Entertaining is part of our DNA at Timothy Oulton. We love nothing more than gathering together like-minded friends to while away an evening over great drinks and even better conversation.
In this article, we’re taking a look at some of the ways that entertaining has evolved from formal to fuss-free, creating ever more opportunities to engage and socialise in person – an essential counterpoint to our screen-heavy lives.
Let’s face it, dinner party seating arrangements can be a minefield for hosts – every bit as stressful as wedding planning, but all over by the end of the evening. Get it right and you’ve hit conversational gold; get it wrong and it’s just a bit… awkward.
That’s why we’re fully in favour of more informal seating arrangements, with ottomans, cushions, designer coffee tables and even the wide arms of a modern sofa doubling as relaxed perches for your favourite party people. In enabling your guests to pull up a pew wherever they fancy, you instantly remove the pressure and awkwardness attached to formal seating around a dining room table, letting the conversation flow as easily as the drinks.
We think the movement towards luxury grazing boards is an absolute gift for anyone who loves to host, but who finds catering a chore. A relaxed and social alternative to a sit-down meal, grazing boards remove the risk of mis-timing your courses, the hassle of preparing multiple mains, or even – whisper it – accidentally burning everything to a crisp when you’re caught up in conversation.
The keyword to keep in mind when planning a successful grazing board is abundance: think whole ripe cheeses ringed by fresh figs and berries, beautifully-arranged charcuterie on rustic wooden platters, generous ceramic bowlfuls of glistening olives, handmade seeded crackers, tangy chutneys, homemade pickles, colourful crudités, squares of dark chocolate and bite-sized biscuits arranged on a marble tray, traditional glass sweet jars brimming with treats… the choice is yours. Always keep in mind that more is more, and you won’t go far wrong.
These days, we’re all becoming a little more conscious of the footprint we leave on the earth, with more of us than ever rejecting the culture of convenience for something a little less disposable. Of course, our food miles can be a real issue, so for your next gathering, how about looking locally for delicious dining that comes without the eco-guilt?
Farmer’s markets are a great place to start – it’s possible to source excellent fruit, vegetables and dairy products direct from local farms, while a knowledgeable butcher or fishmonger can advise on the provenance of your protein of choice. Look for small-batch spirits that are unique to your area for creative cocktails with a local accent, and craft ales for better beer that actually tastes of something. Wherever possible, choose plastic-free packaging, look for companies with return and reuse policies, and embrace those funny-looking carrots; you’ll save on landfill, while instantly creating a talking point.
Forget flouncy floral arrangements and “just-so” table settings; today’s hosting is all about authenticity and embracing your style in all its quirky glory – the more unorthodox, the better.
That piece of driftwood you picked up on the beach? The perfect organic centrepiece. Your collection of vintage maps? Framed and wall mounted for an instant talking-point gallery. The statement candles you’ve been saving for the right time? Light ‘em up and place them all around to create natural pools of soft lighting. Encourage your guests to make their mark – a comments book preserves the memories of your excellent evening for posterity (and makes for some hilarious anecdotes at the next wedding).