The Dinner Party

How to a nail the perfect dinner party with friends

WHERE — London
PHOTOGRAPHY — Sam Flaherty and Jessie Bush

Throwing a dinner party is the ultimate adulting. We invited over some old friends, picked up a few bottles of good wine, and teamed up with Habitat to throw one of our own.

Both Sam and myself love to eat (surely a universal trait), but we don’t often manage to indulge in a full day of planning, prep, kitchen admin, cooking followed by a long lazy meal. Lack of time, clashes of schedules, and a million other things seem to get in the way of organising everything. But, as it’s something that we have always talked about doing more of, we set aside the time and planned our perfect dinner party.

Here’s what we learned.

Plan your recipes (at least) a day in advance

If you’re cooking something even slightly technical, chances are you’re not going to find all the ingredients from the cornerstore down the street. Figure out what you’re going to cook ahead of time, and get as much of the ingredients as possible the day before to save a stressful prep on the day. Particularly the obscure ingredients, as these may need to be hunted down (we had to make several stops and do a small amount of travel to tick everything off our grocery list).

We chose our recipes from some of our favourite vege and vegan blogs — of which I get weekly inspiration sent to my email, but rarely get the time to experiment with.

The right tableware makes all the difference

What’s the point of going to all the effort to impress, only to serve everything on chipped plates and old cups? We found everything we needed at Habitat – rustic crockery and quality dinner sets — even a dining table set that fits our ‘cosy’ dining room perfectly.

Pick pieces that you are going to use for years to come; classics mixed with handmade contemporary styles. Good tableware is an investment.

Choose your recipes wisely

If you have the time, choose 4-5 recipes. Mix and match cuisine styles, textures, ingredients, and flavours — both complimentary and clashing — to keep things interesting. We started by picking a hero recipe, which would be the centerpiece of the dinner party. From that, we rounded things out by searching for and adding accompanying heavier potato-based dishes and lighter dishes like salads.

In an age where it feels like every dinner guest has their own dietary requirements (myself included – I’m vegetarian) it’s nice to be considerate of everyone’s needs, but you don’t need to go overboard. Your guests don’t need to try every dish, they just need to be satisified (and have a good time). My go-to crowd pleaser dish that involves all the indulgence, minus the meat, is the New York Times Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin (you can find the recipe without the paywall here).

As it’s winter, I opted for Ottolenghi’s roast vege dish, which is as pretty as it is delicious. And then for a spin on the classic brussel sprout dish (which is pretty much a prerequisite in December), Ottolenghi has a Black miso sticky rice with peanuts and brussels sprouts that may sound like a strange combo but is pure magic. Once you try this dish it will absolutely become part of your dinner party repertoire. And lastly, I finished off the spread with this simple kale and almond salad.

Presentation is (nearly) as important as taste

A dinner party is all about ambience – the right candle scents, music, and food presentation. Food just tastes better if it looks good; it adds to the overall sensory experience. Take your time to style your servings – consider interesting ingredients, colour palettes, and elaborate and attractive toppings to add the final touches.

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