An extravagant dinner party is a wonderful excuse to enjoy some of the finer things in life, while enriching the lives of those who deserve it most.
Guess who’s coming to dinner… Feng Tam and Katrina Ng
As guests walk up the pathway illuminated by lanterns into tonight’s dinner party, they are greeted by trays of Champagne Drappier Premier Cru.
The gentle sounds of musician Alyshia Vu at the piano float out into the North Adelaide street as nearly 30 guests arrive, resplendent in bow ties and shimmering cocktail dresses.
It’s a rather grand entrance; hosts Feng Tam and Katrina Ng were adamant the attendees enjoy a very special night for giving to such a worthy cause.
Everyone here tonight has bought their ticket in support of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation Beach House Project, which is a place for families with a child facing a life-limiting illness to get away and enjoy time together. It was purpose-built to cater to complex medical needs in a warm, comfortable environment. The Encounter Lakes home – near a hospital should the need arise – has a beautiful, holiday atmosphere, but with all the amenities families need so that taking a break becomes much more achievable.
Guests mingle in the spacious foyer of the Ng family home and enjoy canapes of oysters with gin and lime vinaigrette, rare beef with black garlic and enoki pancakes, and, on a sweeter note, pear and vanilla jam tartlets with blue cheese mousse and dehydrated olive crumb.
As chef Callum Hann from Sprout makes his way around with the trays, he’s generous with his time, chatting to guests about each dish.
Feng and Katrina are gracious hosts, weaving their way from group to group, while ensuring everything is running smoothly.
As the last note is played on the piano, guests are ushered into the open living area of the home to a spectacular scene. Each face lights up in awe as they enter the area; Feng and Katrina kept the theme secret from friends and family.
The dining/living space has been transformed into the height of elegance, with soft jazz playing in the background. Dotted along the L-shaped table are bunches of tulips, chocolate-dyed peonies and black-spotted orchids. Every element is perfect, down to the black candles, matching the chic black cutlery.
The orchestrator of so many of tonight’s details, Mia Gambranis, brought together a host of suppliers who donated their time, or drastically reduced prices in support of the event.
Mia herself is doing it all for the cause. “I am donating my time, labour and love because I am lucky enough, after four children, to have never needed paediatric palliative services,” Mia says. “Those two words starting with ‘p’ should never fall into the same sentence, but the reality is, they do.”
As a palliative care nurse – although, in aged care – Mia understands the need for the families to make memories. “For the family to feel safe enough to move that far away from the hospital and still be able to communicate with them as a unit is invaluable.”
Mia, Feng and Katrina are a well-oiled machine pulling together the event. They’ve been working tirelessly for months to make it all happen, ever since Feng was inspired by the launch of the Beach House Project.
“It will enable people with sick children to have a break,” Feng says. “Most of us can’t deal without a holiday a year – we’re very lucky. It touched me to think it’s not so easy for families with sick children to go away.”
Set up began in the days prior to the event, with teams bringing in furniture, flowers and other adornments. Even with all the help, an event of this magnitude still required Feng and Katrina to begin ticking off their list of tasks from 10am on the morning of the dinner.
The pair are understandably nervous, but pleased with the effort. “It’s come together even better than we thought,” Feng says.
Forest green velvet furniture from White Marquee lures guests to lounge, but first, they take a seat at the table to enjoy the first course of cured kingfish. Tonight’s dinner is a five-course degustation, culminating in a white chocolate and beetroot mousse cake.
As guests dine, they get a sneak peek into how it’s all come together, with Callum and the Sprout team in full view. It’s a special touch among many.
Tonight’s guests have been sourced from Feng and Katrina’s contacts, which are some of the most impressive names in South Australia’s medical industry. They’re especially empathetic to the cause, having spent time around sick children and their families.
Conversation is inevitably very focused on their professions, but talk is never far away from the spectacular effort put into tonight’s dinner.
Tickets cover the expenses of the event, plus the cost of sending a family on a week-long holiday at the Beach House between each couple. It’s all in full swing, with the first family spending a week there last month.
While Feng and Katrina have placed an emphasis on opulence and fine dining for the night, the cause is never far from their minds. At the end of the dinner, guests enjoy a cheese board while hearing a presentation from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Jane Scotcher.
Jane says the money raised at the party is so important in helping families to create memorable and special time together.
“This holiday home is truly the Beach House the South Australian community has built,” Jane says. “So many caring South Australians, like Feng Tam and Katrina Ng, have generously supported the Beach House project to help build a beautiful home that is truly accessible for the families who will stay and contains all the specialist medical equipment their children need.”
The event is a huge production, but there’s still an intimate feel. Feng and Katrina kept the guest list to less than 30 to give the evening a special, exclusive feel.
It’s been a labour of love for the duo, but worth every email, conversation and brainstorming session. Feng says it will be a hard act to follow. “We might do it again next year, but I don’t know how we’re going to top this!”
This story first appeared in the July 2019 issue of SALIFE Magazine.