So, it begins…
The last week of rehearsals shot past pretty quickly. You notice people changing as the opening night draws closer. There’s less chat, more haste and a slight breeze of anxiety in the air. On the kitchen side of things we still had to finish the new wagon, test out the new tent and also move to the new site to get set up for the opening night hog roast. Things were eased by the arrival of Taylor who slotted in as if the winter break had never happened. The pizza wagon had been given a full make over from Mr Dan Chadwick complete with spinning pizza ovens and a lick of carefully crafted calligraphy from Amy Goodwin. Our favorite carpenter Rocky was on the case in the new wagon along with a small army of electricians, plumbers and painters fighting towards the deadline. On the Monday night we built the tent for the first time with the help of Bibi who’s 13 years of sledge hammering working to our advantage… It went up without a hitch thankfully, all ready for the next day! Tuesday we had our Mock evening, a selection of suppliers, performers and the everyman theatre were invited to watch one of the first dress rehearsals using Toti’s lovely pigs, the last of this years wild garlic and some donated rhubarb we created a menu of deep fried cheeks and trotters with double Gloucester, wild garlic soup, roast Tamworth belly with stuffed cabbages and crispy pigs ears and a rhubarb trifle for dessert. Accompanied by an unrehearsed puppet show the evening was a success and we learnt a lot about what was to come with the bigger restaurant.
Three more days of running around, cooking, painting, drilling, planning, puppeteering and packing, we were finally ready to move out of the barn which had been our home for the past four weeks and move just 100 meters away to the top field where the big top had already been erected. The restaurant tent was thrown up again, the new Indian hardwood tables, the lucky thirteen circus tapestries hung up to line the tent, and the sparkling festoon lights. We were ready! We get changed into our whites and the first guests start to arrive a few at first and then in the blink of an eye the lawn was littered with excited circus fanatics, old friends and ex-performers. The scene is set, the rehearsal period over and the 2015 Moonsongs tour has begun! The music booms out of the tent with roars of laughter and gasps of awe before the tent bursts with the satisfied and quite famished guests. The hog roast begins. 500 guests tucking into tender pork, stuffing and apple sauce baps with a pint of ale or a glass of wine, the atmosphere is wonderful. As the guests start to filter out a select few stay behind for a spot of music provided by Gaz who owns Gaz’s in Soho. Fighting through the ring full of relieved and happy faces there is a massive sense of accomplishment despite the tour had only just begun and my is there a lot more to come!
It turns out that we are now busy, very busy… Every night… First two nights were completely full, I kept the same menu as we had on the mock night as we still had a lot of that beautiful pork from Toti and a fair amount of rhubarb. Lara held the restaurant up amazingly as we were still awaiting the arrival of Adam the restaurant manager and fellow puppeteer! The time then came for us to make the move to Sudeley Castle which turned out to be a damp affair with many solomn faces including my own. As we approached the beautiful castle grounds the rain became torrential and my mood worse. The weather has such a major impact on weather ground is successful or enjoyable at giffords and the previous year gave us all shudders of what could be again. Thankfully the sun broke free and the rain stopped and we changed from our soaking clothes and began to build.
I already had the menu down in my head. Over the months leading up to rehearsals I butchered and cured 8 of totties pigs. I also brined the legs to make hams and of coarse the ham hocks! We had Charlie from Costwold gold who produce the most delicious rapeseed oil based near broadway so the starter had to be jellied ham hock with a sauce gabriche made with grated eggs and a rapeseed mayonnaise with plenty of English mustard and capers. Main course I consulted the local butchers and procured some shin of beef, oxtail and bone marrow to create a cobbler, an old British dish usually a dessert but made with a loose cheese scone mix to make the cobbled topping served with mash made with lots of cream and butter and a cocotte of spring vegetable and a few sprigs of mint for freshness. Dessert another old English classic that I originally thought was from across the pond however more research discovered it would be something perfect to serve at a vintage circus, A chocolate knickerbocker Glory. Brownie, white chocolate mousse, milk chocolate custard, tuille biscuits, vanilla ice cream, berries, crushed greeny purple pistachio nuts and a dusting of bitter cocoa powder. That’s as much as you would want to ask of a dessert.
A massive highlight of Sudeley was John and Nancy’s wedding, which was an absolute pleasure to have here at Circus Sauce. Such lovely people and they looked like they were having the most wonderful time. I also got to make a wedding cake which I love, with chocolate, berries and lots of spun sugar! It was time to leave Sudeley and the long weekend was over, fortunately Adam has arrived and we have another new member of staff, James who Im very excited to say starts on Friday the team is now together and complete.
The long journey to east Oxfordshire now begins and as we draw closer to Stadhampton the familiar sight of red kites that circle the big top over the next week are gliding in the wind above us.
Bring on another weekend of a sold out restaurant!