When we hear the word ‘theme’ in the same sentence as ‘dinner party’, we’re often filled with a vague feeling of dread. Must we really dress up, play games and eat our (much beloved) sister-in-law’s experimental attempt at Chinese cuisine, when we could be sitting down to an undemanding coq au vin and a glass of red? Is there any place for pin the tail on the donkey among a group of well-respected, hard-working adults who are, frankly, exhausted after a week at work? We’re not so sure. Themed dinner parties can feel like dodgy territory, especially for those who struggle to get on board with game playing and fancy dress (which, as it goes, is most of us). Instead of the light and quirky event it’s intended to be, the themed dinner party runs the risk of turning into an over-egged pantomime in which no one is actually having any fun.
But it’s important to note that the devil is in the detail, and not all themed dinner parties are doomed to fail. While ‘forced fun’ and ambitious dress-up requests can go down as well as undercooked potatoes, there are certain sophisticated themes that can be utterly charming when done right. Here are three of our favourite ways to ditch the clichés, and host a themed dinner party to remember.
2. Tasty Trattoria
Your house may be all glass dining tables and clean lines but even an ultra-modern home can be turned it into a rustic Italian trattoria with a few decorative touches. Opt for a red and white checked cloth to cover the table, which should be lined with baskets of bread, dishes of olives and little jugs of good quality olive oil. Make table decorations out of sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and place breadsticks in tall glasses for a rustic feel. Food-wise, start with some traditional antipasti of salami, cheese, artichokes and tapenade, followed by a light pasta dish and then a meat or fish main. Serve everything with sides of crispy potatoes and simple lemon-dressed salads, and finish with homemade Tiramisu followed by ice-cold shots of limoncello. Do: Fill any clear glass vases you can find with lemons (preferably with the leaves still on) Don’t: Conduct a mini Italian-speaking lesson
Top tips for being the host with the most:
1. Do invest in new furniture. Especially if you find you’ve been putting off hosting for the past three and a half years because you’re not happy with the state of your dining room. We’re loving marble dining tables, which give your home an air of Mediterranean glamour (hello, Greek island-themed dinner party!).
2. Don’t plan too much. A simple but delicious menu executed well will go a lot further than half-hearted attempts at ‘fun and games’. Let the food do the talking and the conversation flow, uninterrupted by pre-planned entertainment, which can tend to feel a little forced.
3. Do play music. The number one way to give your dinner party atmosphere is to play music, but don’t feel tied to your theme. Mexican music on top of all those tacos and tequila could feel like overkill.
4. Don’t let the stress of it get to you. Put nightmarish visions of burnt moussakas and undercooked chocolate fondants aside – if something goes wrong, laugh it off and remember, there’s not a lot that can’t be solved by wine and emergency trays of garlic bread.
So, there you have it. It seems there is place for the themed dinner party in 2017 after all. With a little careful planning and originality, you can host the ultimate, sophisticated soiree, without a tail-less donkey in sight.