I have gone with my gut for 90% of my vendors. I’ve had a quick look online, decided if I liked the look of them, met them, and just booked them straight away.
I couldn’t do that with caterers. The food is a big deal to me.
When we first started planning we threw around all kinds of ideas to keep costs down. We talked about afternoon tea, buffets, canapes for 75% of guests—that kind of thing. I wanted something nice but not something ridiculously expensive, and in the end I settled on two caterers—Gastro Catering and Circa Events.
They both stood out to me. Gastro looked like great quality at a price within our budget, and Circa had been recommended by both a friend and by our venue. I had contacted some other companies, but I was laughed at by one of them because my budget was “too low,” and another, although apparently good, charged a hefty price for what was, essentially, pie and mash.
Back in November my parents came to visit and we saw both caterers. Marc from Circa met us at our venue to discuss things, and we went over to Gastro’s HQ in Worthing to meet the MD, Aaron. Marc was very familiar with Fabrica and so didn’t need extra information about running an event there. We briefly talked about the menu, exchanged a few ideas, and talked about evening food as well.
When we arrived at Gastro, the meeting was completely different. Instead of being at the venue, we were taken in to a beautiful meeting room at their HQ and offered a cup of tea. We discussed things at length and Aaron took down a lot of details. They had pictures on the wall of their food—it looked delicious. (All photos personal unless otherwise noted)
I left Gastro feeling impressed. The only kicker was that they were more expensive than Circa, and it was only once we were in the car on the way home that Jack mentioned he was concerned about the portion size of their food. Judging by the pictures on the wall, they were small portions, and he worried that really really good quality food would mean sacrificing the amount our guests would get. A valid point, I think.
So there appeared to be both positives and negatives from Gastro, but as we hadn’t been to Circa’s office and hadn’t seen any pictures of their food we couldn’t compare the two.
With that, we decided to book in a tasting with both of them. We figured that if the food was of a similar quality then we’d book Circa because they were better value, but if Gastro were outstanding then we’d pay the extra and go for them. It seemed like it would be easy enough.
February came and the weekend my parents visited we went to taste the menus. We chose lamb as our main for both sessions, salmon as our additional option with Gastro (we have no veggies in the family), and potato rosti with Circa as they only offered a vegetarian additional course.
We arrived at Gastro on Saturday and were immediately greeted and offered a cup of tea or coffee. Olivia asked us a few questions prompted from the notes Aaron took the time before time, and once that was complete it was time for food.
The salmon came out first, and oh my god it looked amazing.
Salmon with crushed potatoes, chantenay carrots, baby leeks, and burst tomatoes with hollandaise sauce. Perfection.
But the real show-stopper was the lamb.
Slow-cooked lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, chantenay carrots, and green beans. Have you ever eaten food that made you make noises after each mouthful? That was this lamb. The best lamb I have ever tasted.
I struggled giving away the other half of my salmon, though. Even though I’d eaten my portion, I couldn’t stop myself from eating it until Jack had done with his half of the lamb.
Hurry up or I’ll eat everything from my plate!
By the end of the meal, we had devoured every morsel. The plate was empty. We needn’t have worried about portion size. Although every ounce was eaten, we were completely satisfied.
Aaron appeared from the kitchen. He’d been the chef for the day! I was very happy to see him again, as we’d had a great time chatting to him the last time we were there. He asked what we thought of the food and told us that because of the freezing temperature in the kitchen that day (it was snowing outside) the sauce for the salmon had solidified and he’d had to make it three times! Love that—exceptional service right there.
We talked about the running of the day and how the food is plated up and served to ensure the temperature of the food is kept just right; we talked about how his staff would set up the day before and then the morning of they’d polish all the silverware to get rid of any marks. We even chatted about the colour of napkins that we’d like and the way the table would be laid out.
At this point I was obsessing over the glassware at the table. Is there anyone else who notices the glasses and cutlery? Because I really, really do and these glasses were just beautiful. I kept imagining drinking my sparkly out of the champagne flutes and feeling happy about it. I know some people don’t notice these things, but I really do and it was something that stuck out for me. I loved those glasses.
I even had to find them on Facebook to post. Seriously obsessed with them. Can you see why??
Image via Gastro Catering on Facebook
Once we finished talking about the food, we moved on to tables and chairs. I mentioned that Circa were including table and chair hire in the original price, and I could see Aaron’s heart sink. “That is a really good deal,” he said, “and Circa are really good.” He couldn’t compete with the price, and I was gutted. Seriously gutted. I loved them so, so much, but if Circa had the same quality of food and the same attention to detail that these guys did, it would be stupid to not take them at their offer. But it still made me feel bad.
Aaron was nothing but a gentleman, though. He had every opportunity to bad-mouth his competition, but he wouldn’t do it. “I love your attention to detail,” I told him, trying so hard to convince him that I did really love this company. “Circa will have the same standard,” he replied.
As we left, I could sense that he knew he’d lost us because of cost, and I felt awful. He wished us well, whatever our decision, and we headed home.
In the car, I could have cried. I honestly felt as though if I said no to these guys, it would feel the same as breaking up with someone. It’s not you, it’s me! I promise! I’m no good for you!!! You deserve so much better!!! My mum even said that if we didn’t go with them, we’d have to send a bunch of flowers to say thank you for such a wonderful meal.
That night, I lay in bed fretting about it. I was torn. I felt so conflicted. Part of me wanted Circa to be amazing so we’d get incredible food at a great cost. But another part of me wanted it to be terrible so I could run back to Gastro with open arms. Please! Take me back! I know I’m not worthy of your love for even doubting you, but you were the right choice all along! Forgive me!!
So the day after, we went to see Circa…and that’s another post in itself.
Did you ever feel this ridiculous emotion when it came to a vendor?! Are you obsessive about glassware? Do tell all…
This article was originally posted on the Weddingbee.