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Royal Berkshire Conference Centre hosts a night of team-building

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Club members took on ‘The Cube’ as the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre and Goto Events held an evening of team-building activities and networking.

The Madejski Stadium is an impressive venue in its own right – capable of holding up to 24,000 guests, the view from the boxes and conference rooms above is unparalleled.

Inside it plays host to the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre and I was so grateful that some PA Life Club members and I got the opportunity to experience what the venue has to offer corporate clients, and boy do they know how to put on a show.

Located along the M4 corridor in Reading, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to find the venue; with options to travel by train and car, it is ideal for group bookings and away days.

We arrived for an evening of networking for 6pm, where we were greeted with a round of bubbles inside the Royal Suite and some beautifully-crafted bowl food, which we were told had all been taken from the catering menu. The dishes included tandoori chicken, sea bass and purple mash and a lemon curd for dessert with homemade shortbread. It was fantastic to see first-hand what the venue can do in terms of its menu, and it didn’t disappoint.

With full tummies, we ventured on a tour of the grounds and its facilitates. Due to the structure of the stadium – it’s a bit of an oval shape – I didn’t expect there to be such a huge variety of conference and meetings rooms, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Inside guests can select from the Premier Suite, Director’s Lounge, Kennet Room & Loddon Room, 1871 Suite and many more, all capable of hosting a range of events, such as exhibitions, private gala dinners, panel discussions, conferences and board meetings.

The Princess Suite & Windsor Lounge was a space I was particularly fond of – the largest room at 517m square – it is fantastic for exhibitions or Christmas parties. Plus, with a five-meter ceiling height, a goods lift, dedicated wi-fi and AV, it has everything anyone could need when booking.

Plus, the venue also boasts a restaurant dubbed Cilantro, where guests can make the most of the private dining five-course menus. If anything is to go by the food we had on the evening, guests can expect exquisite dishes here.

And if that wasn’t enough, through a connecting hallway, users of the stadium can reach the Millennium Madejski Hotel. Guests don’t even have to venture outside to travel in between the two venues – it’s a seamless transition.

After a packed tour it was back to the Royal Suite to get creative and take part in some team-building activities, courtesy of Goto Events. Styled out the same as ITV’s TV show The Cube, we all got the chance to take on challenges as a team.  As difficult as they were, I’m pleased to say my team won the most, including one where four of us had to balance on a beam using one leg for 30 seconds – not as easy as it sounds let me tell you!

It really was a fantastic way to round off the evening and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting up close and personal with this fabulous venue – I’ll definitely be returning in the future.

PA Life Club: Penelope Alice heads to the seaside with The Grand, Eastbourne

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The amount of conference, meeting and dining space is endless at The Grand, while the numerous bedroom choices including suites, executive and sea view rooms offer plenty of variety.

Having never visited the seaside town of Eastbourne, I was more then eager to see what this location can offer. Myself and a group of PA Life Club members were lucky enough to join the latest Club FAM trip, where we got to enjoy a night’s stay in The Grand Hotel.

I was surprised at how simple the journey was to Eastbourne – I travelled down from London Victoria via train, which only took an hour and a half, while a quick five-minute cab journey ensured we arrived outside The Grand.

This is a hotel which certainly does live up to its name; the entrance hall alone is enough to make a lasting impression, while the high ceilings create the illusion of heaps of space in each room, from The Garden Restaurant, Eastbourne Room and Boardroom.

After we checked in, we were given the opportunity to freshen up after our travels, before heading into the Eastbourne for afternoon tea and Champagne. A delicious selection of savoury and sweet treats greeted us, plus we were informed that everything was made on-site in the kitchen, including the intricate lemon meringue pie and quiche.

Refreshed and with full tummies, we were given a tour of the hotel and its facilities in groups. I was in awe at just how huge The Grand is. The amount of conference, meeting and dining space is endless, while the numerous bedroom choices including suites, executive and sea view rooms offer plenty of variety. My favourite was some of the more modern bedrooms, and we were told that the hotel was undergoing a complete refurb of the rooms to give the hotel a more contemporary feel.

During the tour, we also got to see the Mirabelle – a restaurant that is considered one of the finest in the town, having received numerous accolades and awards. This room was a particular hit with me thanks to its stunning blue and grey colour tones and intimate tables, making it perfect for business lunches or private dining.

Retiring back to our rooms, we all prepared for the evening dinner which was to be hosted in the Princes room. A superb room with ample space, I couldn’t wait to sample the hotel’s food and experience its five-star service. We were treated to a starter course of seared scallops, followed by a main of teriyaki glazed beef fillet. This was polished off with the ‘Grand’ dessert trio consisting of pecan pie, a pear and salted caramel shot and honey and ginger ice cream. It was a banquet I won’t forget thanks to its fantastic flavours and the impeccable service we were given.

Once dinner was finished, we were guided into the hotel’s bar for a cocktail before we all headed up to our rooms for a well-earned rest. I opted for the Negroni – one of my favourite’s and the hotel didn’t disappoint.

The next morning, we were all provided with breakfast in The Garden Restaurant, which included a feast of continental options, fresh fruit and cooked dishes. After digesting and checking out it was time to take a tour of the seafront and the surrounding area including Beachy Head and the Birling Gap. It was great to see the town in the flesh and its opportunities for team-building and away days. For example, at Beachy Head visitors can take part in paragliding – a thrilling way to treat clients or team members to an adrenaline-filled activity.

This hotel is in a prime location for corporate clients, especially if you are seeking a spot that is outside of London but without the long distance to travel. Thank you to The Grand for showcasing all it can offer – I for one will certainly be considering it for our next away day.

Hi-de-hi campers! Penelope Alice takes a visit to Butlin’s in Bognor Regis

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I must admit, it has been quite a few years since I was last lucky enough to visit the Butlin’s in Bognor Regis and how things have changed.

Bognor Regis is easily accessible for those that drive, it’s also just an hour from London on the fast train.

As we arrived at Butlin’s, we were greeted by a charming security guard, checking our names were on the list at the gate. It was all very high-end making it perfect for a corporate event. As we went through the gate, we saw the newest hotel on site. It looked magnificent and large, a real talking point, away from the chalets of yester-year.

After parking in one of the many car parks around the site, we were directed to the conference centre. Still on the lookout for a red coat, we entered a stylish and modern building with all the tech needs of any current business.

The conference centre has a large bar reception, which had a neon pink glow, rivalling any bar I’ve seen in London recently. The conference rooms varied in size but all came equipped with comfortable desk seating, tables and good natural light.

Within moments of being in the centre, we were treated to a lovely cup of tea and talked through all of the available options regarding room space and sizes. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to book events during the school holidays but there was no need to panic, the rest of the conference team are more than happy to help out with any event needs you may have.

Once the talk had finished, we were escorted through the grounds of the resort to one of the many restaurants. It was all very grand and looked like such fun.

The restaurant was comfortable and again felt very modern, keeping with the theme of the rest of the resort. As we sat down, I must admit I was rather dreading what could have been served, with thoughts of nostalgia running through my mind but quickly my mind was changed. With a promising gin menu and exquisite food and staff that catered for our every need it was all rather nice.

After the last of us had finished eating, we were shown round the resort spaces, which included some excellent hosting rooms and large stage event space. Making it great for larger events and gatherings.

Upon completing the tour, we were all ready for some fun, between the numerous shops and activities, I can safely say I was spoilt for choice.

We ended up, however, at the on-site funfair filled with all your usual fun needs, from the waltzers and bumper cars to the hall of mirrors and go-kart track. Many of us decided to give everything ago and after a lot of fun, we deduced that it would be a very entertaining place to head to after a conference or meeting.

We were ready for a sleep after the fun fair so we decided it was about time to be shown around one of the three hotels on site, it was comfortable, quiet and had excellent Wi-Fi coverage. You could feel comfortable and professional without ever realising that there might be a family with three children in the room next door.

The day ended with us taking afternoon tea in the conference centre. It was a beautifully British with fresh scones, profiteroles and fresh strawberries.

As we departed, we were given a rather trendy re-useable bag containing: a pen, contact information, a large chocolate bar and my favourite item, a Billy teddy bear.

P.S. For those of you interested, I finally saw a red coat on the way out of the resort. They had been putting on a play all afternoon and were too busy for my silly game of hide and seek.

Rooms and spaced at Butlin’s Bognor Regis:

Venues

Conference Centre
Boardroom ( up to 8 delegates)
Kent Suite
York Suite
Windsor ( Kent and York combined)
Princes Suite
Regency Suite
Grosvenor Suite ( Princes and Regency combined)

Reds
Centre stage
Skyline Pavilion
2 Theatres ( approx. 200 delegates in each venue – Discovery Studio and Character Theatre)

Capacities

Accommodation

Hotels

Shoreline – 160 rooms
Ocean – 200 rooms
Wave – 244 rooms ( of which, 29 apartments)

Villages

Atlantic Bay and Oyster Bay – approx. self-catering 530 apartments

Hard to book a space during…

When the schools are out ( February half term, Easter, May half term, Summer Holidays, October half term)
Adult music weekend ( approx. 21 weekend)

Easy to book a space during…

Our opportunity midweeks (usually the first part of January, February excluded half term, the first part of March, November)

Please follow the link below to find out more with details descriptions and further information:

https://www.butlins.com/events/our-locations/bognor-regis/

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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I love a vibrant restaurant that’s out of the ordinary but still useful for business dinners, which is why I jumped at the chance to visit the famous Chotto Matte with my fellow PA Life readers.

This exciting venue was opened during London Fashion Week in 2013 by Kurt Zdesar, the man responsible for bringing the Nobu chain of restaurants to the city. It has since become one of the capital’s “it” destinations for celebrities and foodies. There is some amazing artwork throughout the property’s three floors, making it impossible to keep your eyes in one spot for too long.

After a welcoming glass of prosecco and some canapés we were whisked away for a tour of the venue, then split amongst three “activity zones” for cooking and cocktail-making demonstrations. We got to take part in some of the fun and mixed our own drinks made with pisco, a Peruvian grape brandy. Although they were strong, I thoroughly enjoyed the one that contained a hint of lychee.

The food at Chotto Matte is very tasty. My favourite of the evening was green peppers with Japanese miso seasoning and sea salt. The sushi demonstration was enough to make my mouth water.

I’m certainly going to keep this one on file for the next time Mr P wants to wow his clients. Check it out at chotto-matte.com.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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Those of you who joined the PA Life Club for the networking event at Shaka Zulu in Camden may remember that there’s another trendy restaurant upstairs called Gilgamesh. I joined a group of my fellow PAs to visit this stunning venue for cocktails and nibbles at its fantastic private bar.

One of the most striking features of Gilgamesh – named after a legendary Mesopotamian king fabled to have ruled for 126 years – is its beautiful hand-carved wooden décor. Nearly every wall is adorned with panels that portray the multicultural background of Asia, from Hindu gods to Arabian scenes. The bar we were in has only recently reopened following an extensive refurbishment – just part of a massive makeover for the entire building. If this room, with its incredible ceiling, is anything to go by, the whole place will look fabulous when it’s finished.

The staff at Gilgamesh is so welcoming. Whenever one of us arrived, there was a cocktail waiting. Our drinks for the night were two sweet concoctions, one made with passion fruit and ginger, the other with raspberry – both delicious and strong on the alcohol.

We started the evening with canapés and dim sum, including tasty pumpkin dumplings, crispy duck spring rolls and an interesting take on prawn toast. After a tour of the venue, (sans the private dining rooms, which are still being worked on) we were treated to something more substantial in the form of a slightly spicy vegetable curry and a creamy chicken version, as well as a refreshing duck and watermelon salad.

If you, like me, are looking for a venue that’s truly out of the ordinary, have a look at the website at gilgameshbar.com.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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As much as I love the Big Smoke, I do enjoy getting away now and then, so I was delighted to accept PA Life’s invitation to visit the beautiful and historic city of Cambridge.

Of course it’s home to one of the country’s top universities and that’s where we went to look round Robinson College, which is renowned for being a modern venue with traditional values where you can hold all manner of great events – in fact they’ve been providing meetings facilities for more than 30 years.

The day kicked off with a fascinating overview on the history of Cambridge and its merits as a business destination, followed by a hard hat tour of the new seminar building, Crausaz Wordsworth, which is set to open in September this year.

After a delicious light lunch, we enjoyed a two-hour walking tour of Cambridge that filled us in on the local food scene – little wonder that Delicious Magazine UK called it “a city peppered with international cuisine”. We saw fudge being made and pizza baked in a clay oven, then we tried cheeses and pork pies, as well as home-made Chelsea buns, and finished the day off with a gin-tasting session.

What a great day out – the glorious weather really helped too – and I can’t end without saying a big thank you to our wonderful hosts, Rose McDonald and her colleague, Natasha. Cambridge is really accessible from most of England’s major cities, so why not take a trip and discover its delights for yourself.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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Music has a way of bringing out some of the strongest of human emotions, which is probably why Memphis the Musical places it at the forefront of race tension in 1950s Tennessee. The PA Life Club was kind enough to treat me and nearly 50 other members to a performance of the award-winning show at the Shaftesbury Theatre (pictured above).

As part of the evening, we were taken the long way through the venue to view all of the spaces that can be hired out for private drinks before shows and during intermission. Our own private bar for the evening sits next to the Royal Circle, where we were sat for the performance. The theatre is also able to arrange an external caterer for seasonal canapés to round out corporate events.

I can’t express enough how amazing the show is. West End favourites Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly give the show real gravitas as a love-struck couple battling the prevailing racism of the era while trying to become famous in their own rights. The supporting cast steals the show at times, with one character that remains silent for half of the show bursting into a powerful song that honestly brought tears to my eyes at the height of the story.

What better way to entertain clients than with a powerful musical that will have them tapping their feet within the first five minutes? It’s definitely worth checking the venue out for hospitality ideas at shaftesburytheatre.com.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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You must remember that epic film Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford – amazing scenery and lots of smouldering glances between the two leads. It was more a case of into Africa when I went along to the PA Life Club’s latest event last week at an amazing venue called Shaka Zulu in Camden.

It’s one of those places that really needs to be seen to be believed; set over a staggering 27,000 square feet, this two-floor bar/restaurant/club (you name it, it can cater for it) features spectacular décor that takes inspiration from its South African heritage. The 20-foot-high statutes of muscle-bound indigenous warriors are certainly extremely eye-catching and prompted some of the male guests in attendance to mutter something about having to start going to the gym again.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the food on offer and had visions of crocodile and elephant being served up whole. While they do offer exotic meats here such as zebra, springbok and antelope, I didn’t attempt to sample anything quite so esoteric, although I did have a brush with a zebra in the form of the snazzy patterned walls in the ladies’ toilets.

When the food arrived I pounced on a delicious-looking mini-burger and was surprised to be told that this juicy morsel wasn’t actually beef, but in fact ostrich – I must keep that in mind to impress at a future dinner party chez Penelope Alice. Alongside the ostrich we nibbled on succulent chicken skewers, squid and tuna. And the non-meat eaters in the group didn’t miss out either, as they were provided with halloumi cheese, peri peri fries and vegetable spring rolls. These were washed down with fruity vodka cocktails prepared to perfection by the venue’s expert mixologists.

Shaka Zulu can accommodate all sorts of corporate events, from product launches and private dinners to full-blown parties and you will have space for as many as 470 people if you take over the entire venue, or for up to 350 seated on the lower level. So if you’re looking for a themed venue with a difference that’s bound to make a big impact, then check it out for yourself at shaka-zulu.com.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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I have been truly spoiled by the PA Life Club lately, first with a dinner at One Moorgate Place and now another fabulous meal, this time featuring delicious Indian food at the very posh Moti Mahal.

We started the evening with a lovely, refreshing elderflower and champers cocktail while we chatted away about work and everything in between. Before long, the friendly serving staff arrived with tasty canapés, including miniature samosas, tandoori chicken skewers and two types of curried paste made from chicken and lamb.

After taking our seats, the restaurant’s Marketing Manager Oana explained some of the private dining options and let us know about an exciting incentive programme to reward hard-working PAs for booking meals. Then Head Sommelier Barry talked a bit about the cuisine on offer and described how he makes his choices for wine pairings – not an easy task with Indian food, it turns out.

Dinner was done in true Indian style, with sharing dishes served at each course. Our starters featured a variety of flavours, from tandoor-grilled tilapia to pan-fried potato cakes and delicious Punjab lamb cutlets.

My favourite main dish was the jumbo prawns tossed with basil, vine tomatoes and spices, though the paneer (cheese) and garden pea curry was also quite tasty. The sides of charcoal-cooked black lentils and chicken cooked with basmati rice were to die for.

The dessert was a bit of a talking point, as it was a new concoction thought up by Head Chef Anirudh Arora – lavender honey ice cream, Indian tapioca noodles, stewed rhubarb and basil seeds. It was nice, but something of an acquired taste.

In addition to a 75-cover main restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner, Moti Mahal features a separate private dining room with space for up to 45 people seated and also offers a delivery menu for when getting out of the office isn’t an option. Check it out at motimahal-uk.com.

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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Funky new venues are all very well, but sometimes it’s nice to go to a place that has a bit of character. That’s why I was very pleased to accept an invitation to the PA Life Club’s dinner at the impressive One Moorgate Place. Conveniently located by Moorgate tube and within easy walking distance of Liverpool Street, this striking Grade II-listed building was built at the end of the 19th century and is apparently a good example of Victorian neo-baroque architecture, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The venue has retained lots of its original features and today it is home to the Institute of Chartered Accounts in England and Wales, comprising a number of spaces that are ideal for all kinds of corporate events. Our dinner was held in the stunning main reception room, which is apparently modelled on early Renaissance church design and features a domed ceiling, gorgeous murals, stained glass windows and a magnificent chandelier.

Simon Kane and his friendly, knowledgeable team showed the group round the other areas for hire, which include the small reception room, council chamber (state-of-the-art AV technology means it’s perfectly suited for an AGM), the Great Hall, a spacious area that can accommodate up to 600 guests, the quirky members’ room (look out for the bridge that imitates the style of the famous Rialto in Venice), the restaurant and various meeting rooms all with natural light.

Given our illustrious surroundings, I must admit to wondering whether the food could live up to expectation. I needn’t have had any such misgivings: after some truly tasty canapés (the stilton with pear was definitely my favourite) we sat down to a delightful three-course dinner. The starter of lobster and crab risotto was wonderfully creamy (and, as someone who is extremely fussy about Italian food, I’m happy to report that the rice was cooked to perfection); I wasn’t sure about the venison for main course, fearing it might taste too ‘gamey’, but it was tender and delicious.

The meal was beautifully rounded off with an incredibly moreish chocolate and hazelnut layered dessert – so good that a number of those attending immediately put up pictures of it on Instagram, ah the wonders of modern technology.

Check out how the venue might be just the thing for your next corporate event at onemoorgateplace.com/.