Hyatt London Do 2014
This was the third Hyatt London Do and perhaps the most successful. The event wouldn't be possible without sponsorship from American Express and support from Hyatt Regency London The Churchill, so we would like to start off by thanking them for their generosity. As with previous years, the event was for 3 nights on the last weekend in October (the clocks go back so attendees get an extra hour!) starting with a welcome champagne reception and finishing with a gala dinner. New for this year was a choice of tasting sessions on the Saturday, a wonderful dinner in a Masonic Temple and a behind-the-scenes tour of London City Airport.
Thanks to the generosity of those donating prizes and to the attendees we have raised enough money to build two houses and lots more for the village of Kompheim in Cambodia via the charity HUSK.
Discussions will soon be starting for next year's event, so if you would like to attend, we suggest blocking the 22nd-25th October in your diaries now!
Friday - LCY Tour
The Friday morning American Express focus groups enabled a number of attendees to make suggestions for an ideal credit card for travellers. Afterwards, a group of 18 Flyertalkers made their way to London City Airport. Convenient to reach from Central London (by DLR), City Airport offers a much quicker and more efficient airport experience than alternatives - see a longer write-up of the tour here.
After being met by the knowledgable and friendly Chris Shields, we were led through the airport and shown in detail the behind-the-scene processes that make this airport such a joy for rapid transit in and out of London. Although small, the facilities are high-tech with crowd control monitoring the passage of each individual flyer through each stage (check-in, security etc). The long-term aim is to link in with online services, so that you will know exactly how long your journey through and to the airport will take, minimising wasted minutes. After being granted entry to the security control room, we were taken through the departure lounge and onto the tarmac - actually close enough to touch the planes! Lastly came the highlight of our tour - speeding down the runway in a bus to watch a number of landings and take-offs with the spectacular London city skyline behind.
We are very grateful to LCY for this exclusive tour and are tentatively planning a tour and sightseeing flight from LCY for next year. Check-out the website over the coming months for further information.
Saturday - Tea Tasting
This was the first year we had organised tasting sessions on the Saturday, starting with tea tasting at the East India Company in their store on Conduit Street. This was a fascinating session, learning a little about the history of tea in England and how to taste tea (you should slurp like wine to aerate the drink). We started with Golden Tips white tea, of which only 8-12 kg is picked per year. With a wonderful floral and honey flavour, this was Mrs d2t's favourite tea (until she saw the price!). Working our way through white and green teas to the Darjeeling 1st flush and Earl Grey based on the original recipe (containing neroli oil) we were very impressed by the quality of the teas and learnt that the EIC receives its tea just 21-28 days after picking, in contrast to the 4-9 month industry norm. This results in a fresher, smoother cup - well worth seeking out. After the tasting, we enjoyed the biscuits and chocolates left out for us and debated which teas to buy. A beautiful shop, a great tasting and fantastic value.
The final tasting was held at Rococo Chocolates in Marylebone Village, just 10 minutes walk from the hotel in the pretty heart of Marylebone Village. A group of ten of us met at the shop and were ushered downstairs into the cooled private tasting room. Here, we tasted a range of fine chocolates, including pure cocoa nibs, 60% Grenada dark chocolate, both dark and milk chocolate with tangy sea salt, white chocolate with cardamom and dark chocolate with basil and Persian lime. Afterwards, we tasted a variety of truffles, including soft ganaches, creams and caramels. In addition to experiencing these chocolates, we also learnt about the process of making chocolate and the ingredients that go into white, milk and dark pure chocolate.
To finish the tasting, we were invited to shop with 10% off in store and samples were provided for everyone attending the Saturday night dinner, giving a little taste of Rococo from one of the Mini Bee bars.
Prize draw & Auction
After a brief introduction to next year's event in Vietnam, we continued with the prize draw. For the first time this year, we had prizes available for those not staying in the hotel, so many thanks Sugru and Jing for your wonderful magnetic self-moulding plastic and the beautiful tea set. Also for the first time, we decided to auction the prize of 2 nights in the Hyatt London which alone raised £500 for HUSK Cambodia - many thanks to all those who bid, especially Carl, who put in the generous winning bid. We're sure you'll enjoy your stay.
Other prizes included vouchers for Hyatts in Paris, Mainz, Muscat, Shanghai, Tokyo, Goa, New Mexico, Da Nang, Vienna, Abu Dhabi and the Maldives. The star prize was a stay at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, a private tour of Kompheim in Siem Reap and both a suite upgrade and massage in Singapore.
Many thanks to all the hotels who donated such wonderful prizes and allowed us to raise enough money to build 2 new homes in Siem Reap, provide food and clean water for a number of families, changing the lives of many people living in poverty in Cambodia.
Thursday - Champagne Reception
To kick-off the weekend and welcome all attendees to the event and the hotel, the Hyatt Regency generously sponsored a champagne reception on the first evening. In addition to free-flow champagne, soft drinks and water, a range of canapés were served. Staff were incredibly generous with top-ups and a good time was had by all. This was a time to make new friends and catch up with those made during previous events.
We would like to add here that the Churchill hotel supported the event in a number of ways not necessarily noticeable to attendees. From the waiver of all room hire fees throughout the 3 day event to the provision of complimentary wine and water at Saturday's dinner, the hotel have been incredibly generous. That's in addition to the bonus points and hospitality enjoyed by all attendees and the wonderful voucher that we auctioned for HUSK Cambodia. Many thanks Piotr, James, Michael and all others involved.
Dinner in the Andaz's Temple
Another first for 2014 was a night hosted by the Andaz London Liverpool Street, with whom we negotiated a very favourable rate for the evening. On arrival, attendees were served a welcome Bellini in the Catch Restaurant lounge before being treated to a tour of the hotel. This finished in the anteroom of Temple, one of the event spaces. Incredibly, this is an actual Masonic Temple - still in use today. Although built in 1912, the temple remained unknown, hidden behind panelling in the old Great Eastern Hotel until Hyatt's renovations in 1990. Only discrepancies in the hotel plan led to the discovery of a hollow chamber, which turned out to be this beautiful wood-panelled marble-floored temple, complete with thrones and a pipe organ.
As a group, we felt very privileged to be granted access to this unique event space, where we were served a very good dinner and enjoyed taking photos of ourselves in the throne. A hugely atmospheric space, we would recommend the Temple for anyone seeking an unusual function space for 15-35 people. A very popular event, we plan to repeat dinner in the Temple next year, so if you missed out this year, book early.
Cheese and Wine Tasting
The next tasting was cheese and wine, which was carried out by Gilbert from Winfield Wines. The Churchill hotel kindly allowed us to use the club lounge meeting room for a couple of hours of fun tuition.
Gilbert is passionate about wine and almost as enthusiastic about cheese. It was a real education and his tuition is certainly recommended for corporate as well as private functions. Next year we intend to follow his recommendations with wine and chocolate.
Comparing an inexpensive Champagne to an Argentinian sparkling wine was very instructive, you can taste the difference in the method. The cheeses were very thoughtfully paired with the wines and included Buffalo Mozzarella as well as a wonderful Roquefort and a sweet Chèvre Blanc.
Reds and whites were very varied in character and I learned more about wine production in these two hours than in years of reading labels and listening to sommeliers around the world. Gilbert you're a star.
American Express Gala Dinner
The highlight of this annual event is the gala dinner on Saturday evening, generously sponsored for three years now by American Express. We encourage people to dress up for this, as you can see from the glamorous pictures to the left. Further pictures of the event are available in a gallery here - attendees can order copies of any of them from us by e-mail.
The evening started with a Pol Roger champagne reception - Winston Churchill's favourite champagne. We then moved into the beautiful Library Suite for our delicious 3-course dinner. Starters of cured scallop, goat's cheese tart or crushed peppercorn beef loin were followed by mains of rack of lamb, herb-steamed halibut or spinach and ricotta ravioli. Those with a sweet tooth were delighted by the choice of desserts - chocolate fondant or winter berry clafoutis. There was a great atmosphere on the night, which continued into the small hours in the Churchill Bar.
Once coffee and petit fours were served, we started our presentation, highlighting the event sponsors and giving a pre-taste of the goody bags available for each attendee (many thanks to AMEX, Clinique, Darling Spuds, Rococo Chocolates, Sugru and Jing).
The evening dissolved into a warm, fuzzy blur of alcohol fuelled merriment and post prize draw euphoria, many socialised in small groups and the hospitality of The Churchill Bar was enjoyed until the staff patience expired. On Sunday, Mr and Mrs d2t relaxed over brunch and reflected on the event. There is always a point when we wonder why we spend so many hours (estimated at over 1000/year) on a non-profit event; when it all feels like simply too much work. However, seeing all the smiles from those who attended, experiencing the atmosphere on Saturday night and knowing we will make a real difference to lives in Cambodia makes it all worthwhile. Thank you to all those who came - it was a real joy to meet you and please keep in touch. With many already signed up for Vietnam next year and promises to meet up in London, New York or Washington DC, we are sure that it will be Auf Wiedersehen, not goodbye.