London hen party restaurant ideas

Laura Santtini
With Laura Santtini at Santini’s London

When it comes to throwing a memorable party, Santini’s in Central London has the lot. Private dining, a cocktail bar, an intimate restaurant and a gorgeous terrace too. Ok, so I was blessed with some pretty fabulous company, but honestly, I am not even sure you would need that to have a good time at Santini’s! And I can tell you from personal experience, you really are guaranteed a night to treasure, because not only is the food utterly exquisite and the cocktail menu to die for, the relaxed atmosphere at this stunning venue – steeped in a glorious history is… out of this world too!

Established back in 1984, Santini’s offers a superb menu of classic Italian food and wine served with a distinctive Santini’s twist! Designed with a strong Venetian accent, the menu is simply incredible and can only be described as a massive hug on a plate that literally ignites the senses. Now in it’s 30th year, my party and I had a ball at this intimate venue that seems to really come alive after 9pm. Trust me, it was buzzing and we visited early in the week!

Santini's restuarant evening dinner

Now headed by Laura Santtini (pictured) who is recognised as a global expert in flavour and as an award-winning author of the cookbook At home with Umami, this iconic venue has also played host to a wealth of stars and politicians over the years from Bill Clinton to Lisa Minelli and was also known to be Frank Sinatra’s favourite restaurant in London too!

So, if you are looking to add a little star dust to your Hen Party plans, Santini’s is definitely the location for you. And with private dining rooms at your disposal, you could even think about hosting an intimate wedding dinner or pre-wedding meal at this venue too!

For bookings click here

Santini's private dining room London wedding

Luxury castle wedding in Ireland

World’s Greatest Wedding Venues

Lough_Eske_Castle_night

Introducing LOUGH ESKE CASTLE

Nearly 20% of British couples now opt to say ‘I do’ outside the Kingdom and as this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon… I decided to pack my bags and hit the road to see what all the fuss was about. And yes, the options are endless if not a little overwhelming, but my quest in uncovering The World’s Greatest Destination Wedding Venues could not have started in a better place. And yes, there is a reason why they call it ‘The Emerald Isle’ – this is one adventure I am never likely to forget…

Bristol_Easyjet

And like any trip to a foreign land nowadays, it all kicked off with an early morning flight a la Easyjet. All aboard for a skylark both myself and trusty partner in crime Al McLeod proclaimed. We were having a ball already, pole dancing our way to the terminal gates. After all, when you’re not flying you should be dancing right?! In all fairness, I think the double shot latté had kicked in twenty minutes previous and perhaps the other passengers were not quite so enthralled with our early morning exploits as we were, but hey, you’ve got to try your best to entertain the troops right? I am a wedding fairy after all.

Peggy's Diner Ireland

Not one to shy away from a spot of spontaneity, we decided to road trip it from Belfast to Donegal. And what a hoot that was. A chance to take in the scenery, explore the sights and take a pit stop at Peggy’s Diner – still a highlight for us and probably our finest find en route to the castle! Turns out I am a MASSIVE fan of the Irish cuisine and it all kicked off with one of Peggy’s breakfasts. And some much needed mapping advice. We were a little lost at this point and only about 30 mins into our mission. Possibly I am more suited to a schedule rather than a free-stylin approach! Anyhoo the pic below was the snap that really got us excited… we were nearly there!

Lough Eske Castle route

The Wedding Fairy descending on a real life Fairy-tale castle sort of felt like it was meant to be. There was a majestic vibe in the air, although I suspect this was more down to the breathtaking scenery, rather than letting my imagination run wild with me. And who could blame us, the Lough (Irish spelling of Loch) totally blew us away en route! We hadn’t even arrived at the castle yet, made it up the drive in fact, and already it felt like we had arrived somewhere seriously magical… I am rarely lost for words, but the landscape of Lough Eske totally left me speechless.

Lough Eske scenery

And yes, we were a little giddy with excitement at this point!

Outside Lough Eske Castle

Yay! We’ve landed. From Weston-super-Mare (home of Dismaland just in case you haven’t heard of it before!!) to Donegal via taxi, plane, hire-car and foot… done and dusted in 8 hours! Yes, a mild bout of hysteria may have kicked-in at this juncture. But we made it and my goodness we were glad we had.

Inside Lough Eske Castle

Booking-in completed, we headed to our suite where I promptly stripped and slipped into the gorgeous set of slippers and cosy robe that awaited me. Our room was utterly gorgeous and the little basket of fruit, hand-made truffles and delicate fancies that greeted us really was the icing on the cake. The heated floor in the bathroom was a proper treat too! You could not ask for a warmer welcome and for me, this is what really excels a venue from fine to fabulous – beyond the luxuries and natural beauty of a space. There was a sense of pride about the castle from all the team members we met actually and I think that is a really important touch when considering a wedding venue.

Lough Eske Castle bar

Next up it was onto the important stuff – hitting the bar! And a pretty impressive cocktail list it was too! I must say, having never been to Ireland before, the food in general was right up my street. Home-made, wholesome and utterly fabulous. I sampled a Donegal fish chowder earlier in the day next to the Lough, teamed with my first official pint of Guiness in Ireland – a pretty special moment. But I had no idea what was to come later in the eve… my first Irish lamb stew at the castle was to die for! As you can probably tell from said picture, the party started early and finished late for us. A proper Irish knees up. Just as it should be.

Lough Eske breakfast

Good morning! Yes the morning after the night before can often be a rather delicate affair, but on this occasion, all that was needed was a hearty Irish breakfast and a beautiful welcome courtesy of the restaurant team. We were totally set up for the days activities and put it this way, there is no fear of being under-fed at this particular hotel! The breakfast buffet was hands down the best I have ever seen. More of an event than a breakfast. You name it they had it. The freshly smoked salmon was simply divine. Breakfast done, I promptly headed back to said boudoir to slip back into the robe ready for my morning spa treatment. And again, the spa itself really was a treat. I have sampled many and am quite often left a little disappointed by the treatments in hotel spas, but on this occasion, my deep tissue massage really hit the spot. Actually it was up there as one of the best treatments I have ever had. And yes, a little dip in this beauty below was also very welcome to round off proceedings.

Lough Eske pool

Post lunch we hit the road again to explore the area and boy I am glad we did. The coastline is World famous and for good reason too. The stunning scenery draws tourists from all over and makes for a pretty sensational set of picture perfect postcards. I had a bit of a moment below and as you can see… I am certainly not over emphasising the point, which for me, is pretty unusual.

Donegal views

Back at Lough Eske Castle post road trip, it was time for us to dress for dinner, which for me always proves to be a highlight when away. I just love popping on my finest for a gourmet treat and that it really was. The relaxed approach to dinner was also a winner for me too. Quite often, fine dining can be a little stiff, but the ambience at Lough Eske Castle hits a really lovely balance between the two and for me, that really ticks all the boxes and is quite hard to find actually.

Lough Eske dinner

In all honesty, we didn’t want to leave the next morning! I was last seen grabbing onto the reception desk for dear life, before finally being evicted from the property by security. I am of course joking, but parting with my comfy robe and heated bathroom flooring was an emotional moment. But luckily our adventures didn’t just end there, we took the coastal route back to Belfast airport, catching the famous Giants Causeway before finally boarding our Easyjet for the flight home. Yes it was a whirlwind tour, but one I will truly treasure. And as for Lough Eske Castle, well, if you are looking for a 5 star service without a 5 star attitude, this is most definitely the destination wedding venue for you.

Lough-Eske-weddings

Built in the 17th Century and steeped in Gaelic history, Lough Eske Castle is licensed to hold civil marriage ceremonies and operates a one wedding per day policy which I love. Nobody would want to share such a space on their special day! The venue can cater for up to 280 guests, with food prepared by Donegal’s award-winning and Michelin trained chef, Philipp Henkes. There are a range of packages you can choose from, or tailor make your own. You can even do a castle take-over and exclusively hire the entire venue for your celebration… including the spa! For more on weddings at Lough Eske Castle just click here to visit the relevant pages on their website. Trust me, you will NOT be disappointed.

Mary & Darragh

5 star service without the 5 star attitude GUARANTEED

Lough Eske dinner

Wedding food ideas!

To make your budget go further, why not opt for a 2 course menu (a hearty mains and pudding); instead of the classic three course dinner. If you are serving a few pre-reception canapés or nibbles with drinks, then this can act as a starter. In fact, most people are usually stuffed at weddings by the time it gets to enjoy the pudding anyway! On that note, another option would be to opt for a starter and main course and then serve your cake as a pudding – thus getting all three courses in. On the other hand, you could be clever with your timings and host a later wedding ceremony, so you only have to serve a wedding breakfast and not an evening buffet as well.

Image from Party Pieces

Remember to always focus on local specialities, as these often work out much cheaper. Think of your location. If near Cheddar for example, why not serve mini Hors D’oeuvres of cheddar cheese chunks with a dollop of pickle on mini crackers during pre-dinner drinks… or mini Cornish pasties if you are based in Cornwall? A delicious Lancashire hotpot would also go down a treat as a main course too! You get my drift right! A hog roast or big bowls of fresh pasta make a great alternative to the traditional evening buffet and are much lighter on the budget too. Beware of evening buffets as they can often work out to be very costly. Themed foods such as platters of Indian or Chinese dishes can also work out to be more cost effective and make a fun, memorable alternative to classic wedding day cuisine. Following on from this point, your entire wedding day look could be inspired by the menu you choose. If going Oriental, think about how you can run this theme across the entire celebration. Mexican cuisine is also really popular at the moment as is tapas, which is particular good for getting your guests interacting and talking at the table. Sharing food is always V sociable and perfect for a wedding.

Another option would be to pick your favourite three courses as a couple and start planning your wedding food from there. If burger and fries washed down with a sweet sundae is your thing, then maybe Fifties American retro could be your running theme! And so on…

Of course, if you are feeling super brave and hosting your wedding in a DIY styled venue, you could always get yourself a catering team together (consisting of close family and friends) to prep and serve on the day itself as we discussed earlier… WARNING this option is not for the faint hearted!

 Image from Party Pieces

Remember though, whatever you decide on, steer well clear of luxury foods and posh fish to keep the costs down!

Serve prosecco or cava for the toasts instead of Champagne, no-one will ever know the difference and prosecco in particular, generally tastes much nicer than the average bottle of bubbly anyhow. Of course, you could totally ditch the Champagne altogether and go for a DIY cocktail instead for a pre-reception drink … this alternative is always very light on the budget front – especially when utilising minimal alcohol content!

And for the hardcore, why not go down the Homemade wine route – a perfect option if hosting your big day in a DIY space, or maybe you can simply negotiate a basic corkage rate in a more traditional venue… now we are talking personalisation people! Take a look at www.wineworks.co.uk for inspiration – my Dad made a batch of Red from this site and it tasted gorge!

Don’t offer a free bar – ½ a bottle of wine per person plus one DIY cocktail is sufficient… oh and don’t forget a few bottles of beers for the boys too! Most wedding guests do not expect a paid-for bar anymore.

If you are not sweet toothed, go for three tiers of savoury cheese instead and serve with cracker biscuits and pickle – this option is often much lighter on the budget and makes a refreshing change for your guests… visit www.thecheeseshed.com

And for a show-stopping spot of glitz at the table – why not wow your guests by adding in some edible flowers to your main dish of the day! V cheap and V fabulous visit www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk for visuals.

For more wedding food ideas… Exclusive extract taken from The Wedding Fairy’s Budget Busting DIY Wedding Guide!