How to cater for the festive season – a chat with Ball & Chain Grill

It’s the time of the year when people across your region start thinking about putting down tools and kicking up their heels as the festive season approaches. Different people from different businesses, organisations and even family groups are looking for public hospitality spaces to eat, drink and be together. Some people will be expecting an intimate get together, a dinner table setting and full banquet service, perhaps something traditional, perhaps a selection from the a la carte menu, with dishes that can spotlight your skill and technique. Others will simply be looking for fun and casual – a chance to get together over a few drinks with good but easy to eat food. 

Catering for larger groups

For these more casual, generally larger, group events, getting the right mix between offering quick prep but high taste food is essential. Thought also needs to be paid to making sure the food served is easy to eat by standing and mingling partygoers. Drip-free, spill-free options include on-trend pastry cones filled with cold fillings such as chopped prawn topped with a little fish roe or finely diced salsa and sour cream. Classics such as salmon on blinis or mini pastrami bagels never go out of fashion and good old finger sandwiches are making a big comeback, especially when filled with fashionable flavours such as Texan BBQ beef and chicken in chipotle mayo.

What to serve?

While serving the casual catering classics is a sure way to please a crowd, elevating them by making more gourmet or using unexpected flavours can give your event the wow factor. Take the humble party pie, for example. It’s one of the fallbacks for catering for large numbers. It does, however, lack the wow factor. 

That is where products like Boscastle gourmet party pies can take a simple snack to a talking point without any additional time or prep in the kitchen. These delicious little pies are filled with some of the best gourmet fillings in the country. The range starts with the Aussie Pure Beef Party Pie filled with ground beef cooked with onion, tomato and beef stock. Take it up a notch with a chunky little pie filled with pieces of Angus beef cooked with onion, garlic and tomato. Or you could serve up a Beef and Burgundy Party Pie filled with pieces of Australian beef slow cooked with red wine and sweetened with a little paprika. This is not to forget the juicy little Beef Party Rolls made with garlic and onion for flavour and zing. The range also includes a little lamb pie seasoned with Moroccan flavours and three chicken party pies filled with chunks of chicken and their special seasonings. The Boscastle Butter Chicken Party Pie is redolent of Indian spices and has a creamy sauce. The Boscastle Thai Chicken Pie sees chunks of chicken simmered in coconut cream and chicken stock with Thai herbs and spices. This is accompanied by a chicken pie with mushrooms in a creamy sauce. Looking after vegetarians is so important with a quality offer essential, and the plant-based Korma Curry Vegetable Party Pie is a spicy little treat with veg cooked with Indian spices, ginger and garlic, sweetened with sultanas and finished with lime and mint. Alongside these is the meat-free offering of spinach and ricotta party rolls wrapped in rich puff pastry.

How to elevate your offering

Then you have your more complex catering events where there is the need to create more tailored and substantial menus. The team at Ball & Chain Grill on the waterfront at Salamanca Place have this down to a fine art catering to clientele from Hobart, around Tasmania and across Australia. “The calls start coming in August,” says co-owner of the 51-year-old restaurant, Craig Farrer. He does not have a set catering package. Instead, he and his team will talk to people interested in holding their end-of-year drinks, meals or special occasions and work with them to create an event most suited to their needs and budget. Head Chef Sasja van Vonderen and his kitchen crew do the hard yards and make every dish from scratch. They also make it easy on themselves by not reinventing the wheel and using many dishes from the a la carte menu to cater for events. “We are known for our smoked trout pate and chicken liver pate made with our own port blend,” says Sasja. “So, we offer this; it is very popular.” Sasja says that being on the waterfront in Hobart, people expect seafood dishes, so he serves Tasmanian Pacific oysters and gin cured salmon. 

The team at Ball & Chain see repeat catering customers from local business and government offices year after year. “We have to offer something new and exciting to our customers all the time,” he says. “While customers like the familiar, they also appreciate innovation. That is the catering balancing act,” he says. “So that is why we do serve a ‘prawn cocktail’ but much more finessed and served in a salad cup, not a glass.” He also prepares a fillet of beef cooked over the charcoal grill, rolled in Cajun spices, cooled and then finely sliced and served on a cracker. Sasja says it is essential to consider vegetarians and vegans and make sure there are gluten-free offers. “Catering is about being flexible and understanding and making sure the customer knows they are being heard,” says Craig. “It’s what hospitality is all about.” 

Visit Ball & Chain’s website to view their menu and make a booking.

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A diverse range of gourmet rolls and pies with a signature crumbly, flaky pastry.