How to throw a dinner party

Dubai's party experts show you how to be the perfect host

Plan it right

Party planner Katie Harvey helps you sort out all the night’s essentials.

Guest List
Work out your guest list well in advance – a dinner party is only as good as the people who are there. Also, find out your guests’ dietary requirements so there are no surprises on the night.

Dinner themes are probably the quickest way to turn an ordinary dinner party into a fabulously fun one. They’re also a great way to streamline the whole planning process. Formal, informal, BBQ-style, planned around an event...there are so many different types of parties that you can choose from. Keep any occasion for the dinner party in mind when selecting your theme.

This is the first taster of what is to come for your party guests, so make sure it oozes style and fits with the feel of the event. The invitation should make the invitee feel privileged, intrigued and excited. Allow enough time before the event, usually 14-21 days, have an RSVP and send a courtesy reminder four days beforehand to the confirmed guests. Send location maps in advance with the invitations so you don’t spend time on the night directing guests to your home, rather than mingling with those who have already arrived or attending to last minute preparations in the kitchen.

You need a sound track to your dinner party. Make two playlists for the evening before the bash so you are not forced to keep skipping, exchanging CDs or searching for ‘that one song’ and walking away from the table. Playlist one: perfect mix for dinner and to get things started. Playlist two: keep things going afterwards with upbeat tunes.

Do you have enough glasses, cutlery, dishware? If not it is cheaper to hire than to buy new.

Think Ahead
Remember entertaining at home has additional implications such as spillages and noise control. It’s always good to have an after-party venue in mind should you need to move the party on. And last but not least, on the subject of spillages, hire in help with a cleaning crew the following day. The last thing you’ll want to do after a good night, is get to work on those dishes... (050 551 6751).

Serve it up

Chef Grant Murray, executive sous chef at Atlantis, The Palm offers menu advice and impressive recipes.

Start well
Great dinner parties are based on all your guests interacting at the dinner table and what better way to do that than with food? Sharing starters like Spanish tapas or Italian antipasti always work well.

When to stop
When planning dinner parties it’s important to know how much to cook. There is a very wise saying amongst chefs (and anyone who cooks for that matter) that “It’s better to have too much, than too little”. But if you are cooking to a strict budget, work on each guest having roughly 100g for a starter and about 200g for a main...people always find space for dessert!

In the summer
When hosting a summer dinner party you want to keep the menu light, fresh and not have too many heavy cream-based soups, braised dishes and hot desserts…unless that hot dessert is a chocolate fondant, which in my opinion can be served all year round because it’s that good.

My summer dinner party menu would be:

Welcome drink
(It’s the first and the last thing at a party that people remember!)

Grisinni sticks wrapped in bresaola with rocket and blue cheese dip

Homemade hummus with pita crackers

Grilled prawn skewers with wasabi mayonnaise

Amuse Bouche
Roasted vine ripened tomato gazpacho, melon cucumber salsa, avocado mousse

Selection of Antipasti.

Marinated olives & feta, cold cuts, smoked chicken pate, sun dried tomato pesto and fresh bread

Pan fried fillet of sea bream aubergine caviar, fennel ceviche, chicken jus

Dark chocolate fondant with crème fraiche ice cream, passion fruit pavlova

Decorations 101

Freelance interior designer Roy McFarlane shows you how to spruce up your place.

Fresh flowers
A reasonably easy way to draw attention away from faults in your house and flowers can be a wonderful colour addition to your setting. If you’re short on vases and flowers then use garden plants and surrounding greenery in old tin cans. Never use fake flowers there is no reason for them…ever.

Use candles to not only save on the DEWA bill but also to create a calm mood. Bad lighting is as unforgivable as bad hosting. If you don’t have candles, string up the old Christmas tree lights, they may be tacky but tacky can be good.

Oh goodie!
Search secondhand stores or Dubai’s flea markets for cheap knick-knacks as gifts for your guests. They can also be a treasure trove for great mismatched plates and glassware.

Linen alternative
Unless you’re Ralph Lauren and have a house of linen to choose from, use parchment paper as a handy alternative to place mats or even the table cloth. This way you can even write the menu on it. It’s fun and super cheap.

Let’s dance
When it all goes pear shaped (which it does sometimes), there’s always the option of turning up the music and dancing the night away. Just make sure that all your furniture is pushed back to the wall right from the start and that prized rug and anything breakable are neatly tucked away. You don’t want the occassion to be memorable for all of the
wrong reasons. / (050 851 8765).

To impress friends, have a go at home...

Make Chef Grant Murray’s menu – we have it step by step. Now there’s no excuse to not get in the kitchen!

Roasted vine-ripened tomato gazpacho, melon cucumber salsa & avocado mousse (10 portions)

For the gazpacho:
2.5kg roasted datterini tomatoes
800g Galia melon
1ltr tomato juice
1 cucumber (peeled
and de-seeded)
2tbsp roasted garlic puree
6tsp red wine vinegar
250ml olive oil
200g sugar
Fresh coriander
20ml Worcestershire sauce
100g Bois Boudran sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

For the avocado mousse:
6 ripe avocados
100g Crème fraiche
Juice of 1 lemon

For the melon and cucumber salsa:
200g cucumber brunoise
200g Galia melon brunoise
10g coriander chiffonade

Method:For the gazpacho:
Roast the datterini tomatoes.
Blend all the ingredients and pass through a chinois.
Chill before serving.

For the avocado mousse:
Peel the avocados, add crème fraiche and lemon juice.
Season to taste and blitz in food processer.

For the melon and cucumber salsa:
Combine all ingredients and season to taste.

Pan fried sea bream, aubergine caviar, fennel ceviche, chicken essence (10 portions)
150g sea bream per person

For the aubergine caviar:
6 aubergines roasted in the oven, flesh removed
and chopped
10g roasted garlic puree
20g tomato tartar
10g thyme
100g diced shallots
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley

For the fennel ceviche:
3 fennel seeds
Juice and zest of 4 oranges
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
20ml Chardonnay vinegar
20g sugar
5g roasted and crushed
fennel seeds
10g chopped shallots
Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken jus
Micro cress for garnish

For the aubergine caviar:
Sweat the shallots and thyme, then add the roasted aubergine flesh and roasted garlic puree.

Slowly dry the mixture out on the corner of the stove so that all of the excess liquid has evaporated.

Then add the tomato tartar and parsley.

For the fennel ceviche:
Combine all ingredients and then allow it to marinate for an hour.

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