Guide to the Perfect Dinner Party

What kind of Dinner Party?

Once you have decided which of your friends / colleagues are going to be invited to your dinner party, have a think about what kind of an evening you want. Do you want a formal affair (you may be trying to impress?) or do you want an informal casual evening for a few close friends? This should determine the kind of food you intend to serve.

You might find it easier to decide on a menu if you were to pick a theme such as a Summer Dinner Party or a Retro Dinner Party.

Choosing your Dinner Party Menu

Dinner Party Table SettingAt least a week before your dinner party, start looking through books / magazines for ideas on what you are going to serve. Unless you’re feeling very confident, stick to recipes you have cooked before and that you can make with minimal chance of things going wrong! If the dinner party is a casual affair for close friends you may feel brave enough to try something completely new, but save this for friends you know well!

We have a wide selection of Dinner Party Menu Ideas, including links to some of our favourite recipes.

Buying the Ingredients

Make sure, if possible, that you buy all your ingredients prior to the day of the dinner party. You want to avoid that last minute panic when something crucial is out of stock. If there are ingredients you need on the day (fresh bread is a good example), consider having your groceries delivered to your door on the morning of the dinner party. Most of the major supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose, offer this service.
If possible, find a good butcher and a good source of organic vegetables. Remember – Good food starts with good ingredients!

One concept we really like, is the idea of taking the finest, freshest ingredients, with a well known provenance and having them delivered to your door. Have a look at Farm, Park and Wild who currently deliver to London and the South East from some of the best producers in Norfolk.

Wine and Drinks

Once you have decided what the menu looks like you need to think about drinks. This website can help you choose your wine according to what dishes you are serving but also consider the following:

  • It is always nice to greet people with a glass of fizz. This does not need to be champagne. Sometimes an upmarket sparking wine is preferable to cheap champagne. Allow two glasses per head (a bottle contains 6 glasses).
  • Have both still and sparkling mineral water available on the table.
  • If people are driving, consider making non alcoholic cocktails to drink prior to dinner (see page for cocktail recipes both alcoholic and non alcoholic).
  • If people are not driving, allow at least half a bottle of wine per head. (It is always better to have too much than not enough).
  • Consider having a small collection of liqueurs to have with coffee. These could include Baileys, Tia Maria, Port and Brandy.
  • You may want to hire glasses – Many wine merchants offer this service free of charge if you order your wine from them.

Dinner Party Top Tips:

  • Ensure that your choice of menu does not require you to be in the kitchen the entire evening. Choose dishes that can be prepared well in advance to allow you to enjoy the evening with your friends and not chained to the cooker all night! (Everyone loves a risotto but timing is crucial and you need to be in attendance at all times).
  • Choose food that is not time critical. Soufflés are impressive but if someone is five minutes late (or you are enjoying your aperitif for a little longer than planned!) then you could have a disaster. Good examples include chilli, curry or chicken casserole for the more informal dinner party or Coq Au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon or slow cooked leg of lamb for the more formal evening. If any of these dishes have an extra half hour in the oven nothing will be ruined.
  • Choose a starter that can be prepared beforehand and stored. Good examples include homemade chicken liver pate, homemade soup (always impressive but very easy) or homemade tartlets that can be warmed up as the guests arrive. Why not try Pork Rillettes – a pleasant rustic starter to share? Fresh salads are also an option – these can be tossed and dressed at the last minute if all the preparation is done beforehand.
  • Choose a pudding to compliment the rest of the meal. If you have a rich main course on the menu then go for a lighter choice – crème brule, fresh fruit or ice cream. Equally, if serving fish and salad then go for a more decadent dessert.

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