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Festivities at Velvet

At this Canal Street eatery, Christmas is definitely a time for giving

Published on December 12th 2008.

Festivities at Velvet

With Christmas and commercialism going hand in hand nowadays, it's lovely to meet a man with a different objective for the festive season. Mark Cain, the proprietor of Canal Street stalwart Velvet, is putting on a string of special Christmas shindigs over the next few weeks, including an X Factor Final celebration, a mince pie and carol evening, a meet Santa night, and of course a NYE party. And unlike many milkers of the Christmas cash-cow, he won't be asking for an entry fee, or pumping up prices at any of them.

“We just want to give people some love,” he says, when asked about his motives. “I don't believe in charging for entry. We're trying to make people smile.”

You see, Mark's feeling a bit guilty because this time last year, he was busy getting the money together for Velvet Hotel – his much-anticipated four star hotel that will open in March 2009. As a result, he thinks he somewhat neglected the customers that make Velvet their home-from-home, and didn't give them the Christmas celebrations they deserved. So this year, he's making up for it.

The free celebrations start this Saturday (13 December) with the annual X Factor Final Party in the lounge bar. The staff will be kitted out in special X Factor T-shirts – with a heavy bias of 13 out of 18 opting to have Vote Alexandra written across their chests. (Mark's gone for 'Vote Michelle' – in homage to the portly contestant of Pop Idol past, Michelle McManus). The evening will start at 7pm with the show televised in the lounge bar, and there will be free champagne and nibbles for viewers.

Next up in the Velvet festive calendar, is their Sherry, Mince Pies and Carol-singing Evening on Thursday 18 December. Mark will be baking the mince pies himself, and leading the carols, we expect. It's free entry again – just turn up to get in. Mark describes their preferred dress code as “kind faces and cheekbones.”

Then on 21 December, it's the Santa Party. This time round, the staff will be dressed as elves – a job at Velvet clearly isn't for the too-cool-for-school crowd. In fact, Mark says this place isn't about what you're wearing at all, or how much money you've got. It's just about being nice. We reckon this is one of the reasons why Velvet's remained popular throughout the ups and downs of Canal Street's fortunes.

Finally, there's the New Year's Eve Celebration. While many city centre bars will be slapping on an opportunistic entry fee, Velvet will remain free. Upstairs, the bar is going all Willy Wonka with a transformation into a candy shop. There's going to be a candy buffet, a candy floss machine, a prize draw to win a weekend for two at Velvet Hotel, and DJs playing an eclectic mix of tunes until 4am.

If you book into the restaurant for New Year's Eve, you'll get a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival and chocolates with the bill, and it will be done up to look even more opulent than usual. And of course, you can join the revellers upstairs after you've enjoyed your meal.

So, that's your Christmas socialising sorted then. Velvet is on Canal Street; it attracts a diverse crowd of nice people (with or without Johnny Depp-esque cheekbones) for casual dining and drinking. For information on menus and opening times, click here.

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