Luke Blackall: Ambassador, you are spoiling us... despite the lack of Ferrero Rocher

They could serve you dinner on a wet white cardboard plate, and because it was the French embassy, you would presume it was correct
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The Independent Online

In my relatively short career as a professional ligger – sorry, entertainment journalist – I have been lucky enough to go to a lot of parties. Launches, relaunches, openings, closings, premieres, galas, balls, fundraisers, auctions, dinners, breakfasts, after parties, cocktails and champagne receptions, and many combinations of those. But until this week, one thing I hadn't yet done was attend an ambassador's reception.

(I had lunch once at a consulate, but as far as I'm concerned that doesn't count.)

I've always wanted to. This could be because they're the sort of thing to which James Bond gets invited as he shoots and shags his way around the world. But more likely it was because I was brainwashed as a child by the Ferrero Rocher advert, where the (in hindsight, penny-pinching) ambassador treats his guests to a pyramid of the gold-wraped little chocolates. I now see them as the pinnacle of all parties.

So on Wednesday I squeezed into my dinner jacket and strolled up a street of staggeringly grand houses to reach the French ambassador's residence. The occasion was a reception for the international friends of the Opera Festival in Aix-en-Provence. After a performance from opera star Sarah Connolly, we were taken through to a dinner of fine food and even finer wines.

The terms "stiff" and "formal" are almost always meant in a negative way, but here they were only positives. Extremely attentive staff ensured that, to borrow a phrase, the host's exquisite taste did indeed captivate his guests.

To be honest, they could serve you dinner on a wet white cardboard plate, and because it was the French embassy, you would presume it was correct.

And while no Ferrero Rocher were served (they must only do it at the Italian residence), they did send out port and cigars.

The host himself, Bernard Emié, gave a lesson in working the room. Charming and chatty, he made sure that he greeted all the guests and spoke to them every single one, which was the perfect chance to abandon my usual diet of frothy conversation and pass on my bright ideas about the Eurozone and French politics.

With my embassy ambition now ticked off the list, next up is a royal wedding. Now if anyone wants to invite me to one of those, you can reach me at the usual address ...