Supper club queen Laura Jackson shares her tips for dinner party hosting success.
Tailor your menus to your guests
If you’re cooking a menu for friends, ask what their favourite ingredients are ahead of the day and work up a menu around those. It’s a really nice touch to do this for friends as it make a more welcoming dining experience focused around them.
The same goes for drinks. Find out their favourite cocktail and as soon as guests arrive, make sure they have a drink in hand. In the summer, large jugs of gin, elderflower cordial and prosecco with lots of ice go down brilliantly and are much better than fussing with making individual cocktails.
If you’re hosting on a week night bear in mind that everyone will likely have come straight from work, so have a little something for them to snack on while they wait for the main event. Food mood is a dinner party’ worst enemy. This can be a simple as great bread and good quality butter.
Try not to be chained to the oven. The best way to do this is to have some elements that can be made in advance o just require compilation. We find serving a cold starter and cold dessert makes life a lot easier. Timing food for big numbers can also be daunting, so try cooking a large cut low and slow. Lamb shoulder or silverside of beef are great ones for a crowd and they just get better and better, so even if guests are a little late they will have a melt-in-the-mouth meal.
Set the mood
Ambiance is very important – you want everyone to feel welcome and relaxed. No one ever felt that way by sitting under a 100w central light! Soften the room with table lamps and lots of candles. Music can also make or break the night – if you’ve run out of time to curate the perfect party playlist, stream one of your favourite movie soundtracks of check out the ‘Mood’ sections of Spotify. Again, it’s a nice idea for a new flatmate to find out their music taste – or stream some of their playlists – and makes a great talking point.
Rough and rustic makes perfect
Don’t get bogged down with the food being perfect, rough and rustic is perfect for a dinner party. Try sharing platters rather than plating up everyone’s portions individually as it really creates a more intimate, shared experience that will make everyone feel part of the dinner. Everyone likes seconds so make more than you think you need.
Table dress to impress
Making the table look striking doesn’t have to cost a fortune, strings of herbs as place settings are a lovely touch and make the table smell wonderful. Flowers and houseplants can make a huge impact on a room – we have hung giant alliums from the ceiling, had a row of dusty pink hydrangeas in pots and pressed auburn autumn leaves to scatter on the table. For something inexpensive, separate out a bunch of flowers into individual stems and place in glass jars or use foliage on the table for a fresh green look.