With the New Year officially rung in, it’s time to get down to business and ask the question on everyone’s minds – what are the rules for hosting a dinner party in 2024?
Known for her stylish dinner parties, Fiona Hugues is both a skilled cook and an interior designer.
Luckily for us, Hugues has kept her finger on the pulse for all things modern-day dining and is on hand to guide us all through all of our home-hosting woes.
So, without further ado, here are Hugues’ top ten rules for hosting a dinner party in 2024. Pudding-lovers, hold on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
“When hosting, I think it’s always important to have as much prepared in advance as you can, so that when your guests arrive you’re not frazzled and in the kitchen,” Hugues told Stuff.
From making sure the food you’re making is relatively easy to prepare, to keeping on top of the dishes ahead of guests arriving, preparation is key, Hugues says.
If you can set the table ahead of time, great; if you can’t, make sure you have your tableware ready, with plates and cutlery pre-stacked.
2. Setting the table
“Cloth napkins – always,” Hugues says when asked about table decor in 2024.
Unless you’re serving something like a crayfish bake or hosting a Mexican night where eating is likely to get messy, it’s time to crack out the cloth napkins.
If you do have to resort to paper napkins, head to the supermarket and pick out something fun, says Hugues.
Flowers in the centre of the table will never get old, but if you’re wanting something a little different “you can find some beautiful branches, or seed heads, at the side of the road at this time of year” – wack them in a jar, and you have yourself a table centrepiece.
3. The menu
Shrimp cocktails are back, baby! Lots of fresh shrimp and prawn served with a homemade thousand island dressing, and topped with avocado and finely chopped chives, served with a glass of bubble is “still just as magnificent,” Hugues says.
Aside from that, “anything fresh and in season, cooked with respect” will always make for a showstopper.
But what about pudding? A relic of the past? Perhaps, says Hugues.
“I don’t think pudding is as much of a thing as it used to be. I’d just as happily sit over a sticky sweet wine or a port, and nibble away at some crackers and cheese or fruit and nuts.”
4. Don’t forget the nibbles!
Something to give to guests as soon as they arrive is a must, according to Hugues.
Crostinis, crackers and even the old school smoked salmon blinis are all options – but just remember, “nothing that’s going to ruin the appetite”.
5. …. Or the drinks
“Within 10 minutes of walking in the door, guests should have a drink. That way, if you need to tend to something or check something that’s cooking, your guests will have something in their hand.”
With low and no-alcohol drinks experiencing a surge in popularity, Hugues’ personal favourite is an alcohol-free margarita, often found in a can.
“Pop it in a traditional margarita glass, and garnish as you usually would with salt around the rim.”
6. The devil’s in the detail
“Nice ambient music, like a lounge jazz or European café playlist, is a must. Nice soft lighting is also important, with candles or soft little fairy lights.”
7. Dress code
If the host is making an effort to have you in their home, you also need to put in a little bit of effort when getting ready, according to Hugues.
“Don’t look like you’ve just come off the rugby pitch or out of the garden – and never, ever, wear jandals.”
8. Never arrive empty-handed
“I like to take a bottle of wine and something from the garden. I usually bring something I know they like to drink, but if they don’t drink wine, I bring something I like to drink.”
9. No time for tardiness
For Hugues, it’s “appalling” to arrive more than 15 minutes late without a phone call, even in the more-relaxed modern-day.
“People get tied up with traffic and kids, but never aim to be later than 15 minutes after the time you were told to come,” she says.
10. A sign of the times – the seated table
In 2024, Hugues thinks it’s more important than ever to have your friends and family sit around your table.
“In an age where we spend most of our time on our phones, I think a dinner party is a great opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with your loved ones.
“So unless you’re in a paddock eating around a bonfire, sitting around a table where you can break bread together is so important.”