Set the scene for a 2019 dinner party: tips to master the ultimate summer dining décor
Shared platters, tray bakes and family-style dining may be the new, relaxed way to entertain at home - but when it comes to dressing your table, extravagance is still the order of the day, writes Sophie Donaldson
Maximalism has been a reference point for the hottest restaurant openings of the past year — the newly refurbished, and still legendary, London nightclub Annabel’s, Dublin’s outpost of The Ivy and east London hotspot Gloria are exercises in extravagant interiors, with extravagant dishes to boot. Anybody craving the pomp and ceremony of flaming crêpes Suzette need only look to The Ivy’s chocolate bombe dessert for their hit of table-side drama.
Dinner-party enthusiasts will be relieved the hear that entertaining at home doesn’t require quite as much spectacle. While retro opulence is set to be one of the biggest dining and interiors trends ahead, one relic from the past we’ve done away with is the frazzled host holed up in the kitchen. Family-style dining has usurped the fiddly business of serving individual starters, mains and desserts, meaning that hosts can simply place communal dishes in the centre of the table and allow everybody to dig in.
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Call it the Ottolenghi effect, but attractive platters piled with food look impressive and are sure to garner a few oohs and aahs at the table. Crucially, they allow the host to sit, eat and be merry with their guests which is, after all, the most important part of eating with friends.
Roll up, roll up…
Nothing says "party" quite like a drinks trolley laden with all the good things. So much more than a pastiche of the past, these stylish mobile units are ideal for storing extra glasses and garnishes for drinks. They are also a great way to show off your matching crystal glass sets that have finally replaced the ubiquitous jam jar. If you are eschewing set courses, then use your trolley to set out grazing platters, cheeseboards and charcuterie when guests arrive, and serve pre-sliced desserts with a stack of plates to finish.
"If you're unsure where to start, decide on a colour scheme first," says stylist Jenny Cassin. Chances are your plates and bowls are neutral, so choose a bold hue like coral, Pantone's colour of the year, and use it as an accent for candles, napkins and flowers. Tropical wallpaper, as seen at Anabel's and The Ivy, may be a touch too far for most, but you can embrace the trend with a bold floral tablecloth that will instantly transform your table top. Carry on the theme with fresh, seasonal fruit used as kitsch, edible decorations. Mandarins, apricots and figs piled into little dishes look wonderful, and are a lovely accompaniment to cheese, nuts and honey at the end of a meal.
Raise your glasses!
The self-service ethos of family-style dining can extend to your beverages, too. Rather than trying to top up everybody's wine glass, set out a few carafes for guests. As the weather warms up, merry pitchers of homemade punch, sangría or Pimm's topped with a handful of summer fruits make for perfect crowd-pleasing tipples. The 1980s may be back in a big way, but feel free to avoid Tequila Sunrises and instead batch-make Negronis, Campari and soda or Aperol spritz. Served in jaunty jugs, they will look as good as they taste and are the perfect way to kick off your soirée. Non-alcoholic options deserve as much attention - try Seedlip's punchy herbal spirits as a replacement for gin or vodka.
Forget big, stylised bouquets when it comes to your flowers. Undone and purposefully DIY arrangements look refreshingly elegant. Choose one or two statement blooms and pair them with a few different greens for a textured but clean arrangement. Blue-green eucalyptus leaves are popular, as well as beautifully fragrant. "Instagram is a great resource when looking for ideas, colour schemes and guidance on how to create your own arrangements," Jenny says. Look to accounts such as @nofloralfoam and @muckfloral for inspiration. "Don't forget to consider your guests' interaction at the table - large floral displays can take away from people being able to see each other. Rather than creating one large centrepiece, use smaller vases dotted along your table. Statement arrangements and indoor plants placed at the edge of the room can create a lush, tropical vibe."