Stylist
Entertaining Tips

How To Host A Virtual Dinner Party

I loved talking to Stylist magazine about how to host a virtual dinner party. We are all missing having friends round for dinner; from laying the table to deciding on a menu, I love the planning part as much as the dinner!

Hosting a virtual dinner party can be a fun way to get your household together and connect (virtually) with pals. Planning your virtual dinner party ahead of time with my simple steps will ensure your evening is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Make it democratic. “You can hand some of the power over to your guests and ask everyone to take control of a dish. One person will circulate the starter recipe, for example, while another will take the main and someone else will be in charge of the dessert (grilled peaches with honey, toasted almonds and crème fraiche is a favourite of mine for a dinner party). Then you each cook it at home.” 

Social Pantry grilled peaches

Cook along. “This is quite a fun way to do it. Select a dish – preferably one you feel confident with – and ask your guests to cook it at the same time while on the call. It’s a good way to decipher who among the group is a budding chef and who’s useless in the kitchen, too. Try pan-seared cod with leek, butterbeans and artichoke, for example, or tagliatelle with herb pesto, garden peas, ricotta and pine nuts. If you’re still feeling uninspired, A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones is my go-to cookbook.”

Stick to old favourites. “This could be the moment to ask friends to make a dish you love. But remember: keep the dish seasonal and simple. A risotto would work well right now – most people have peas in the freezer and some kind of cheese – or a lovely summer tart. Prepare the ingredients as much as you can in advance to avoid getting stressed on the night.” 

vegetable risotto

Or order in. “Many people are still working full-time, or have kids at home, so don’t fancy spending ages in the kitchen. Equally, maybe your group just aren’t big foodies. In that case, ordering in is an option, too.” We recommend Pasta Evangelists, who will send you restaurant-quality pasta (think wild mushroom triangoli)  for you to rustle up in minutes at home. If you want something that arrives hot, however, your local takeaway is the way to go. 

Decoration is key. “The way you approach decorating a table can totally change your feelings about an evening. It can make an ordinary night glamorous. Use things you already have in your house, like candles and placemats. Make some name cards, too, even if it’s just you – it will make it feel like a treat.”

Social Pantry table styling

Something different. “Chilli lemonade is unexpected and always popular. You just add a pinch of chilli and a pinch of cumin powder to a pitcher of lemonade, served with a lot of ice, fresh mint and lemons. You can also add in some whole chillis to make it look good – frozen ones are great for this.”

Call it a night. “This is where being prepared works out well. If you’ve jotted down loose timings for things beforehand everyone will know roughly when it’s time to call things a night, usually around 11pm,” says Head. “If things have got wild then everyone can stay on the call. But you’re also free to press exit without feeling rude, too.” 

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