“You’re going to Vegas!” Four words which at the time, I was thrilled to hear. The idea of 4 days of gambling, partying and no small amount of drinking, seemed at the time to be a fantastic idea. The concept was even greater knowing that it was the company picking up the bill as a thank you for a record breaking Christmas at Forge. So a FREE trip to Las Vegas, how could I say no……?
Now to dampen your expectations, this is not a Hangover-esque story, it doesn’t involve face tattoos or Mr Chow. This was, after all still a business trip, the CEO and the HR Director would be there so a modicum of good behaviour was required.
That being said, the 15 of us were all people from an industry whose job it is to throw parties for a living, so the drinking commenced at Gatwick Airport. It’s a little known fact that Airports are the one place where it is socially acceptable to be drinking in a Weatherspoon’s at 8am (or indeed anytime). The drinking continued on the 11 hour flight, where we had the pleasure of sharing the flight with a group of recruitment agents from Essex who felt it appropriate to fly in their pyjamas and a group of people who clapped when the plane took off (Seriously, when it took off! Because clapping when it lands is bad enough!) It soon became clear that drinking was the only way to make it through this flight. Now I wish this was a story about how in first class we were drinking Negronis and Daiquiris at 20 thousand feet, but the sad truth of the matter is we were flying economy so the best we could hope for was a vodka and coke in a plastic cup, the kind of service where an ice cube in your drink is considered a luxury.
Service in the States itself is always fantastic. For those unaware (or uncaring) most staff in the service industry in America gets paid below a living wage and earn most of their money through tips. This is great for the company as not only do they have very low payroll but it ensures their staff all go above and beyond their customers’ expectations to ensure they get their money. One fantastic thing about Las Vegas is the casinos will do almost anything to keep you on the floor gambling. Free drinks, big name artists performing live (sadly we missed Britney Spears as, well, we really didn’t want to go), amazing nightclubs and incredible food.
Breakfast every day consisted of the all you can eat buffet at the Bellagio, which some of us took as a challenge and towering piles of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup were stacked next to heaps of steamed pork, roast beef and omelettes in a gluttonous challenge to erase the worst of our hangovers. The biggest challenge was choosing where to eat in the evenings; we only had 3 dinners and thousands of restaurants.
The first night we ate at the Strip House upstairs in the Planet Hollywood Hotel. Not as sleazy as the name might suggest, it is a Steakhouse “Fit for a movie star” as the website described. As a connoisseur of steak I found it perfectly charred, the cut of meat was perfect, and the sides were a glorious range from garlic herb crusted French fries to black truffle creamed spinach. The only let down of our dining experience was the atmosphere; it felt awkwardly quiet and removed from the hustle of the casino floor, and strangely bereft of diners for a Thursday night.
The second night we dined in a private dining room at the House of Blues Foundation Rooms, which is at the top of the Mandalay bay hotel with amazing views down the strip surrounded by the original panelling, gold leaf ceiling and chandeliers from the Kellogg Family estate . The menu consisted of items including Braised short rack of ribs and a 24oz Tomahawk steak, which was similar enough to Forge’s that I felt I had to challenge myself to sample something new. I tried the five spice Duck Breast which was served with baby carrot, Cipollini onion, Hon Shimeji mushrooms and a cherry port jus. While the combination of tastes worked incredibly well I did feel pangs of food envy watching others devour 14oz New York Strip Steaks. The meal was topped when American TV celebrity Dog the Bounty Hunter presented one of our party with her birthday cake, although I’m not sure this is a regular thing!
Our final evening was spent in Sensi inside the Bellagio. Sensi is committed to serving sustainably grown and naturally raised products. Each one of the 3 separate kitchens offer a different style of dish, resulting in a fusion of Indian flavours, Asian plates and seafood specialities. A truly unique style of dining complete with an impressive wine list and striking carved stone, waterfalls and mirrored chrome. The starter of Thai coconut soup was delicious, ideal to whet my appetite with a glorious kick of spice. Having learnt from my mistake the previous night I picked the Fillet Mignon which was cooked to perfection, served with a delicious shishito peppercorn sauce, which is a sweet, East Asian variety of Capsicum.
Returning to London from Vegas I became aware that there are some things that happen in Vegas, which really should stay there, the extra inches on my waistline, my lack of sleep and this hangover. But sadly they don’t.