An actual summer has finally graced our lush, green land and glam garden parties are being thrown all over patches of grass nationwide. In fact, the other day, when I was rushing to my friend Ella Jade’s annual summer bbq party in the countryside, my naughty Uber driver dropped me to her neighbour’s house by mistake. The neighbour was also having a similarly frivolous garden party, and after mingling with excitable guests for a few moments and not spotting anyone I recognised, that awkward moment occurred when I realised…I was at the wrong English summer garden party.
After a slight altercation with the said Uber driver, who was refusing to take my people and I further down the tiny country lane to the correct address, we were finally saved after an obliging party-goer’s son offered to drive us to Ella’s house. Hoorah for chivalry.
I’ve always believed that if you’re going to throw a shindig in the summer, especially for a beloved’s birthday, go all out and party like a baller, so I’ve written up this nifty guide on how to throw the most luxurious birthday party of all time…
Fair Oak Farm is a truly enchanting place, where all your glam party dreams come true. When your planning to throw a summer gathering to remember, the venue is one of the most important aspects, so it’s vital to choose wisely. I recently threw a birthday soiree (aka Samirafest) for my partner in crime Samira at this inimitable country haven, beloved by style-savvy celebrities and hailed by The Guardian as “The height of luxury.”
This 12 acre Sussex country estate sleeps up to 36 and includes an opulent Grade II listed, 15th century farmhouse, a plethora of chicly renovated ancient farm buildings and barns, quaint shepherd’s huts and spacious eco-lodge tree houses – complete with striking views of the rolling English countryside.
Upon arriving at this ultra luxurious home-from-home, we were given a tour by the estate’s owner, Ian Ledger, who described Fair Oak Farm as “a unique mix of traditional, quirky and stylish interiors, creating the ultimate country retreat, just over an hours drive from London.” After mincing through the emerald-green grounds and exploring the various accommodations and amenities, we couldn’t agree more. There was a quaint cinema barn, complete with a zillion dvds of all genres and red velvet theatre-style seating, a trampoline, miniature children play cottage, fire pit, state-of-the-art bbq, ornate gypsy caravan and even a zip line – perfect for pleasure-seeking adrenaline junkies such as ourselves.
Just when we thought this gorgeous retreat couldn’t be any more perfect, a couple of colourful peacocks made their regal presence known, by splaying their feathers flamboyantly as we nursed classes of Pimms around the outdoor dining table.
After two days of long alfresco lunches, bbq feasts, hot tub shenanigans, playful frolics around the grounds, cozy movie marathons, group cooking sessions and blissful slumbers in plush king-sized beds, we found it hard to pry ourselves away when it was all over.
Fair Oak Farm, we will be back…
The hot tub
Because, every summer party worth talking about needs a baddass outdoor jacuzzi to wallow blissfully about in under the sun, and stars….
As Ian’s regular hot tub hire guy was unavailable for the dates of Samirafest, I ended up searching high and low on the internet for hot tub hire companies, and sadly was met with a perplexing array of amateur websites boasting garish inflatable monstrosities. Just when I thought my quest was failing I discovered a company called Sauna Bay, supplying festival-chic wood-fuelled, wooden hot tubs for a reasonable price – complete with delivery and set up by the friendly owner of the company, Marius.
A few of the strong lads in our group had to help carry the magnificent tub over to our chosen scenic spot (which was a joy to Snapchat) but once positioned on the ground and connected to a water supply, was easy to get going. My brother discovered some wooden logs in Fair Oak Farm’s grounds with an honesty box, so we burned these and within hours had a bubbling, perfectly-heated outdoor jacuzzi with changing colourful lights for an extra touch of party pazzaz.
Every luxury party needs an Instagramable, show-stopping theme. P Diddy started the white party trend, Kate Moss started a different kind of white party trend and Beyonce reigned with the “bitch look at me, I’m fabulous” party trend. I decided to go with a blingtastic gold and turquoise theme, made easy as pie by Candle and Cake – online party decoration specialists to the stars. The company website boasts thousands of party adornment products – from glitter-filled balloons to colourful tablewear, eye-catching cake-toppers to rainbow bunting.
To make the whole online ordering and deciding process even easier, products are also listed on the website by theme – making it a swift, joy of a process to shop.
I was enamoured with the marble-effect turquoise and gold paper plates and mock gold disposable cutlery, but it was the balloons filled with gold foil stars that really helped give Samirafest that extra glam factor. I also adorned the Farmhouse at Fair Oak Farm with heavenly fragrant candles by luxury bath and body brand Noble Isle. This quintessentially British brand have a variety of chic, evocatively-scented candles which permeated the air of each room with the soothing scents of the English Countryside. My favourites were the heady scent of the Fireside candle and the demurely mellow, floral fragrance of Willow Song.
Ah cake. glorious cake. A birthday girl would be miserable without one, or silently chomp down on dry hunks of the wrong type of cake and smile through gritted teeth, failing to hide her disappointment. Hell no was this happening on my girl’s birthday, so I made sure I ordered her favourite, tried-and-tested passionfruit cake from renowned London cake brand Konditor and Cook.
Proudly owning over 20 shops across London, this celeb-adored cake company is famous for making lavish celebratory cakes and baked goods that taste as good as they look. The brainchild of expert German baker Gerhard Jenne, Konditor and Cook’s passionfruit and prosecco cake is a moist, tangy creation, beautifully-decorated and loved by everyone who managed to nab a slice.
For optimum fabulousness, a luxury birthday party requires alcoholic beverages of a more refined nature. I opted for a number of premium, locally produced spirits and a selection of fine champagnes. At Fair Oak Farm, we used Conker Cold Brew to make the perfect espresso martini. Admittedly after a few attempts, due to its enticing flavour, we just ended up drinking it neat on the rocks. This silky-smooth spirit, made with both Ethiopian and Brazilian coffee beans, is cold brewed, muddled with hints of natural vanilla, caramel and a smidgeon of demerara sugar for subtle sweetness.
What could be more apt for a British summer garden party than a refreshing glass of gin and tonic? Being the massive gin fan that I am, I know that not just any bog standard gin will do. To make the perfect summer G&T, you need a high quality, fragrant gin made with premium-quality ingredients, care and love. At Samirafest we mixed Jawbox Classic Dry Gin with Fever Tree tonic water, ice and a sprinkling of juniper berries. Jawbox is a triple-distilled spirit made with a heady combination of eleven botanicals, including juniper berries, black mountain heather, coriander seed and Angelica root – resulting in a fresh, fragrant gin to satisfy the smuggest liquor experts.
Perfect birthday parties call for platters of enticing food to soak up lashing of alcohol. We went for oodles of pre-marinated jerk chicken for the bbq and plates of sumptuous Italian pastas and salads. I was sent The Italian Chef Hamper by Vorrei Italian Hampers – a renowned Italian food company based in Saffron Walden. The wicker hamper arrived tied with a bright red ribbon, just days before the party and contained an array of gourmet Italian pasta sauces, truffle butter, mandarin-infused olive oil, Italian-made pastas and artisan balsamic vinegar, which we drizzled generously over colourful summer salads.