I am not going away on holiday this year. So instead of feeling glum, I thought I would treat myself and my friend to see two of our fave pop stars on tour. To sweeten the deal I thought why not vamp it up and go VIP. You can’t beat a slap up meal followed by top notch entertainment provided by Robbie Williams with support by Olly Murs, can you?
Having paid the best part of £900 for 2 VIP packages, a few days ago our tickets arrived. In a cheap, plain black envelope.
Enclosed, in the cheap, plain black envelope were the tickets, a programme voucher, and an advert for a triple live CD album, for an additional £20. For 3 CDs £20 is a good price, but surely having gone VIP, that should have been included in the VIP package, especially when you have to download one of the CDs yourself! I declined the offer, and will wait for the DVD.
The following is from the Mark Butler website, followed with my interpretation:-
- Top price premium seated concert ticket (in blocks where possible)
- Pre and post concert party inside the stadium
- Champagne reception
- Open bar serving selected wines, beer & soft drinks before and after concert
- 3 course seated dinner before the concert
- Private tables for 10 guests (smaller parties may be asked to share a table)
- Décor, music and lighting
- Documentation for each guest sent in advance
- Souvenir programme or gift (1 per person)
- Mark Butler Associates event management staff & hosts in attendance
- Premium seat, but due to the show set design, my view of the video screen was slightly restricted, plus you need jolly good eyesight that far up, bring binoculars or a camera phone with a good zoom!
- Hardly a lively party atmosphere, more a sedate sit down dinner, as there was little else to entertain us.
- Champagne reception – we were handed a glass of champagne, and that was the reception!
- There was no ‘physical’ open bar as such, you asked for any drink you required and it was quickly brought to the table. Fair enough.
- Dinner – more on that later.
- Private tables for 10 guests – as there were only 2 of us, we shared a table, with a great bunch of fellow Robbie, Olly and Take That fans. Stroke of luck there.
- Decor, music and lighting – Decor consisted of one wall covered with fairy lights and sheer fabric, and the other side where the window blinds were pulled half way down, hardly a selling point, and not at all VIP!
- Documentation consisted of the ticket, the CD advert and the programme voucher. Documentation makes it sound fancier than it really is.
- Souvenir programme or gift – the programme, which in itself is nice, is presented in a plastic bag after handing over the voucher and receiving it at the dinner table, again not my idea of VIP.
- Event Management staff and hosts – very good, and the only credit to the VIP event, but I would expect that level of service at any event.
We arrived at the venue excited to attend the decorated VIP room, only to find a plainly decorated space, where the window blinds were pulled half way down on one side and on the other side a plain wall decorated with fairy lights. and some sort of sheer fabric. What a let down.
On the right there were 2 ‘sweet bars’, sort of like a pick and mix station of sweets. It turned out that patrons could collect a bag of pre-packed sweets (see my picture below). The relevance? The sweet bars were in reference to Robbie’s recent number 1 hit ‘Candy’. The whole point of pick and mix is that it is supposed to be fun picking and mixing your own bag of sweets. Being simply handed them seemed rather silly and a lost opportunity. Better if they were featured as a welcome gift table settings.
The VIP menu seemed encouraging enough –
REALITY: – 1 tiny, dry and over cooked pastry disk, topped with about 7 of the most tasteless yellow and red mini cherry tomatoes. Heritage tomatoes are supposed to be really yummy! A tiny bit of goat’s cheese was crumbled on top of the so called Tarte Tartin, but no one on our table could taste any mozzarella. The dressing added nothing to the dish. In fact most of the favour was provided by the copious amounts of black pepper I added. Many didn’t even finish theirs.
Duo of Lamb. Slow Braised Shoulder of Lamb and Sautéed Loin served on a Ratatouille of Summer Vegetables and Confit Ratte Potatoes.
REALITY: – 1 small slice of lamb, a bit tough and 1 even smaller medallion that was very pink in the middle – many said theirs was cold. The ratatouille appeared to be just roasted half a baby courgette and half a baby aubergine served with small halved boiled potatoes. I had the veggie option, which was ricotta stuffed ravioli, with pea shoots and garden peas. It was tasty, but a little dry. The peas nearly over powered the delicate dish but the pea shoots were a nice touch. Personally I would have used petit pois. I noticed that many returned their lamb meals uneaten – not a good sign. If in doubt, I strongly recommend going with the veggie option, event though it means 2 cheese dishes in a row. From the look on my friend’s face and her barely touched meal, I think she agreed the veggie option was best.
DESSERTS: (note use of plural) Strawberry Ripple Eton Mess, Strawberries and Meringue in a White Chocolate Cage with Lemon and Elderflower Curd
REALITY: – Despite the implication, there is only 1 dessert. The strawberry ripple eton mess consisted of a thin red sauce drizzled onto the plate, decorated with small raspberries (yes raspberries!!!) which were tasteless, and meringue dust – yes dust! In a white chocolate lattice cage there were about 4 teeny tiny strawberries cut into quarters, added to LOADS of thick, over whipped, favourless cream, surrounded by the smallest smear of lemon curd – I couldn’t taste any elderflowers in the ‘curd’ or any meringue in the cream. Best described as a lazy mess rather than Eton mess.
TEA, COFFEE & FUDGE:
Well I can’t comment on the tea, as we’re still waiting for ours! However on accounts of others, the coffee was just OK but everyone were most confused by the addition of fudge. After dinner mints or chocolates would have been more appropriate. If you have problems with dairy foods, this menu is not for you.
In fairness, the wine was free flowing, if the idea was to get everyone drunk so they wouldn’t notice the awful food, it didn’t work. Plus, having made the effort to dress up for the event – ok I ironed my top and my friend wore a dress – I didn’t like the fact that the show programme was presented in a plastic bag. Dull, boring and cheap plastic bag, summed up the feeling of the VIP experience.
The waiting/table service team was very good, but even that does little to abate the utter disappointment of the VIP package. We didn’t feel VIP, I personally felt VRO – Very Ripped Off! But on the bright side, a group of my friends and I were planning to go VIP for an expected Take That show in 2015, and had already started adding extra pound coins to the piggy banks. Following my review, that plan has now been revised, and we will put our funds to better use..
Having been very fortunate to attend several VIP events, this sadly ranks as one of the very worse. Dull, plain, cheap venue decor and poor, low quality food. The only thing that was fancy about the VIP Package was the description of the meal on the menu. A few pictures of Robbie, Olly and their bands wouldn’t have gone amiss. Even some balloons or flowers for the tables. Pulling down a few blinds to keep out the sunlight isn’t decor, and certainly not worth paying a high premium for. I know I could, would and have done a far better job.
Rating 0 out of 5
If it wasn’t for the brilliant performances by Olly Murs and Robbie Williams, the entire night would have been a total disaster. I will book a First Class plane ticket to the South of France before I book a Mark Butler VIP event again. For a start, there’s a good chance that the airline food will be better. It is annoying that the event seemed to cash in on the good reputation of the show artists. There were a lot of complaints about the food, but as everyone was essentially there to watch what turned out to be a fabulous show, few actively complained to the Management. However, I will not be surprised if future VIP hospitality tickets will struggle to sell out. It certainly wasn’t value for money, and in the midsts of a global recession, I can’t see why any one would fork out so much to received so very little.