- 02 Jun 2011

I saw the President….in Westminster!

Yes I couldn’t believe it really. I know that our location is in the middle of the Capital’s political life and that means we are privileged to see quite a lot. American Presidents are usually cocooned away and with recent events, I fully expected there to be more security than ever before. But hey, ho, next thing we know….it’s Michelle Obama, sitting on our side of the street, giving us a big smile and waving with much enthusiasm as the Presidential limo purred past our side entrance in Storey’s Gate.

They were en route to Westminster Abbey where the President was due to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

When George W Bush came here on the last State Visit, he also went to Westminster Abbey via the side of our building in Storey’s Gate. On that occasion not even pedestrians were allowed to cross the road . It had the usual barricades in place to hem everyone in depending on which pavement you happened to be on and you were surrounded by an enormous amount of uniformed Police, not to mention other less obvious security forces.

Yes, of course there was a lot of extra police presence this time round. While my colleagues and I stood on our side steps waiting to wave, the ‘men in black’ were obviously eyeing us up behind their dark shades. Guess that this gave them comfort about the threat level. At no time did it feel oppressive and people were walking up and down Storey’s Gate or waiting with their cameras in the most normal way.

I am sure Michelle Obama would have loved to have her window wound down to say ‘Hi’ as she waved to our group on the way past. We understood the limits though and went back into the office in high spirits about the whole thing. For once, the general public had been allowed to get as close to the President of the United States as we are allowed to get to our own Head of State, albeit from the other side of armour plating.

Also, it was amazing how little disruption was caused to London going about its daily business. They left it to the last minute until roads were closed off or traffic stopped to allow the convoy to pass. Congratulations to the decision makers for keeping the city moving!

As we move into June, the pageantry continues as the nation celebrates The Queen’s ‘Official Birthday’ with Trooping The Colour on Horse Guards Parade this Saturday the 11th June. All this week we can hear the sounds of rehearsals and Guards marching from their barracks to the famous parade ground, just across the way from One Great George Street. There is also of course the two spectacular night-time floodlit Beating the Retreat ceremonies too. It is hard to imagine now, that only about 20 years ago, Horse Guards Parade was a car park for Civil Servants. When it was not being used for official occasions such as this of course. Be sure to look out for it next year in the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In my last blog I mentioned about Simon Watkinson, the Prince William lookalike civil engineer coming in for lunch, also on 24 May. I had in fact forgotten, not being involved on the day. So, I was a little lost for words when our Sales and Marketing Director, Wendy Greenhalgh brought Simon over to introduce me.

Simon does have an uncanny likeness to HRH and obviously chooses his wardrobe carefully. He has also learned to stand with a certain regal poise. I think I was being hesitant in not speaking before being spoken to first!

Then I read at the weekend that Prince William was taking part in the rehearsals at last Saturday’s 2nd Dress Rehearsal for Trooping The Colour. HRH was seen later that day in the Royal Box at Epsom where The Queen was running her hopeful filly, Carlton House in the Derby, but which sadly ended third. Before I might have thought he has access to great transport links, but now I’m not so sure…might have to ask Simon if he’s been near Epsom recently.

So, 24th May will be a date to remember for some time. Until we meet again…..have a good week.

- 17 May 2011

Obama…next big thing to hit Westminster


Since I last blogged I have been away on holiday in India but felt fully in touch with the Royal wedding build-up thanks to the good old BBC. There was something a bit odd looking at people camping out on Westminster pavements from a hotel room in Shimla – I suppose I felt a bit like I’d never really got away.

When I settled back into an armchair on my first day back in the UK to watch the great event I was fully up to speed. Wasn’t it a perfect occasion, really flawless? Those responsible for putting together this great spectacle really did a fantastic job. Even the gossip we read in the press about differences of opinion about glitter balls in the Palace’s Throne Room must have been overcome given the happy expressions on guests faces as they went on their merry ways in the early hours of Saturday.

At OGGS there was some serious work and planning being done in the run up to the same weekend as we had one of our own weddings taking place on Saturday 30th. The team had to keep on top of news regarding road closures which affected not only deliveries prior to the big day but we were also concerned about how soon after the Royal wedding normal access would be restored. Any unforeseen security issue could also have caused disruption for our own wedding couple. Fortunately the meticulous planning this end paid off and wedding number 7, of 25 confirmed so far this year, was a royal success.
Thought I would share a photo, sent in by one of our OGGS fans and taken outside our building (on the right) on the day of the Royal wedding showing the Scots Guards marching back to Wellington Barracks.

Although this scene took place on the very special Royal Wedding occasion it is not uncommon to see similar scenes at this time of year with the forthcoming Queen’s Birthday Parade when the Colour is trooped on Horse Guards Parade to mark the Monarch’s official birthday. Shortly before this of course, there is the State Visit of President Obama who will be staying down the road at Buckingham Palace between 24th and 26th of May. Expect to see and hear more ceremonial activities including marching bands and flagpoles along The Mall and Horse Guards Road draped in Union flags. The Star Spangled Banner will of course also be here, there and everywhere. Don’t forget too that the height of the summer means that St James’s Park, across the road from us really looks at its best with flowers of glorious colours, clipped grass verges and beautiful trees.

Naturally we are ideally located for top notch hospitality dinners and receptions for those considering corporate hospitality in the run up to and including Trooping the Colour For example:
Beating the retreat: During the Week preceeding the Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards parade (less than 5 min walk from our door where the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Beach Volleyball will take place) on 7, 8 and 9 June. Why not consider combining this with a small private dinner or drinks Reception with us. Visit http://www.trooping-the-colour.co.uk for information on events and tickets.

Full dress rehearsals take place for Trooping the Colour on Saturday 28 May and Saturday 4 June: Why not buy your tickets while there are still some going to attend the trooping of the colour and make up a corporate hospitality package by combining with a lunch and drinks receptions.

If you just want to watch what’s going on from the roadside during the week, consider combining your day out with lunch in Brasserie One. To reserve a table please call 020 7665 2340.

Money may still tight (except for those in the recent Sunday Times rich list!) but London has so much to offer, particularly in the summer months and much of it is free.

The phone’s ringing……..got to go……Customer has to come first!

- 09 May 2011

Our own Prince William lunching in our Brasserie One!

You have probably already seen it but I have only just actually seen the T-Mobile spoof Royal Wedding video on YouTube. If you are one of the last in the world (like me!) it’s a must see, watch it via the link I have included.

I have to say that I was amazed at the uncanny likeness of some of the participants, not mentioning any names, dont want to end up in court! The creators of this video appeared to have had some insight into the clothing choices of some….? It turns out that look-alike Prince William is actually a Civil Engineer and member of our parent organisation, the Institution of Civil Engineers. He is a loyal OGGS visitor and is next coming in for lunch on the 24th of May.

We have always known that our Brasserie One lunchtime restaurant produces food, wine and service fit for a king :-), could you feel that pun coming? When we asked him more about it, Simon commented: “My mentioning that I am in fact a civil engineer has been getting quite a reaction because people just cannot believe that my normal job is so different from the look-alike work!”

If anyone would like to find out more about our lookalike Prince William or book him before he jets off for his Caribbean honeymoon, you can visit his Prince William lookalike website for more details.

That’s it from me for today but keep your eyes peeled as my head is buzzing with ideas for my next blog update about the new round of Westminster ceremonial celebrations coming up.

- 12 Apr 2011

Welcome to light sunny evenings and royal celebrations


Well here we are in the new financial year with all the tax changes for us as personal taxpayers and businesses. Many of us will have forgotten about the extra National Insurance that was planned during the last administration but will surely notice it by the time we get paid at the end of the month. This plus the VAT increase to 20% and the looming cuts in tax credits and changes in excise duties on alcohol have left us all feeling poorer. Clients are looking for greater value and better deals whilst suppliers strive to meet those challenges in a marketplace with lots of capacity and less business as the public sector continues to leave a hole in revenues for many businesses and so far that hole not having been sufficiently replaced by the private sector, if it ever will be.

It’s not all doom and gloom though as the nation gets Royal Wedding Fever and gears up to celebrate the marriage of Prince William on 29th when most if us will also benefit from an extra day off. Located in the heart of Westminster as we are, you can feel the build up to this great event happening all around. The other night as I stood outside the Westminster Arms in Storey’s Gate enjoying the first warm sunny evening of 2011 and wondering by how much a pint had gone up after the budget in what must be already one of London’s most expensive pubs, I noticed that the TV camera platforms had already erected opposite Westminster Abbey as they have in front of Buckingham Palace and other preparation are taking place apace as we get nearer to the big day. Whether you’re a monarchist or not, you’ve got to say thanks for extra days off! We have our own wedding here at One Great George Street the very next day. This year has proven to be a record for our wedding business, probably encouraged by the royal event.
While we are on the Royal Family, Prince Philip was here for dinner two weeks back. I was amazed at how sprightly and upright he is at almost 90 years old. His Royal Highness is an Honorary Member of the Smeatonian Society which was founded in 1771 by John Smeaton and some of his professional acquaintances and is the oldest engineering society in the world. HRH is also the longest serving Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, our parent organisation and as such has been a regular visitor to our premises for over half a century.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend!

- 10 Feb 2011

Kate & Wills Westminster Wedding

Hello everyone,

You are no doubt pleased like me that Spring has finally arrived and the evenings are much lighter.

To add to my general mood lift, the countdown to the much anticipated Royal Wedding is well underway! I read in the press recently that it is to be viewed by in excess of 1 billion people around the world. I remember too clearly the wedding day of The Prince of Wales in 1981. At the time, I was working for Government Hospitality, part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and we were organising a lunch at the Bank of England, hosted by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher for overflow wedding guests from the wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral. On the very same day we also organised a reception for 800 wedding guests in the evening at Banqueting House. I had never seen so many crowned heads in one place at the same time and remember the late Princess Grace of Monaco and Nancy Reagan arriving only minutes before the end of the function as if they were in competition to be the last to arrive. What was really perfect too was seeing the Prince and Princess of Wales drive through Horseguards Arch which is immediately in front of Banqueting House as they journeyed in an open top carriage on the way to the station to set off on their honeymoon.

Although it was unfortunate to have to work on such a momentous day, lets face it, I too would have liked to join in the evening street parties myself. However with our offices based in a Grade I listed house in Carlton Gardens overlooking The Mall we were right in the ‘thick of the action’ and given the work we were doing we managed to probably to see more than many others that were not at work.

Anyway, 30 years on and with a bit of luck, I may just be able to enjoy this momentous occasion from the comfort of an arm chair at home as I am fortunate to have a very able and experienced team who will be running the events and weddings over that weekend as we allocate a dedicated Event Co-ordinator to every event.

I recently supported our Sales and Marketing team with a photoshoot and updating the content of our website’s Private and Fine Dining pages where I tried to influence and capture the spirit of our great venue and ability to host superb corporate hospitality functions. The Sales team tell me that they have had a number of enquiries already for celebration canape and drinks receptions on the actual day of the wedding, private screenings and to act as a back of house base for news stations and media companies. Our Storey’s Gate entrance, with a clear view to Westminster Abbey is literally under a minute’s walk away. If you would like to see my stab at marketing speak, you may wish to take a look at our updated Private and Fine Dining pages by clicking on either or both of these links.

Very exciting times ahead, really looking forward to the 29 April 2011. It is going to be a day to be remembered for some time.

Perry

1 35 36 37 38