Way Above and Far Beyond:
On very rare occasions, you might just be lucky enough to be the recipient of a perk that really goes that extra mile. Such was the situation I found myself in recently when I was fortunate enough to be invited along to an immersive and engaging experience that really did surpass expectations both for myself and fellow guests.
Exclusively for card members of the British Airways Visa Credit Card from Chase in the United States, 32 guests were invited on a 4 day trip as part of the Above and Beyond loyalty series available for their most loyal clientele. The specific event I attended was held at none other than the historic and legendary iconic Abbey Road Studios, an active working space with memorabilia that evoked memories of the best British and Overseas household names in the world of popular music.
It felt special from the start with an exclusivity and intimate atmosphere, a direct result of keeping the volume of guests to a manageable and relatively low number that in turn induced social interaction and close communication with other guests and the tour leaders. This was quite clearly a set of discerning guests who were accustomed to top quality experiences without exception. With their agenda incorporating the Skyline Vista at Trafalgar Square the previous evening and an afternoon on Centre Court at Wimbledon lined up for the next day, the Above and Beyond Concept reveals the intent and ambition of a packed but specifically exclusive and upmarket itinerary.
A champagne reception kicked off proceedings in one of the studios where the clever use of lighting gave out an electric blue hue that was truly striking. The Champagne Gaston Dericbourg Cuvee de Deservee Brut struck just the right quality to introduce the event. Gin cocktails and a beautiful Summer Fruit Punch, Rose Lemonade was also available for those who chose not to imbibe the alcohol on offer. With canapes all beautifully presented and cooked to perfection such as Cornish Crab on a Linseed Cracker, Pea Puree, Pea Shoots, Crème Fraiche and Chives, Ham Hock Terrine, Broad Bean Flowers, Cucumber and Cucumber Powder, my personal favourite Queen Seared Scallops, Brown Butter and Borage Flowers not to forget English Asparagus, Goat’s Curd and Summer Truffle, guests could also wander around the eclectic surroundings where items such as the Steinway Vertegrand Upright Piano stood proudly in the background.
The whole range of pianos on exhibition each had a written synopsis detailing their history and usage throughout their working lives. The Steinway Vertegrand upright Piano, for example, was one of the most long-lived instruments at Abbey Road (circa 1905). It had been affectionately nicknamed as Mrs Mills by the Abbey Road Staff due to the fact that Gladys Mills had featured it on many of her albums and its harder old time sound was picked up and used on several Beatles tracks. It really was a fascinating backdrop and one which I personally could have spent several hours perusing!
Dinner was fast beckoning and we were duly guided to our beautifully set table in another of the Studios. The Abbey Road nameplate card on each setting was a really special touch and the floristry and table arrangements were meticulous and striking. The dinner menu had been designed by Lee Westcott whose previous experience had been with Tom Aikens working within his Michelin 2 star restaurant. Having duly progressed to owning his own restaurant, Typing Room, guests experienced the very best of British Cuisine with a meal demonstrating huge creative flair and artistry that any gourmand would appreciate.
Starters of Earl Grey Cured Salmon or a Goat’s Cheese & Heritage Beets Terrine was followed by a magnificent Aged Speyside Beef Sirloin or Summer Squash Ravioli for a Vegetarian option. I found the Beef just a touch pink and tough for my liking but it’s all down to personal preference. Half of our table devoured it with a passion, the other half struggled with reasons akin to my own. The Rhubarb Pannacotta was simply sublime with the fruit notes clearly defined in a creaminess that begged for seconds! Good food and good wine maketh the man talk……. and this is where the hub and heart of my review lies, I had ample opportunity to talk to many of guests about their expectations and experiences thus far.
People with high-powered decision-making roles coupled with expectations for unsurpassed standards don’t mince their words and what I can reveal is that there was unanimous praise without exception for the tour organisation, the food, drink and accommodation not to mention the diverse and creative agenda. From their mode of transports – 1 x black limo per couple plus premium air travel on the BA Club World 32 seater aircraft flying directly into and out of London City Airport, the guests were really appreciative of the high standards consistently met and indeed shared an infectious enthusiasm and sense of fun.
This wasn’t just a dinner and reception because the real treat emerged when dining was coming to an end and the musical notes of one of the country’s most popular musicians filled the space with a resonating tone that rendered immediate silence. The guests were treated to an intimate performance by the legendary English jazz-pop artist, singer and songwriter Jamie Cullen. The music really suited the occasion and the sounds of appreciation and audible sighs made it a befitting end to what had been a splendid evening with convivial conversation and friendship shown round our table.
The Above and Beyond Event Series works, really really works if what I experienced is anything to go by. In a frenetic world where it is so hard to get off the carousel, valuing your customers speaks volumes. This was a fully immersive and deftly designed trip that focussed on the minutiae with every aspect planned to make guests feel both appreciated and valued as loyal customers. Indeed, it was the individual touches that stood out – tour organisers and staff from Chase, BA and their associated partnerships openly mingled and socialised with the guests and the ambience was one of camaraderie, friendship and the all-important fun factor. Richard Chadwick, Marketing Director at JP Morgan, Chase made a short speech underlining the ethos and concept of the Above and Beyond Event Series – judging by the vigorous nodding accompanying his speech, guests indeed felt that they had been taken to the next layer of hospitality, certainly above and beyond all expectations. My thanks to all staff involved for such a splendidly enjoyable evening.