When our friends drive over to pick us up, and I open the door, there’s a definite, ‘ah’ moment. From our side it was, ‘ah, walking boots, big jumpers, rain macs,’ and for them, ‘ah, total, unapologetic glamour,’ (probably). Whilst they’d dressed wisely for the potentially muddy walk into the forest, and the chill of the impending tipi tent, we’d modelled ourselves on the photos of previous nights, where ladies spun across the dance floor in bright dresses and suited men tapped their brogues to the beat.
They convince me to swap my heels for my much-loved converse, and we drive over to Delamere (only a 15-20min trip from central Chester). It’s a freezing but clear night. The stroll from the car park to the tent is brief, but our friends were right, the ground is water-logged and boggy. Perfect converse terrain.
We step into the huge Tipi, and a magical, festive world. The decor is stunning, gently lit by strings of soft-white bulbs, with warm, Christmassy touches. The tables are long and wide, adorned in rustic log place settings and candles. The inevitable sharing aspect is welcome, especially at this time of year when it’s easier to get chatting and laughing with total strangers. Two bottles of wine (per six) are included in the £65 a head package, so the four of us are soon befriending the couple to our left and pouring out glasses.
For those of us struggling from the night before there were plenty of soft drinks on the menu (oh how I welcomed that pint glass of fizzy Vimto) and for anyone still craving Sauvignon, extra bottles of wine were a reasonable £18.
The five course menu is simply a delight. Everyone was asked to order in advance from five starter choices, four mains, and three desserts – a great selection considering the sheer volume of people being catered for (they served 400 people over 2 sittings on one weekend). I went for cured tomato and basil puff pastry slice to start, followed by a lemon sorbet with mojito syrup. For mains minted mascarpone pear and asparagus risotto, followed by ‘winter mess’ for dessert, a selection of cheeses with celery, figs and sweet chutney. All topped off with coffee and shortbread.
The slice was simple but tasty, the sorbet refreshing and served in an elegant mojito glass, the risotto was crazy good, and generously portioned, and the Winter Mess – again, huge, rich, with little marbled meringues. Then they gave us cheese – beautifully presented in wooden crates, full of (besides the obvious) figs, grapes and crackers, then a glass pot of fruit chutney.
Yes, £65 is pricy but it really was a truly special night of luxury and feeling spoilt with good friends. We were stuffed, reluctantly leaving some of the cheese, which was thoughtfully in per person towers of brie, stilton and cheddar.
An acoustic artist serenaded us all from the front of the tent, but the animated conversation overpowered him – spirits were high.
Staff did an incredible job, sweeping in seamlessly to take drink orders and replace plates. The tent was just warm enough; a combination of so many bodies and the indoor fire pit near the entrance. My legs were a little chilly by the time we were ready to head off (some 3 hours later), but I was wearing tights (the dress-converse combo was an overall winner in my opinion – no ruined shoes and still felt dressy – a lot of women risked it in high heels).
If you go next year (and you should really treat yourself), take a chunky scarf and Christmas jumper in case you need them, and for popping to the loo.
I should add that the toilets were of the superior, temporary variety, not far from the tent in cabins. Despite being in the woods, the evening easily avoided a ‘reluctant camper’ vibe. Instead we were excited and giggly, feeling like we’d happened upon an exclusive winter wonderland.
Tickets aren’t the easiest to grab, as the pop up event’s only on for a limited number of nights each December. But your best bet is to follow Delamere Christmas Events on Facebook, and keeping your eye on it from September (when they were released this year). Good luck!