By Hannah Connolly
People say that sharing food is an act of love. I think of it more as the basic unit of hospitality that creates a space in which love may grow. It promotes conversation in a space that requires one to listen and be listened to… by dining together, we invite each other to tell our stories and our truths.”
These are the words of critic and Author Kay Plunkett-Hogge, and it makes us think about the real meaning of dinner parties. Yes, the food is important, so too is the music and yes, of course, the lighting – but the true joy of a dinner party, the real essence of success, is all in the conversations it encourages and the connections it deepens.
From getting your nearest and dearest together for a celebration, to an open call to your creative collaborators to indulge in free-flowing idea sessions, the connections and the discussions that take place around the table are unlike any other.
So, whether it's joining one of our many Dining Clubs here in The Stack World throwing your own (more on how to do that coming), or heading out to a restaurant to play host, the art of the dinner party is a skill to hone and we’re on hand to help you do that.
Where to go
“Eating is so intimate…When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.” - Maya Angelou
So, as we mentioned, conversation and connections are what really matter, and ultimately we encourage not getting too stressed over the set-up, however, we do have some tips on hand to help you on your way. We love considering what it means to be a host and a guest at the same time, a good guest makes for a good host and vice versa.
Remember a dinner party doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune, loose days to cooking or buying a whole new set of crockery to dress the table.
Hosting at home: Ambiance is your best friend when hosting from home, tea lights, votive candles or shifting lamps into your dining space can make a huge difference at little to no cost. Though we said don’t sweat the details, there are a few key things to consider. The top tier checklist is seating – do you have enough chairs, if not could you ask a neighbour?
In a similar vein cutlery and plates, it’s easy to forget this until setting the table but save yourself the last-minute panic. Remember not everything has to be uniform, keep your eye out when second-hand shopping for unique pieces of tableware if hosting is your thing, they can be a great conversation starter. Also, where possible, outsource, outsource, outsource – if cooking isn’t your favourite, or you're short on time, picking up some premade bits is always helpful, dessert can be very time-consuming so check out your local bakery.
Host in a private dining room: Granted, hosting in a private dining room might seem a bit intense, but it's well worth considering. The intimacy of a room for just you and your guests makes for a deeply memorable experience.
Whether you are hosting to deepen your connections with your A-team or celebrating a special occasion, the hustle and bustle of a dining room are sometimes best swapped out for your own space. The benefits largely lie in the fact that you don’t have to do anything save spending time with your invitees. But where to go? Well, check out our favourite private dining rooms in London.
Host at a restaurant: Heading to a restaurant is also a great option. We have some favourite spots in mind. Firstly, for a predominantly veggie cohort, Rasa in Stoke Newington is a great choice.
A cult favourite amongst east London foodies, this Indian restaurant is well deserving of its acclaim. The ionic all-pink interiors make for a memorable experience and incredible food also comes at a super affordable price. Location wise it’s surrounded by amazing natural wine bars like Newington Green rising star Cadet - ideal if the conversation continues post-dinner.
An old faithful is Brasserie Zedel, the set menus keep things low-key, yet as a venue, the space is anything but. Plus it's an ideal choice for larger bookings. Opt for restaurants if you'd rather focus on hosting, or are meeting a group for the first time.
Who to invite
“That which chiefly causes the failure of a dinner party, is the running short – not of food, nor drink, but of conversation.” – Lewis Carol
Curating a guest list for a dinner party could feel overwhelming, but don’t let it be. There are a few ways to go about this; if it’s your first time hosting, opt for nearest and dearest, this will be less pressure and allow room for you as a host to also have fun.
If you’re in the mood for new meaningful connections, try the invite a friend approach. For everyone you personally invite, ask them to bring along a friend, this creates a fun and enriching environment to build new bonds.
The third option is building out your community. Start by taking a leaf out of our members' books and starting a community Club here in The Stack World. Pick your niche or head to your Club now and set up a monthly supper club or dinner party meetup.
Okay so, you are wanting to get your dinner party live on The Stack right? Well, our Member Success Manager Bella Cary is on hand to help you get it listed. Book a calendly call and get 1:1 support on how to plan, get live in app and organise your event. Book your session here.
What to discuss
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with them… The people who give you their food give you their heart”
In a recent poll from Hello Fresh, it has been revealed that 79% of the UK are now saying they are more likely to stay in to cook than go out, and a further 57% surveyed said that in 2023 they will be throwing celebratory dinners from home. Thinking about the context behind this, a push towards dining at home is of course linked to the ongoing cost of living crisis and the fallout of the pandemic. So it is vital to consider friends' budgets and your own and to come up with new ways of spending meaningful time with others.
“Dining and celebrating at home also looks to be a popular choice for this year, with consumers looking to brush up on their cooking skills, to make restaurant quality meals from home to save money and embrace community, with dinner parties and cooking from scratch to be at the forefront of British food culture”. – added the Head of Recipes at Hello Fresh to the survey's findings.
If you're looking for some structure temes are a great way to add some framework to conversations. Perhaps an unlikely source of dinner party inspiration can be found in the surrealist art movement.
Melting clocks and ships sailing on butterfly wings might not sound like fodder for the dinner table but Salvador Dali was also a maestro of the culinary arts. A lifelong ambition to be a chef is embedded in the artist's work (once you see the food motifs it’s hard to unsee) so much so that alongside his wife Gala, the pair's dinner parties became the stuff of legend. Culminating in the book Les Diners de Gala, Dali showcased not just his favorite recipes, but top ways to host as well.
In fact, consider this as a top tip: presenting guests with something close to your heart, like a family recipe or a personal anecdote is a great way to make your guests feel let in on your world and as an attendee a great way to get to know your host.
Meaningful connections and deep discussion: how hosting a dinner party can build out your network
By Hannah Connolly