If only. In reality, these facets are complex columns supporting the elephantine weight of your entire evening. Yes, Jamie Oliver has an incredible knack of making it seem like a skip in the park, but for us mere culinary mortals, one crack is all it takes for the foundations to topple sensationally.
So you have friends – over 1,000 according to Facebook. It’s a big list to choose only 7 or so from. Who are you going to risk offending? Who will provide the best combination? What does everyone drink?
And this is before you’ve settled on a menu. Speaking of which, what the hell are you going to cook? The pressure is on. You may be of a calm disposition, but see how that fares when, with an hour until your guests arrive, you’re screaming at the venison haunch for cooking too slowly while remembering that you never picked up the box of Châteauneuf du Pape you ordered that morning. Well fear not, The Gentleman’s Journal is on hand once again with 5 simple tips to ensure your dinner party is a raging hit.
YOU – THE HOST
As host, you are the most important cog of the party wheel. Plan early. Do a Noah and build your arc before the rains come – i.e. get as much done in advance as possible. There’s no shame in recruiting a little help. Appearing calm and collected when your guests arrive is fundamental, so do all your sweating and swearing beforehand. Next: at supper, don’t hog the limelight with pertinacious stories. You may be head of the table, but you’re not on a soap box.
THE GUEST LIST
Keep it simple. Cast your mind back to the dinner parties that sit in the ether regions of your nostalgia and I’ll bet you were surrounded by no more than 7 other guests. The more people, the more complicated the table plan, the more fragmented and inaudible the conversation, and the more overwhelming the preparations. Be selective. Your guests need to mix as well as lime does to gin. Too many strong characters can lead to a clash of personalities and consequent rancor, whereas a group of introverts will carry the atmosphere of a library.
Don’t overwork yourself. Five courses aren’t necessary. The golden rules are to ensure that there is plenty to go around and that the time between courses doesn’t become a sizeable chunk of the evening. Don’t treat your guests as guinea pigs for a recipe you’ve never attempted before, and quell fanciful hallucinations of immaculately presented plates bursting with Michelin-starred flavour. Better to enjoy a rudimentary but perfectly edible roast chicken than your “noble” attempt at goat kidney infused with 17 exotic spices from various corners of the world. You want your guests to be content, not surprised to find that their family pet is still alive at home, fearing that it may have been part of the ingredients.
Offer red and white. You may be serving a meat or fish better suited to a certain colour and vintage, but this isn’t to be mandated upon your guests. The idea of a Chardonnay with your prime cut fillet may have you tempted to shut the whole event down, but like a shop manager, the customers – or in this case your friends – are the priority. So white it is. (The only exception to this rule is if one requests their steak ‘well done’, in which case you are fully within your rights to escort them to the door and point out the direction to MacDonald’s.)
The offer of a drink on arrival is a must – something fizzy is usually a good shout – and perhaps a sticky nightcap before your guests depart.
Dim the lights. Chuck in a few candles. A table centrepiece and a decoration or two can also be added at your discretion. Weather permitting, eating outside can be a great touch. And, finally, get a good playlist on to filter as background noise.
Now, you’re ready. You, Sir, are the perfect host. Enjoy yourself.
And if you’re attending a dinner party as a guest this weekend, click here.