Gallagher chateau guests dining and donating
The stage is set for dinner this week at Chateau Fleur de Lys in Hamilton.
The panelled dining room sparkles with crystal, fine white and gold china, and the glow from the chandelier.
Great care has been lavished on table settings for 11 people, and each guest has a name card as well as a line-up of five glasses at their fingertips.
The dinner is a fundraiser for the Waikato Medical Research Foundation, hosted by the foundation's joint patrons, Sir William and Lady Gallagher, at the chateau they have built above Hamilton's Lake Rotoroa.
"I wanted the dinners to be elegant, I want to give people something very special," Lady Gallagher says. She and her personal assistant, Megan Hay, have dressed the table.
The fundraising premise is simple, but generous. Guests pay handsomely to attend a private dinner at Chateau Fleur de Lys, the Gallaghers cover the cost of the catered meal and wine, and all funds go to the foundation.
The Gallaghers are on to the third of six such events, each attended by 8-12 people. The dinner costs guests $500 each, and if they want to take a house tour between the main course and dessert, that's an extra $500 a head for the foundation. The tour covers the entire chateau, including the recently completed ballroom.
Tonight's group will do the tour, so they've each contributed $1000. And they have the pleasure of a welcoming flute of Verve Clicquot and canapes, served in the drawing room, a three-course meal by Montana Catering, wine from the Gallaghers' cellar, including Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 1997 Penfolds Grange Bin 95, and Cognac or liqueurs afterwards.
Guests have pre-selected their meals, the choices being crusted lamb rack, confit duck leg, pork fillet, and Beef Wellington, all with delicious-sounding treatments and accompaniments.
Montana chefs Leith Davidson and Mike Karsten are doing last-minute preparation in the kitchen, the front-of-house team of Ulli Pesch and Mahi Newton-King have champagne flutes and canapes ready for the first arrivals.
The idea for the dinners came out of the Waikato Medical Research Foundation's fundraising launch, held at the Gallaghers' home earlier this year.
The foundation has already spent 27 years supporting innovative research to help patients in the Waikato and beyond, and it is looking to expand its work and lift its fund from just over $1.3 million to $5 million.
Guest Brian Hermann, owner of The Narrow's Landing, Tamahere, is happy to be part of tonight's function, and to help the foundation build its resources.
The foundation, of course, is delighted by the success of the Gallagher dinners, which back up other fundraising efforts.
"It's wonderful that they are doing this," says fundraising manager Russell Mayhew.
Lady Gallagher is pleased to be contributing.
Each event has been fully subscribed, they will raise nearly $40,000, and Lady Gallagher has agreed to run another series next year. firstname.lastname@example.org To find out more about the Waikato Medical Research Foundation, or to donate, visit wmrf.org.nz. See photos, page 12.