The Perfect Dinner Party

The art of the dinner is a difficult one to perfect. How do you serve great food, ensure everyone is looked after, have time to chat and make it a fun night in that means no one wishes they’d gone out instead?

Here are our tips for throwing the perfect dinner party that focuses on the simple pleasure of friends together enjoying great food and company.

Begin at least the day before

The worst dinner parties (especially for you, the host) are those where you’re stuck in the kitchen. Even if your guests get along great you should be there with them, after all you invited them and they came to see you. That’s why advance preparation is so important.

This should inform your choice of dish. If you’re making a new dish make sure you read the recipe all the way through several days in advance; there may be a step that takes a long time, requires special equipment or that puts that dish out of the running.

In true ‘here’s one I made earlier’ style, soup is the perfect starter because you can prepare it several days in advance if necessary. Many main course dishes can also be cooked and then warmed through on the night while slow roasted food generally takes very little prep time.

Set up any decoration the day before too so it’s not the last thing you do as the door bell rings.

The food

The foundation to a great meal is great ingredients. Your recipe and skill as a chef could all come to nothing if your ingredients are sub standard. When it comes to choosing meat we recommend opting for organic every time. Trust us, you’ll notice the difference in flavour and texture and so will your guests.

If you want a show stopper you can’t beat veal. It tastes fantastic, isn’t your usual day to day meat and is sure to be a conversation starter. Sourcing free range organic veal will ensure everyone is happy to eat it. The quality will ensure your guests sing it praises to their family and friends.

The ‘difficult’ guest

In fact it’s quite unfair to think of any guest as difficult, what I really mean is the guest with special dietary requirements. Vegetarians, coeliacs and anyone else with a restricted diet can often feel left out at dinner parties. While others coo over the beef wellington or tuck into key lime pie this guest often has to make do with something far less exciting that the host either bought or threw together.

Making the effort to prepare something delicious especially for this guest will win you serious brownie points. Your other guests may even be keen to try both dishes but make it clear it’s just for a special diet and your ‘difficult’ guest will feel very special indeed.

If you’re stuck for inspiration for vegetarian dishes then browse some vegetarian food blogs or check the menus of vegetarian restaurants. Steer clear of any vegetarian dishes that commonly appear on menus at regular restaurants as your guest will probably be sick to death of them.

Drinks

Always offer each guest a drink upon arrival. Stock up on a few classic aperitifs e.g. Campari, champagne or vermouth. These are classic for a reason, they suit the period before dinner perfectly, preparing the stomach and palate for a meal.

Make other drinks easily available e.g. wine on the table for anyone to poor and extra bottles of beer or wine on a table in the dining room. Don’t forget water and soft drinks.

You could also get a bottle of your favourite digestif. Try to match this to the food i.e. if you’ve eaten Italian then limoncello or sambuca is ideal. Digestifs can be a lot of fun but don’t force anyone who’s not so sure. Freshly brewed coffee is a nice touch too. You could add whiskey and cream as an alternative to a desert.

Entertainment

The thought of entertainment at a dinner party can fill many people with a sense of dread. It conjures images of cringe worthy episodes of Come Dine With Me or theme restaurants where dancers come out between each course. However I maintain that some entertainment should be planned. It gets people laughing and elevates the evening beyond just a meal. Here are our tips for low key entertainment that simply boosts the atmosphere.

‘Stickers on the head’ is an incredibly simple yet highly entertaining game that almost everybody enjoys. The concept is simple: the person to your left writes down a name then sticks it to your forehead. You then ask questions to receive yes or no answers.

Poker is absolute classic that’s fun for beginners and well practiced players. In fact any card game will get everyone involved and isn’t too taxing after a large meal. The simple things are the best!