ‘Arzak instruction’ was in essence Spain’s answer to Heston Blumenthal’s ways of experimental cooking. But sadly at the meal itself we were told very little about what we were actually eating, although this did lead us both into a lot of amused nibbling, silly guessing, and pulling faces of great intrigue as we pondered over what might have been in there.
My main meal had come with a ‘celery illusion’ which I’m still guessing about (I think it may have been some sort of apple purée shaped like celery – delicious nonetheless), and on serving us our tapas the waiter informed us that the lamb meatballs had ‘something of a surprise’ in the middle. Intrigue got the better of us and we asked about that one – the surprise was in fact grape.
But despite not knowing everything about each dish, the food was quite simply:incredible. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite. The cured ham in the tapas, we were told, had been exported especially to the restaurant from a region in Spain and was not available to buy in the UK, and the squid dish had taken 24 hours to prepare beforehand.
Let’s just take a moment here to discuss that squid by the way. Oh. My.
I realise squid is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those a little more open minded in their palette, the dish was perfect; the squid light and not chewy; suitably fishy in flavour but not over-powering. It was served in the most obscene looking vibrant green and jet black ink sauce, which actually we both thought looked totally brilliant! It really was quite a treat and I’ve been yearning for more ever since!
Since there were only two main courses to choose from, we selected one of each, and found that the presentation on arrival was everything you would stereotypically expect from a fancy restaurant. That is, it was artistic but actually quite small.
Well, this was where we were fooled, as although the portion looked small, once you got into it, it was really quite filling, and when you consider that we had already devoured bread and oil, three types of tapas and a cold tomato and strawberry soup in a shot glass (and actually this was only meant to be lunch after all) we were pleasantly impressed with the quantity. The quality of the food, of course, was immeasurable; and we delighted in taking as many photos as possible of each and every course that arrived.
As we tucked into our mains, my lunch date and I returned to the task at hand, and quizzed each other on our thoughts about the experience so far.
Our conclusions at this point were as follows:
Would the TRULY experience make a good wedding present for a newlywed couple? Yes. It was a lovely way to spend a day together, and at £55 for two people it was priced just about right to give as a wedding gift too.
Would the TRULY experience be suitable as a good engagement present? No. We personally wouldn’t either of us buy someone an engagement present in all honesty, it’d be far better suited to gift at the wedding.
If we were a newlywed couple, would we enjoy receiving this gift? Yes. It’d be something lovely to look forward to perhaps after the honeymoon, especially once all the wedding excitement had died down. (So many of my brides don’t know what to do with themselves after the wedding excitement has died down!)
My date and I decided that, in order to round of the experience completely, we would treat ourself to a dessert, which at £6.50 each wasn’t really too bad considering the luxury of the restaurant and its Michelin Star status.
We both agreed that the two choices given on the dessert menu weren’t really desserts we’d usually go for but, since we were already here sampling some fine dishes, we would complete the full indulgence. Thank goodness that we did, we were both in awe of what we ate and swapped plates midway to try each other’s puddings too. Delicious!
If you don’t opt for dessert though, it’s not the end of the world as you’re also treated to tea or coffee and a delectable selection of petit fours at the end of the meal within the set menu.
These included a mandarin marshmallow (the lightest, freshest, most delicious little marshmallow I have ever tasted); a divine bite of rich chocolate truffle; and the most refreshing little parsley macaroon to die for.
In fact our waiter accidentally dropped one macaroon on serving, and promptly brought out a whole mini tray of extra little macaroons to compensate, with garnish and edible flowers and everything… I may have squealed with excitement! It is a fact that every bride loves a macaron – apparently it is a taste fascination that comes automatically with the arrival of an engagement ring!
The price of this particular experience was just right at £55, perfectly reasonable to give as a gift and far more personal then handing over cash to a couple or picking something off their gift list.
Of course it must be considered that the couple will have to buy their own drinks, and dessert comes at a supplement price too, plus there’s a service charge of 12.5% added to the bill at the end; but for the overall experience I think it’s quite fair to expect the couple to add this on their own as they’re still getting an incredible deal overall, all considered.
The total cost of our meal was as follows…
TRULY gift experience for two people which included:
– bread and oil
– soup shot each and three kinds of tapas to share
– main course each
– tea and coffee
– petit fours
Bottle of house white wine
12.5% Service charge
I guess normally I’d argue that £107.50 is an awful lot to spend on a lunch for two on a Friday; but delicious food, incredible quality, specialist restaurant, Michelin Stars, luxury hotel, attentive service and the fact that half-of-this-would-be-the-couple’s-gift-and-therefore-not-out-of-their-own-pocket-anyway considered, it’s really quite reasonable. The newlyweds have only really spent an additional £52.50 of their own pennies to enjoy it at full expense as we did, and of course is only optional.
My thanks to TRULY and the team at Ametsa for a truly wonderful experience, we both thoroughly enjoyed our lunch date and would highly recommend this gift as a wedding present for a potential bride and groom.
This experience was kindly offered to us by TRULY but all opinions in this post are our own. To find out more about TRULY luxury gift experiences and find out what other gifts are available to purchase, visit the website: www.givetruly.com
Need help planning your wedding day? Visit www.ohsoperfect.co.uk for our full list of wedding planning and coordination packages and services.