22 September 2019

The Magical World of #TheWizardsBrunch - Birmingham Botanical Gardens (@NLi10)

What seems like a very long time ago my family spotted a themed meal that was quite local and looked like fun.  My mom bought some tickets and we put the date in the diary.

A long while later we were here at the Botanical Gardens, dressed as Wizards!  

It's very hard to see my official Slytherin Tie and pin badges here, but as the whole meal is very much not at a certain copyrighted wizard school I think I got away with it!  It's kind of an odd theme to go with though - as the evening meal is 18+ no one really is at school age.  I wondered if it would be better as a Wizards School Reunion which would give them a little more license to play around with the theme.

We were in House Brigit which wasn't the evil house, but also didn't seem to be the good house.  I think it's hard to establish identities in such a short space of time - maybe this needed to be done in the reception area.  Note my amazing wand that I picked up on a walk home from work. It's so magical.  We brought the Jelly Beans - obviously not the official ones which would have been 6 times as expensive by weight as these Jelly Belly ones - and as they are made by the same company that's just a little daft.

Anyway, the location was fabulous and had a lot of set dressing and giant spiders and floating candles and mood lighting.  The live entertainment and food started at about the same time, which was a little odd, but generally worked.

This is the Wizard Starter.  I think it was butternut squash soup and some good quality bread.  I enjoyed it - the portion was fine and the flavour was good.  

This is one of the entertainment wizards.  He was a mentalist (in the magical sense) and had some good tricks and patter.  Working in the round isn't great for an illusionist and we were slightly behind him so had a non-typical view.  He coped very well considering although was seemingly confused by the fact that it's hard to clap with cutlery in your hands!

There had been a lady with a snake in the reception area which was cool.  I had expected at least one live owl though which was disappointing.  On an unrelated note here is the main course, poor Hedwig.  As some guests too my left noted the balance was a little skewed towards the meat (chicken) and it felt like it wanted another veg, but the quality and flavour was again great.  I mean - I've been to lots of work catered meals and its hard to give 200+ people something that's satisfying and tasty.  This worked.  I think people (mom included) would have liked something a little more thematic, but the main is not the place to do that.  We had the idea of colouring either the table water or entry drinks with cordial linked to the house chosen.

The main meal entertainment was a sword swallower, which is essentially regurgitation while you are eating.  It's not the best fit (the guy was really good though and had all the entertaining bits you'd expect).

The other main meal entertainment was the best of the night - a juggler.  It's hard to get this sort of act over at the best of times, so turning it into a light show was a stroke of genius.  Contact, 3, hard 3, 4, 5, 6 ball and 4 & 5 rings were all covered - along with some kind of poi stick that had phased illuminations which made pictures appear in the air.  That last one got a lot of crowd response, which was ironic for essentially the easiest move, but it was just spectacular in the darkened room. If all of the acts had been of this standard then you could have probably done away with the food and I'd still have been happy.

The secret to a good buffet is to spend as much as you can on the pudding as it's the bit people remember the most. This sticky toffee pudding isn't much to look at (focus on the jelly beans box in the background) but it was good quality, and the vanilla custard was delightful.  Again, it's hard to wizard up the pudding without annoying the catering staff so this was fine.

Save filling the review with the settings this was an example of the kinds of things they had.  The spiders were cool, the books huge, and the indoor street lights a nice touch.  The gloomy mirrors are always in the venue (as are the plants in the first picture) so they certainly chose the right place.

There were a few little games and stalls to occupy the between courses time, although oddly the two clairvoyants were the most popular causing a queue as long as one of the tables in the great hall.  I didn't need to visit these as if they had been any good then they'd have known to bring a third to manage the wait time.

My mom, sister & I all had a great time (note the chop-stick wand in the middle!) and I think we got value for money.  I got the impression from overheard conversations that some people were disappointing that it just ended and that there wasn't a little disco or something afterwards, but I was fine with that.  I wasn't really sure what to expect but it was well run, and the wizards running it were very good at staying in character and keeping the crowd engaged (except for the terrible quiz!).

I think I'd scatter house coloured jelly beans on the tables to cover the initial wait for food, along with small bottles of coloured cordial to tint the table water with.  I'd then get a live wizard band (string quartet even) to play over the main course (you don't have to look at a band while eating) and move those two great acts to some of the dead-spots in the evening between courses so they could be better appreciated.

With the budget and capacity that they have catered for I think they did an admirable job of providing a great evening out.  I'm not sure it's something you'd do again though - maybe next year will have a completely different theme.

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