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3 sophisticated dinner party themes your guests will actually enjoy

Themed dinner parties can all too often flop, with forced fun and games ruining the mood, and over the top fancy dress putting guests off from coming in the first place. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We look at the kinds of relaxed and sophisticated themes your guests will actually enjoy.
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Sophisticated dinner party.

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.

Food and drinks outdoors.

1. Bohemian backyard

Make the most of the last of summer with a bohemian banquet in your backyard. Go for carafes of wine, crushed linen napkins and bunches of red roses, all illuminated by strings of fairy lights and lots of candles. Food should be rustic and indulgent, alluding to 1920s Paris – think whole roast chickens with garlicky greens, fluffy cheese soufflés, or a rich and herby rabbit stew with wedges of crusty bread. Throw blankets and cushions onto the grass for an after-dinner chillout space, and pick flowers from the garden to make individual place-setting decorations, for an artistic finishing touch. Finish the meal off with a lavish pavlova, making sure its spilling over with fresh raspberries and strawberries, like a true midsummer night’s dream. Do: Play laid back jazz music. Don’t: Ask your guests to come dressed as early-twentieth century artists.

Dinner plates
Extending the table Table set

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

Colours into your home.

3. Fiery Fiesta

Bring bold, Mexican colours into your home for a fiery fiesta of spicy dishes and cool margaritas. Don’t hold back with the décor, going for bright pink table cloths and funky cacti, flamingo prints and Talavera pottery. Serve fresh tacos (the soft kind), with fragrant fillings of fish and meat. And place wedges of lime on the table, alongside little dishes of chopped fresh chillies and coriander for those who love a flavour punch. And there has to be guacamole – lots of it, too – whizzed up by hand and dolloped in bowls, placed conveniently next to generous stacks of tortilla chips. Finally, make a few jugs of margaritas, and stock your fridge up with Mexican beer. Tequila shots on request for those who’re feeling bold, served with salt and wedges of lemon, naturally.

Do: Place all ingredients on the table for your guests to make their own tacos.

Don’t: Make your guests wear sombreros… or invite that Mariachi band.

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.


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