June 2013 archive

- 25 Jun 2013

Accessible front entrance…..007 Style in Westminster Venue

Wheelchair access at One Great George Street

I have great pleasure in introducing @bendygirl; ok her real name is Kaliya Franklin and she recently came to have lunch at Brassiere One. She chose our venue as she was visiting the House of Commons and wanted to find a Westminster lunchtime venue nearby that was accessible.  Kaylia has a Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which affects her joints. Following her visit she wrote a blog post about her experience with us. She agreed to my request to feature it as a guest post on my blog. Over to you Kaliya…….

Guest post from @bendygirl

All too often getting anywhere is such a struggle for disabled people that the effort can feel too much and so we stop bothering. So, when you come across good access it can be extremely exciting (and yes, I do need to get out more!)

I was back in London this week for the Brandon Trust 100 Voices on Transport event at the House of Commons, hosted by MP Charlotte Leslie and attended by the Mayor of Bristol, Peers, a DWP Minister and representatives from transport companies. It was an exciting day for us all, but my favourite part was seeing people with learning disabilities supported by Brandon Trust giving eloquent, powerful, first person testimonies to politicians on their experiences of travel. All in all it was a successful event and happily I didn’t spill tea or have to take my knickers off and we’ll simply gloss over the glass of water I may have poured on myself.

Because travel is so difficult and exhausting I’d arrived in London the night before the event, so had time to meet the fabulous Fiona Laird for lunch. Fiona had organised where we went for lunch and said she got so fed up with places saying that either they didn’t have access or that they did but it involved going into a different building, around the back etc to get to the venue that when Brasserie One said they had full access it was a simple decision – we were going there.

I’d had the usual experience of a cab company refusing a wheelchair fare, so it was great to travel with a black cab driver who was keen to make sure I knew all about the taxicard scheme and that it was being cut back and altered. When we arrived at One Great George Street, which is a Grade II listed building we were all a bit confused – there was a double flight of stone steps outside the building, so as is typical we all assumed the access must be around the side. While we were still scratching our heads the doorman sprang into action and started up the access which turned out to be the most incredible retracting accessible stone steps with a wheelchair lift embedded underneath them.

It’s fair to say that complete over excitement about the James Bond of the access world was the dominating theme at the lunch table, but we had a lovely lunch, and there were even scrummy gluten free bread rolls available. The waiting staff were all fantastic – warm, considerate and funny, and the food as good as they’d promised us. There was also a properly accessible loo (although not a changing places one I’m afraid) which smelled nice and was decorated in the same style as the rest of the building.

Going to Brasserie One for lunch was an amazing treat – it is Westminster prices but not ridiculous for a special occasion or to be able to have the experience of amazing access and service, and there are starter size portions available for those of us with smaller appetites.

Unusually for a ‘ladies lunch’ we were quite keen to leave, not just because we had to get over to the Commons, but because the excitement of the stone steps was compelling and we wanted to film them for everyone to see. It wasn’t until we were outside marvelling at the whole experience that Fiona and Charlie pointed out something really important, and something that disabled people like myself can get so used to not happening that we take it for-granted.

I got to go into a venue through the front entrance, the same entrance as everyone else, just in more style than most visitors. Once I was inside I was able to be independent as the access was so good, and it was really lovely to see the immense pride the staff clearly had in their fantastic access and willingness to use it.

Going through the front entrance, the main entrance of a beautiful old listed building felt like such a privilege, something I can’t remember doing since becoming disabled. It made me feel wanted, that I belonged there, that I could, even if only for a lunch, access somewhere on the same terms as everyone else.

Fortunately before I got too carried away with this marvellous new accessible venue, how I might be able to move in there, and what the world might be like if everywhere made such a creative, resourceful, inclusive attempt at access, we were back to the House of Commons and the more typically experienced version of access. There wasn’t a ramp to the podium when I went two weeks ago so I’d had to sit on a table to give my speech – but this time there was a special ramped podium being built. Access, but access the more typical way….and as its me, no-one was overly surprised at the dramatic moment the back wheel of my scooter slipped off the podium causing a bit of a heart in mouth moment for us all!

- 17 Jun 2013

Embassy events drive demand for cultural cuisine

The OGGS Brazilian Navy ‘Pastel de Carne’
Photograph by Izabela Bartusik (Food and Beverage Supervisor at One Great George Street)
A little while back I wrote about the growing demand for culturally-themed menus. Following my posts, under the headings ‘World of Cuisines in my Westminster Kitchen’ and ‘Growing Appetite for Bespoke themed menus’ we are getting more requests for themed menus based on particular cultures. It is helped by the many diplomatic missions based in our locality, leading to calls from embassy PA’s and secretaries who are looking to host Westminster dining events for diplomats and other embassy employees.


Embassy bashes aren’t the only occasions where we serve up culturally-themed menus. We also do it for:

Networking events
Private Dinners
Medal Ceremonies
National Day celebrations
Independence Day anniversaries
Summits
General Assemblies

We’ve been to all kind of places on our culinary travels from our Westminster kitchen. They include:

Brazil
India
Switzerland
Denmark
St Lucia
Iran
China

Brazil

Just last week we journeyed via Brazil on our way to the high profile annual ICE President’s dinner in the same week. We made Brazilian canapés and bowl food for 300 hungry sailors when we hosted the 148th anniversary of the Brazilian Navy day. I say the ‘sailor bit’ in jest as we had many high profile attendees including many naval attachés from various diplomatic missions and the Royal Navy received by Admiral Mendonça, the Brazilian Navy’s most senior representative in London and his wife.

The Brazilian Ambassador to the Court of St James’s presented military medals to seven people prior to the reception. The menu included meat pastries (Pastel de Carne) and Shrimp Bobo.

OGGS version of Shrimp Bobo - Photograph by Izabela Bartusik
Our version of Shrimp Bobo – Photograph by Izabela Bartusik
 (Food and Beverage Supervisor at One Great George Street)

Some input from our Portuguese Catering Manager, Joao came in handy. The lovely food was washed down with Caipirinhas and Guaraná; a soft drink made out of  tropical red berries from the Amazon. It’s growing in popularity here in the UK and can be found in Waitrose.

Guarana - Photograph by Izabela Bartusik
Guaraná – Photograph by Izabela Bartusik
 (Food and Beverage Supervisor at One Great George Street)

India

For Harshika and Jason’s wedding, we made Karahi chicken, Aubergine curry, Jeera rice, Dhal Makhani, Bhatura bread, tomato raita and Jeera Mogo served with tamarind chutney, green chilli and coriander chutney for 220 hungry wedding guests.

I hear culinary flights to Malaysia, back to Brazil and India may be on the cards soon for my team. Not a bad thing…maybe we all look a bit too relaxed in the recent photo below!

Chef and his wonderful team Photograph by Paul Dawson on our main staircase leading to the Great Hall
Chef and his wonderful team
Photograph by Paul Dawson on our main staircase leading to the Great Hall