Disappointment is what I felt after the gala banquet hosted by the Hangzhou Tourism Board at the Marriot Hotel on Grosvenor Square last week.
I was expecting some classic Hangzhou dishes like West Lake Sour Fish, Dongpo Pork, Beggar Chicken or Cat’s Ears.
What we actually got was some pretty poor European hotel food, which was all under seasoned and/or overcooked. At least the wine was free flowing so by the time I left I was a tad wobbly, the nicest way of saying I was pissed.
The timetable was all pretty well laid out, and was executed to the minute. Our hosts did not mess around.
4pm to 4.30pm – Welcome cocktails
4.30pm to 5.30pm – Speeches
5.30pm to 6pm – Networking
6pm to 8pm – Gala Banquet
The speeches were all really dull, as you would expect from an event like this. I did enjoy the speech by the Vice Mayor of Hangxhou who had been flown over especially. We were even graced by one of the senior members of the Chinese Embassy here in London. Although I missed exactly how senior he was. Obviously the buck had been passed down so far that he had no one else to pass it onto.
The banquet room could hold about 80 people, but it was half full. I’m sure they organisers were just calling anyone by the end to fill the place up, as a lot of people looked like general free loaders.
During the banquet we did have some classic Chinese music, which was pretty nice to listen to. That was about as close to being a Chinese banquet as it got.
The first course was a dull pork terrine with cold and floppy mini toasted bread, and a dollop of green mashed which the cooks had made into a phallic symbol. This was the highlight of the meal.
Next up was a cold tomato gazpacho soup, which tasted of anything but.
Then was an overcooked piece of cod on a bed of some nice, tasty and al dente lentils with cardboard ravioli on top. I’m really not joking either.
The pudding I did not try, but the lavender shortbread was quite nice.
Thankfully the wine was free flowing. This made up for my disappointment of the night. I never managed to do any networking, as no one else seemed to be in the tourism business, except for one girl who only did inbound business from China. Her boss had called in sick that day, and she was forced to go along. I think he knew how it was going to be.
The sad thing was, with the presentations and speeches about the delights of Hangzhou, I still prefer to send my clients to Suzhou.Shame really, but as I am the bottom of the rung, I get shafted with all the crap events