Dinner party tips from The Wolseley founder Jeremy King.
As a key figure in London’s culinary renaissance, Jeremy King is admired for his amenable and tasteful take on hospitality. And recently, his flagship restaurant The Wolseley has launched an online Christmas gift store – it’s so much more agreeable than Amazon – delivering hampers, civilised confectionery, sublime souvenirs, top-flight tipples from The Wolseley wine list, and even King-approved Christmas decorations.
So, who better to ask for seasonal dinner party tips than Jeremy King himself? From what’s cooking, and seating plans, right through to olfactory touches, the man behind The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel, and Colbert has you covered. Plus, as a last-minute stocking-filler, King passes on his house recipe for The Wolseley Christmas pudding.
Serve straightforward dishes on sharing platters
Even a mildly frosty atmosphere will make the host feel nervous. So, break the ice around the table by serving up food the old-fashioned way. “I feel conviviality is the key to a successful dinner party,” says Jeremy King. “Keep the food simple, with shared plates passed down the table. This gets the guests freely interacting rather than feeling contained, which is often caused by the food being too complex in aspiration!”
What’s more, if you’re not in the kitchen attempting to salvage the sous-vide or something equally ambitious, you can spend more time lubricating conversation among your guests.
Master the art of seating
Many of us make amateur errors in this department. “We obsess over who sits next to whom, but unless you have a wide table, that is no longer relevant,” warns King. Consider who’s opposite whom to be equally vital. And, most importantly: “Don’t maroon anyone in an attempt to mix it up – always give everyone an ‘anchor’” – a familiar face they can turn to if lost for chit-chat.
Run a tight ship
“The more ordered and controlled the event, strangely, the more people will relax,” advises King. “Make the start time clear and don’t leave people drinking too long before sitting down. People get jaded, especially if it's a ‘school night’. Time the evening so that if guests need to leave by eleven o’clock, they can do so without feeling guilty.” If your guests know what the plan is, they won’t feel they need to make any awkward decisions for themselves.
Make an effort with some well-chosen detail
Sophisticated touches certainly have their place. For example: “Set the mood with one of our Wolseley candles, which has a warm, enveloping, exotic scent,” recommends King, the bearer of an OBE for services to the hospitality industry, “plus, a great choice for a host gift are our Salted Caramel Truffles, which can always be served with coffee at the end of the meal.”
The Wolseley Christmas Pudding
Makes four to six small puddings
250g Bramley apples, grated
zest of one lemon
150g dried currants
150g dried sultanas
150g dried prunes, chopped
175ml dry sherry
150g vegetable suet
150g soft dark brown sugar
3 medium eggs
125g fresh breadcrumbs
100g plain flour
10g baking powder
5g ground cloves
10g ground cinnamon
Marinate the grated apples, lemon zest and dried fruit with the sherry and brandy. Cover and place in the fridge for as long as possible.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and fold in the marinated fruit. Fill your moulds three-quarters full and cover with a layer of greaseproof paper and two layers of foil, big enough to hang over the sides. Tie the tops with butcher’s string.
Place the puddings in a tall, heavy-based pan and fill with enough hot water to come three-quarters of the way up the moulds. Cover and gently steam for up to six hours. Add extra water occasionally, as required.
The Wolseley Christmas Hamper is packed with an assortment of hand-picked items from the collection, including a ‘Breakfast for Two at The Wolseley’ Gift Card. For tradition, try the Afternoon Blend Loose Leaf Tea served in the silver-plated tea strainer, or The Wolseley Medoc 2011 to share with guests.
For its sense of tradition, we love the Afternoon Blend Loose Leaf Tea served in the silver-plated tea strainer with its elegant accompanying caddy spoon. Otherwise, The Wolseley Medoc 2011 is a superb festive tipple to share with guests.
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