Chris Dennis: Dysfunctional Dinners…Presents a Christmas Feast

It has become tradition that each year various bartenders and other industry bods get together for a pre-Christmas party. Last year was no exception, it has just taken 3 months for anyone to recover well enough to write about it. That person is Chris Dennis.

Once again without stating the obvious, it looked like this would be far from a normal Christmas dinner.

With the massive success of last year’s escapade still fresh, the fabled minds of some our industries finest would have to come together and create something wackier than ever before. This time we knew how things were going to unfold, this time we would be prepared……

On a colder than usual Wednesday morning, earlier than usual I might add, two distinguished gentlemen met at the standard upgrade to their local pub; The Artesian, in order to discuss the latest installment of their own monster creation. Jimi Pearce and Joe Petch removed their gentleman’s cloaks, top hats and placed their walking canes firmly on the ground and began to conjure up fever dream images of infernos and time travel. And then naturally, apply them to Christmas Dinner.

This was the last that any man or woman heard of them before the rumors started….some said that they had built a sea-craft from empty rum bottles, others whispered of an airship made from out-of-date flyers and still there were murmurs of Sara Nixon building a tree house to sit twenty on Hampstead Heath. Words and phrases seemed to come up again and again, ‘absinthe’, ‘151’ and ‘turbo’…

With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to the ‘William IV’ just off Old Street on a fine Monday evening. I chipperly wondered into a bar aglow with the warmth from a well stocked hearth and greeted the other guests. The invite had ‘suggested’ that we appear wearing formal head gear and rise to the challenge we did. There were pirates, Vikings, wrestlers, cowboys, Russians and gentleman all gathered around the fire cradling the first drink of the night, full of anticipation, wonder and, perhaps, just a little caution.

Mr Petch, dressed traditionally in a leopard print blazer and ostentatious head gear, followed by Mark Routledge, wearing what looked like a tea cosy, appeared as if by Magic and ushered us through a twin set of doors and up a narrow stairway. The anticipation had mounted and by this point and the atmosphere followed us gingerly with each forward step.

Let The Drinking Commence

The double doors were situated just in front of the stairwell and their threshold was gilded with ‘DD’. Now, there have been many to wear this emblem, ‘Dare Devil’, ‘Desperate Dan’, ‘Destruction Derby’, a computing programme of a sort, but, I don’t believe that any of these has had quite the affect on their following that Dysfunctional Dinners now has on the industry patrons which attend. We crossed the threshold and entered a room with a regal banquet table set for royalty, an ornate mahogany bar, the Right Admiral Funk’s Mackie speakers and, of course, our arrival drinks.

An entire table boasting an impressive offering of spirits next to the bar also held fifteen bottles of delicious ‘Bucks Fast’ or ‘Festive Fizz Sharers’ from a small distiller of the name ‘Tesco’, these were served complete with the now customary extra-long bendy straws. Serving these beauties were Sara and Jimi dressed in traditional ribbons, finery and adorned in mad hatter head gear.

And with that, the music was turned up, the conversation increased the late comers finally began to drizzle in from the downstairs bar and with the aid of an elaborate Christmas card washing line displaying name tags, we took our seats.

With a quick toast the first of many dishes began to appear on the table as quick as the magically appearing bottles of wine became poured into parched glasses. The ‘3 course pre course to your 3 course’ was a masterfully created plate combining fine culinary skills and perhaps more importantly booze. A hollowed tomato housed a spicy absinthe charged soup served next to green ‘sour mash’ potatoes seasoned with whisky and finished with a thumbnail sized treat compete with vodka foam. The last patron then appeared. He was a man know to only a few guests whose name card read simply ‘Naked Dave’ and he lived up to this name tenfold.

Now, Christmas, just wouldn’t be Christmas without the tradition bell-jar-spiced-port-laybacks and this was no exception. A larger than life bottle made its dispensatory way around each guest to lubricate them for their starter and the only dish which would contain no alcohol; The Puffy Billy. Sara’s creation of caramelized red onion, puff pastry and magic wowed all and moistened their lips for the scrumptiously named main course, but only after a Snowball fight.

The supercharged snowballs were made of cream, Advocaat, Cognac, ground unicorn horn and fairy dust. They were once again accompanied by the traditional bell-jar-spiced-port-laybacks to give an extra kick of holiday cheer.

Game Bird

As the last snowballs melted, a bang echoed around the room and suddenly a hot naked chick(cooked turkey) complete with fireworks was paraded around the room as the crowd erupted in excitement and toasted exuberantly. It was quickly and unanimously decided that the hot naked chick was a beautiful specimen and was quickly taken back into the kitchen to be seduced and plated. As the finishing touches were being completed on the main course it was time for a dysfunctional game of ‘Pass the Potato’. The potatoes in question had, in accordance with Christmas law, been frozen into blocks, due of course to the ‘hot potato’ concept breaking many health & safety regulations. Stef and Sara were on standby with El Dorado shots for guests with slippery fingers, and to everyone’s delight; ‘Hot Potato’, everyone’s favorite ‘The Wiggles’ song blared out of the Admiral’s rather loud sound system.

And then it was time for the main course of ‘Northern Puds, Stuffin Muffin cakes, Turkey, veggies and slow-cooked Turbo gravy’, accompanied with more wine. Dinner was quickly followed with the ‘Blazin Amazin’. In which a 2 meter gutter was used to direct Goslings 151 into a large copper basin to create a delicious drink. Then the kitchen team lit the whole thing into a massive fireball. Luckily, appointed fire marshal, Nitesh Patel was on hand with a couple of napkin to make sure the fire didn’t get out of hand.

After the fiery concoction had warmed our bodies and minds it was time for everyone’s holiday favorite ‘Distribute the Package’. As Jimi proclaimed, “birthdays own pass the parcel”, and thus a new dawn began. The oversized parcel was subject to much throwing and some out-of-bounds launches across the table, but, as layer and layer were torn away, great prizes began to appear; a bottle of Beethoven chocolate spirit (TM) and a light-up bouncy ball to name but a few.

This was finished nicely with a Christmas cake which was more an experiment in pastry architecture then simply desert; layers and lattices of sponge and determination.  This was accompanied by a more traditional cake served from a flaming trolley and was complimented with a self service vial of more over proof rum and a match.

I think everyone had been looking forward to the awards ceremony which followed. Christmas is often the best time of year to be honored for yours services to the industry and this was no exception. The crowd cheered and banged on the table as Dan Prizeman (geddit?) won the coveted award of ‘Best Hat’. Simon was on hand to pick up BarlifeUK’s deserved award of ‘Magazine that’s almost won everything’. James Triffo was a clear winner of the now highly sought-after ‘Least Canadian’ award and finally the most prestigious ‘POTY’ or personality of the year award was won by a very naked Naked Dave.

After a quick pause for more drinks down at the bar and a couple of servings of delicious flower bowl punch we returned to the DD room to begin the last of the night’s games and the atmosphere indicated that the stakes were high. The now traditional game of ‘Musical bite the Bullet overproof Kitchen Sink Cider Bobbing’ had begun. After being the first out I enjoyed the apple that my teeth clenched around and a sip of bourbon while the other guests battled it out for supremacy. As Stef Holt has been playing musical chairs semi-professionally for most of her adult life, it seemed fitting that she walked away victorious.

Thank you once again Dysfunctional Dinners! Here’s looking to Easter….