Let’s be honest here: who doesn’t love a dinner party? Great food, drinks, and company, plus the added bonuses of not having to wait for a table or split the bill at the end of the night.
But when it comes to planning your first dinner party at home, where do you begin? The key to planning a successful evening is simple: start with the menu.
Our co-founder, Jodie Mlikota, knows a thing or two about throwing a delicious night in – after all, she created the Gathar platform to make it easier than ever to host a dinner party at home!
“The first step is to decide what type of cuisine you’d like to serve,” Jodie says. “Then, choose how many courses you want to serve before locking in your menu.”
Choosing different dishes can be the best part, but it can also be the most overwhelming. Gone are the days of simple fondue nights or barbecues – if we’re having people over, we’re dressing the table to impress!
Here are some delicious dinner ideas to take your next ‘gatharing’ to the next level.
Mangia mangia! The classic Italian feast
Is there anyone who knows how to entertain better than the Italians? Coming together to share a meal is basically the national pastime. Plus, who doesn’t love carbs?
A classic Italian feast is a dinner party recipe for success. While pasta and pizza will most likely be the heroes of the evening, there are a few things you can do to make your food sing.
Gathar Culinarian Christina Laker says making the dough from scratch will add to the authenticity of the night.
“You can make the evening more interactive by getting your guests to help create the meal,” Christina says. “Get them to cut the pasta or grind up the pesto. It’ll lessen the work for you and create some beautiful memories.”
Christina also says it’s important to use the highest quality ingredients you can get your hands on. Invest in those market-fresh tomatoes, because they’ll be playing a starring role: roasting tomatoes for a delicioso tomato sauce, and having them fresh in a tomato and broad bean salad, or panzanella (bread salad).
“If the recipe uses parmigiano-reggiano or another type of Italian cheese, don’t substitute it for something mass-produced and on sale in your local supermarket,” warns Christina.
“Make a trip to your local deli and buy it there. You’ll be supporting a small business and you’ll taste the difference.”
That’s especially true if you’re buying a pork shoulder for a porchetta parmigiano-reggiano: roast pork, filled with beautiful accompaniments like fennel and sage or apricot stuffing.
Don’t be put off: porchetta is an easy recipe as long as you take your time and give it the love it deserves. You’ll no doubt be rewarded with leftovers ready for a late night feast after your guests have departed!
Ooh la la: do dinner with a French twist
Dinner parties and French cuisine just feel like a match made in heaven, don’t they? Simple yet sophisticated, French dining is one of the most popular requests for our Gathar private chefs.
You might choose to start your evening with a gorgeous goat’s cheese tart, asparagus with poached egg (a Julia Child classic), or rich and moreish French onion soup.
If you’re hoping for more of a healthy dinner party, this probably isn’t the menu for you. We’re talking cream sauce and brown butter; in other words, delicious decadence.
For the main event, you can’t go past a coq au vin. This is not your average chicken stew. Grab some bay leaves and thyme for your aromatics, chicken legs / chicken thighs, butter, bacon, mushrooms, onions and a good quality red wine*, et voilà: coq au vin!
An ideal alternate French main is a beautiful roast duck or confit duck leg, with a side of potato gratin. And for dessert? You can’t go past a classique tarte tartin or gateaux au chocolat (chocolate cake).
*the rule when cooking with wine is if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.
Say hola to a Mexican fiesta
Say ‘Mexican food’ and most people (see: Aussies) automatically think tacos and nachos, but there’s SO much more to this cuisine than the ‘Tex Mex’ we’re familiar with.
Fun, exciting and a little bit spicy, Mexican is the ideal dinner party menu for sharing. Think slow cooker beef with mole poblano: a rich and delicious chocolate sauce filled with chillies and spices. Anything involving a slow cooker just spells easy dinner, right?
Your Mexican fiesta can easily be vegetarian-recipe-friendly, too. Chipotle roasted cauliflower, fresh mango salsa, grilled pineapple, refried beans, charred corn and, of course, an abundance of fresh herbs.
We asked Gathar co-founder and Mexican menu specialist, Nicky Jurd, for her top tip when planning a Mexican feast:
“Mexico is known for its bright colours and out-there celebrations, like Dia De Los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. Don’t be afraid to get creative with both the food and the decor,” Nicky says.
“Serve garnishes like avocado and coriander in different sized coloured bowls. And don’t forget the margaritas!”
Of course, one of the downsides to hosting a dinner party at home is the clean-up afterwards. Why not let our Gathar chefs prepare, cook and clean-up, so all that’s left for you to do is get out of the kitchen and back to the party?
A fresh and refined evening of Japanese cuisine
If you really want to wow your guests, take a leaf out of Gathar Culinarian Danielle Dixon’s book and take them (or at least their tastebuds) on a trip to the exotic east.
Japanese cuisine is fresh in flavour but light on calories, meaning you’re in for a healthy dinner that doesn’t sacrifice on taste.
Danielle recommends serving smaller plates like miso soup and edamame to get the party started.
“These dishes are easy to prepare ahead of time and will look great on a table when served together,” Danielle says.
If you’re feeling brave, you can practice your knife skills and try your hand at preparing sashimi. But if that sounds too daunting, there are plenty of other dishes to choose from, with seafood, pork, and tofu all featuring heavily in Japanese cuisine.
A beautiful roasted salmon or smoked salmon is a great way to venture further into your evening, while seared scallops with ponzu and ginger never fail to impress.
For mains, a beautiful pork tenderloin / pork loin is perfect for a crunchy, fried katsu, or you might opt for a classic chicken curry served with rice or udon noodles.
If you haven’t tried Japanese curry before, it is thick with deep umami flavours, rich earthy spices, and hints of sweetness from carrot or pickled ginger on the side.
Japanese cuisine is excellent for a dinner party menu where you are accommodating special diets, too. Simply roast a butternut squash or eggplant with a miso glaze for a quick vegetarian alternative.
Danielle recommends the best way to take your dinner party up a notch is to accompany mains with simple yet elegant sides.
“Steamed vegetables and rice are great, but so too are lesser-known sides like Japanese salad with cabbage. Be sure to fill smaller bowls with sesame seeds, soy sauce, and other condiments for more flavour and a decorative edge.”
A Modern Australian menu never fails
Sometimes you just have to go with a menu that pleases the crowd, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be utterly delicious.
If you think the height of Australian cuisine is sausage rolls and a roast dinner, think again. Although, we do love a good roast dinner menu… roasted chicken with roasted carrots and roasted potatoes on the side? Yum.
You can easily take classic Australian fare and elevate it: instead of lamb chops, try lamb shanks; instead of prawns, try Moreton Bay bugs; and swap your old-fashioned rice pudding for a cheesecake with seasonal fruits (grilled stonefruit on top is game changing).
A Modern Oz menu lends itself perfectly to Christmas dinner or lunch and it’s bound to keep all the fussy eaters satisfied. Don’t think for a second that you can create an incredible feast on the BBQ: barbecued salmon, charred chicken, grilled broccolini… what more could you want for a dinner party that’s minimal on effort with maximum deliciousness?