There’s nothing I love more than squeezing friends into my tiny flat for a dinner party to enjoy some delicious food, a good old catch up and a few glasses of wine. It’s always such fun to host my friends despite not having the perfect kitchen / dining space because for me, it’s all about enjoying food and friends together at home. I always keep it casual and relaxed and let the food and guests do the talking! I like to keep the food seasonal and simple so that there’s nothing stressful about hosting – asking everyone to bring a bottle keeps it affordable too.
One piece of advice I always give to dinner party newbies is to keep your menu simple. I tend to get over excited when I’m planning what to cook (and want to make everything I can!) but over the years have learnt to keep it simple and not try anything new or adventurous on a night you’re hosting friends. Cooking dishes you’re familiar with means you will actually relax and spend time with your friends on the evening. Not matter how simple it is, your guests will love it regardless. Who doesn’t love being cooked for?!
At my own dinner parties, I normally go for sharing dishes for a few different reasons. The first is that you can dress the plates in advance and then just pop the sharing dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to dig in – and go back for seconds! Secondly, by doing one or two main sharing dishes, it avoids any stressful plating up scenarios in the kitchen, where you never seem to have enough space! The final reason is that by doing a one-pot main with a fresh sharing salad, it avoids a huge pile of washing up to tackle post meal.
I love dressing the table and making the room look great almost as much as I love cooking. It’s all part of the preparation and over the years, I’ve learnt all sorts of shortcuts to make the space look effortlessly impressive.
I think a personal place name makes the guests feel really special and it shows that some thought has gone into laying the table. A place name can be anything from a small luggage label with lovely writing, a piece of coloured card pegged to a glass or even a leaf. I often use a gold or silver pen to write on a large leaf, which is a fun and cheap way to add a super personal touch.
When it comes to laying the table, I don’t have full sets of plates, cutlery or glassware so I tend to mix and match which can also look great. I use one matching element throughout the table to tie it all in, for example by using matching napkins and place names it doesn’t matter if the glassware and cutlery isn’t a full set.
A few simple additions can bring really bring your table to the next level. Using a flowerpot in the middle of the table is a great way to display the cutlery; this keeps it simple yet stylish. Having a water jug on the table is a must for me and by putting some stalks of mint in, it’s also a cost effective way to really help style your table. It looks and tastes great and everyone will comment…trust me. Lastly, just before your guests arrive, light some candles and put on your favourite tunes and you’ll be set!