How to host the perfect dinner party

Everyone loves a good old fashioned dinner party, however successfully hosting one is not always as easy as it first seems. So what makes the perfect dinner party? Cardinal rule number one is if you're going to go to the trouble of inviting people over at least make sure there will be plenty to eat! If you can, prepare something to eat that your guests wouldn’t necessarily cook themselves.  That said, a tasty well-made dish is far more important that trying to do something exciting, different and what actually turns out to be inedible!  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather a good old fashioned roast versus an undercooked chicken with a curdled cream sauce.  

Do go to the trouble of finding out if anyone has any allergies or fierce ‘dislikes’.  For those with allergies, intolerances or special dietary requirements that are not able to be included in the menu you have chosen, make them something special – they will really appreciate it.  Perhaps a Sri Lankan vegetarian curry?

Another crucial thing to remember is timing. Guests don't want to be hurried to the table; they can go to Pizza Express for that. On the other hand, they don’t want to wait until midnight to eat – unless you are living in Spain perhaps! Offer your guests a welcoming drink on arrival and start the dinner party as you mean to go on but don’t be put off by non-alcohol drinkers.  Make them a delicious mocktail like a non-alcoholic mojito or look for syrups such as early grey, lemongrass and ginger, and make a refreshing cordial drink with sparkling water and fresh mint.

Remember your guests want to see you, not have you hiding away slaving in the kitchen.  A cold and pre-prepared starter and pudding allows for less chaos in the kitchen and advance prep reduces the chances of things going wrong.  The quality of some foods is even enhanced from the opportunity the flavours have to combine – Pate de Campagne should be made three days in advance and salmon tartare is very quick to put together and can be made the day before.  Follow @mepickard for weekly recipes (Foodie Friday) which are great to do at home, easy to follow and don’t keep you chained to the kitchen when you have guests.

What about the end of the meal? If things are going well perhaps have something fun up your sleeve. Party games vary from the sublime to the ridiculous so know your audience.  Try something like a game such as picking up the peanuts with chopsticks, or do some dessert wine tasting with a small competition of who can guess the country, year and grape.

Finally remember it’s the people that make the party and not the food itself so relax, enjoy and don’t worry if something isn’t perfect.  Have fun.  You have invited these people to your home to enjoy their company, so, make sure you do just that!

5 Top Tips

  1. Make sure you don’t have too many canapés – you want people to enjoy your main meal and not be too full!  Try something different but keep it simple.  There are so many wonderful bite size food examples that make for a much better, healthier and entertaining option to crisps and nuts.  For example, break a quail’s egg into a croustade and add a teaspoon of seasoned cream, then pop in the oven for about 3 minutes you will have delicious baked eggs.  You can vary the eggs by putting chilli or tomato or pesto in the bottom of the croustade first.
  2. Make a playlist to set the mood and get the party going – Spotify offers millions of playlists so have a listen and pick one you like!

  3. Start with an empty dishwasher. This is a golden rule!  It might seem like a pain at the time, but it’s usually a good idea to wash pots and pans as you finish using them before guests arrive. That way, you won’t have a scary pile of dirty dishes at the end of the night and your house will look calm and clean when your guests arrive.

  4. If you don’t have to use it beforehand, set the table the night before.  It’s an easy thing to check off your list so you don’t feel so rushed!  Having your table all ready for a dinner party gets you in the spirit, rather than in a panic!

  5. If your food doesn’t go as smoothly as you expected – don’t try and hide it! If your vegetables are a little overdone so what?  Own it and then it won’t be an issue that people talk about behind your back the next day. Try to have a little laugh about any culinary disasters.