Tuesday, 1 May 2012
A Cupcake Party at Fitzbillies
As an area of competitive rivalry, it's up there with the Dads' Race on Sports Day for seeming nonchalance hiding deep-set rivalry.
Of course you want your child and friends to have a memorable occasion, but there is huge kudos to be gained by having a party that is deemed "cool" by a bunch of pre-teen kids and that is not only highly anticipated, but gets talked about afterwards both by the kids who attended but also other parents, all silently thinking "I wish I'd thought of that".
Children's entertainers in a church hall, swimming parties or a trip to the cinema are perhaps the entry level in this field - upping the ante involves finding something local that hasn't been done before.
Over Easter, one of my more pleasant tasks was to take child #1 to a cupcake party at Fitzbillies which scored highly both for entertainment value for the kids as well for as being a very pleasant experience for the parents.
I cycled the mile or so into town with cj (plus #2 child on the back of my bike) and on arrival found that Alison Wright - Old Persean and new owner of Fitzbillies along with husband Tim Hayward - had set out an area at the back of the restaurant area by the kitchen for the girls to work at.
Parents were invited to stay for drinks and cakes, so I sat down with a group of mainly mums and ordered a cream tea for myself whilst Young Man decided he would have chocolate cake and hot chocolate - with extra marshmallows; when it arrived, he looked like he thought he had gone to heaven.
There were various other brothers who had been brought along, but most were a little older than YM and, after finishing his drink and cake, he proved a touch shy until I gave him my BlackBerry with some games on for him to show off and suddenly they were all crowding round each other, comparing parents' mobile devices and the games on them - boys with toys.
In a battle of the scones in Cambridge, it is a close-run thing between Fitzbillies and The Orchard - for me, whilst the quality of the clotted cream is better at Fitzbillies, the bigger size of the scones themselves at The Orchard gives them the edge.
Also, and this is equally personal, I'd have traded a bit less cream for a bit more jam.
Young Man's chocolate cake, however, was faultless; but I was not given even a whiff of an opportunity to try his hot chocolate - with or without the marshmallows.
Service was as relaxed, friendly and efficient as usual and every now and then I looked round to see Alison expertly controlling a group of a dozen nine-year-old girls and coaching them in how to use piping bags.
After around an hour or so of cupcake decorating, the party moved to another table where bottles of cloudy lemonade and sandwiches had been put out - cheese on white and ham on brown.
Later, when only the white-bread sandwiches had been touched, Alison confided that the brown ones were really just a nod to a more healthy option and she hadn't expected them to prove popular.
With the Birthday Cake produced, a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You", the candles blown out and the decorated cupcakes boxed up and ready to take home, there was just time to have a final chat with Alison before we all headed our separate ways.
It turned out to be only the second birthday party she had run and she is unsure about whether to do any more - certainly, she can only consider mid-week events for a smallish number of girls.
Knowing how hard it is to find something original and unusual to do for children's parties - and how civilised it was for those of us whose children attended - I can only hope that she does decided to do more.
The potential for the sake of bragging rights alone is enormous.
Fitzbillies - http://www.fitzbillies.com/