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7 Ways To Ensure Your Next Dinner Party Is A Hit

With the holiday season upon us and social diaries filling up, KATIE BERRINGTON asked four experts in entertaining to share their sure-fire dinner-party tips for hosting the ultimate soirée

Lifestyle

Preparation is key

“I’m all about the prep when it comes to entertaining,” says Alexandra Dudley, a self-confessed “serial dinner-party host” and presenter of the Come For Supper podcast. “There is nothing worse than a flustered host, so I like to prep in advance. That way, I can enjoy the party.”

Entertainer extraordinaire and cookbook author Melissa Hemsley agrees. “Get a few feel-good playlists together to listen to right now, while you’re in party-planning mode, and don’t save it just for the actual party night; the past year taught us to stop saving things for best – candles, dresses, fancy things; use them right now for yourself. Here’s a permission slip to enjoy yourself as you prepare the party – everything can be saved and anything can be laughed off!”

Harness the power of flowers

Flowers and foliage work as a major mood-lifter for your décor, whether it’s a special occasion or everyday dinner, says Whitney Bromberg-Hawkings, founder of florist brand Flowerbx. “Create a festive mood with a fragrant wreath, and then dress your home and table with festive holiday flowers and pine-and-eucalyptus garlands that make every day feel like an occasion,” she shares. “As so much of connection – both with friends and family – happens around a table, this year, it’s more important than ever to make that connection feel special and meaningful. And flowers are an ideal way to do that.”

Make your table setting good enough to eat

To enhance a dinner party, extend the seasonality themes with an impressive edible layout, suggests Hemsley. “Adorn the table – and make beautiful centerpiece displays on your kitchen counter/table – with seasonal produce,” she says. “Some of my favorites are grapes – you create a big luxury mound of them as a beautiful centerpiece. Tangerines and oranges make a great table setting, too; and when they’ve lived their life as a decoration, you can turn them into drizzle cakes or fruity festive salads.”

A beautiful table setting using flowers by Rosanna Falconer

Consider your numbers

“If you want to have a really good catch-up, I would say any more than four people is challenging,” says FashMash co-founder and tablescape designer Rosanna Falconer. “If your approach is ‘the more the merrier’, a bit of organized fun and games is a must. It might make you cringe, but traditional parlor games work especially well – and make the fun flow without the risk of more gregarious people dominating conversation.”

Upgrade your menu

When thinking about what to serve up, put that extra effort in to make sure even a dîner à deux at home feels distinctive. “Canapés have a bit of a 1970s hangover about them, but they’re definitely coming back,” says Dudley of how to kick off the occasion. “Whether you opt for simple or complicated, they really elevate the evening and make it a bit special.”

“You could keep it classic and chic with plates of pecorino, nocellara olives and good salami, or perhaps knock out tempura prawns and a quick ginger chili oil.”

Sharing-style platters are also a good choice for a statement menu, bringing maximum effect with minimal effort. “A very easy centerpiece is a side of salmon or trout: just pop the fish on a tray or board. Buy some really fat, juicy capers and cornichons, pickle some red onions so they go vibrantly pink and scatter over some dill and generous wedges of lemon,” suggests Hemsley.

Go big for the grand finale

When it comes to dessert, opt for substance over style. “Keep it simple and roast some plums or apples with a bit of sugar and cinnamon, then serve them with good crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream and some crushed amaretti biscuits. Simple, light and delicious,” Dudley advises. “I am a big fan of homemade chocolate truffles, too. Surprisingly easy and always impressive. They always go down a treat. Often, it’s the little things that are remembered most, so make some time for those added extras and, if you end up burning the main course, no one will even notice.”

Finally, remember that a little more effort goes a long way

“Now, more than ever, quality is key, and this applies to the food you serve and the flowers on your table to the people around it,” says Flowerbx’s Bromberg-Hawkings of planning events – in whatever form they may take this season. “Surround yourself with quality and beauty. The time you put into making an occasion feel special right now is even more apparent, given the current challenges, and each little effort imbues the occasion with extra meaning and emotion.”