"Growing networks intertwine. We welcome you to wine and dine."
When Natalie Cobb, Founder of Private Dining London invited me and my guest to a dinner, that she was hosting for event planners and social media influencers, at the Aztec Hotel in Bristol, I accepted with great anticipation.
The exterior of Aztec Hotel, Bristol
On arrival, the 128 bedroom, brown, eighties style hotel, located on a business park, didn't appear to be the most inspiring of venues. But, having followed Private Dining London on Instagram for a while now, I trusted that Natalie would have a beautifully curated experience waiting inside.
Through the doors and into the bar, I was greeted, by the Private Dining London team, with a glass of prosecco. As more event planners and influencers started to arrive, the hotel team served cream team tea, a British delicacy, traditionally associated with the South West of England.
Cream tea, prosecco and guests arriving
After Natalie officially welcomed everyone, Andrea Nelson, Head of Sales at Aztec Hotel, showed the group around the hotel meeting and conference facilities, which have capacity for up to 200 people.
Tour of the Aztec Hotel
Many of the meeting rooms were in use, so we only had the opportunity to look at the largest room, which was being set up for an event that evening. The meeting rooms are served by a conference café, which Andrea described as operating like a first class business lounge. Delegates can help themselves to a rotating variety of treats throughout the day, including cereals, smoothies, tuck shop sweets, cookies and popcorn. Lunch is served in the pizza kitchen, where fresh pizza and salad is available every day.
Being situated near M4 and M5 means that the hotel is easily accessible from Birmingham, London and the South West. This makes the hotel's meeting pods popular with business people on the road, looking for somewhere to meet. The pods are offered on full day or half day hire and are convenient for sales meetings and interviews etc.
As a regular planner of events in Bristol, I am fully aware of the challenges in finding the ideal location within the city. A large infrastructure project is underway, which causes issues with traffic congestion. Travel times in and out of the city centre are a common complaint amongst locals. However, I was later informed by Andrea that once the installation of the metro, for which the road system is currently being dug up, is complete, it will stop near to the Aztec Hotel and have an approximate journey time from the city centre of 20 minutes.
Tour over and several of the guests took advantage of the leisure facilities, heading to the 13m pool in the hotel spa for a swim before dinner.
Hotel bedroom and room drops
Once checked in, I discovered a locally produced 6 O'clock gin from the hotel and a small plant from Private Dining London, waiting for me in my room. The note attached to the plant read "Growing networks intertwine. We welcome you to wine and dine." A lovely introduction to the evening ahead.
Dinner began that evening in the Garden Room, annexed off the main hotel restaurant, looking out over the outdoor dining terrace and hotel gardens.
The Garden Room set for dinner
Highlighting the garden view, Natalie and the team had chosen a botanical themed table setting. Fashionable foliage and lemons decorated the table centre. The plants on the table matched the plants that were in our rooms earlier, another great little touch.
Pre dinner drinks
Stood next to the pond, I enjoyed a drink from the 'pimp my gin' station. Although a rain storm had already broken the heatwave earlier that day, it was still nice to have access to the outdoor space on a summer evening.
Dinner began with fresh bread and dipping oil served on rustic tree trunk bread boards followed by an amuse bouche that didn't appear on the menu. A starter of heritage tomato, burrata, basil and rapeseed followed, causing excited discussions around the table. Heritage tomato appeared a popular dish amongst the foodies.
Seared beef fillet with parsley risotto, Bath blue, confit garlic red wine reduction followed for the main course. I enjoyed the vegetarian confit garlic gnocchi, sorrel, chive and hazelnut dish.
Surprise course before dessert
Another surprise dish soon appeared at the table, pre dessert. These little surprises made the dinner more interesting, as you didn't know what you were going to get. Marc Payne, Executive Chef at Aztec Hotel clearly enjoyed the creativity. When I remarked on the surprise dished, Natalie burst out "Welcome to Private Dining Amanda" She had worked with Marc on the menu and the passion that they both had for dining experiences was evident.
Executive Chef, Marc Payne prepares dessert and Petit Fours
Dessert came when Marc himself arrived in the room. He talked the guests through what was being served whilst putting the finishing touches on the plated desserts of rose and mascarpone cheesecake, strawberry textures and pistachio. Up until this point dinner had been served with either red or white wine, depending on guests preferences. As the cheesecake dish was served, so was the dessert wine. The evening ended with petit fours and tea and coffee.
It was clear from discussion with Andrea during the dinner that the team at the hotel have a lot of enthusiasm for their food offering. She described Marc as the driving force behind this. Having been in post for around a year, he had sent the kitchen team on courses, encouraged them to dine out in other restaurants and had himself sampled other chefs food so he could bring the inspiration received into his menu creations at The Aztec. There are aims to eventually turn the private dining room into a chefs kitchen style restaurant and the hotel is already experimenting with theme nights, such as the recent tapas night that they held.
After a decent night sleep in a very comfortable bed, it was time to sample the breakfast.
Breakfast at Aztec Hotel
Attractively laid out and suitably filling, it was just what was needed to fuel us for a day exploring Upfest, Bristol's urban paint festival.
It is clear that the Aztec Hotel has plans to develop their food offering even further. Hopefully this ambition, with Marc's drive, will help cement their position on the destination dining map. The collaboration with Private Dining London offered the ideal opportunity for them to demonstrate this.
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