What’s the se­cret to cel­e­bra­tion suc­cess? Cham­pagne doesn’t hurt. But have you con­sid­ered char siu buns with a side of per­for­mance art, or Paloma punch to start and a party bus to fin­ish? Sea­soned hosts spill the bub­bly on how to make a soirée soar.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

What’s the se­cret to cel­e­bra­tion suc­cess? Hosts with the most spill the bub­bly on how best to party.


You should be knocked off your feet by the buzz of a party and want to dive right in as soon as you ar­rive. Trans­form a space with flow­ers, light­ing and can­dles – it can help to make a venue, and your guests, feel flat-out fancy. Good food that’s easy to eat with one hand is es­sen­tial. And don’t skimp on the bub­bles. The con­stant pop of Cham­pagne screams full-throt­tle fun.


I’m a big fan of a Paloma on ar­rival. It’s re­fresh­ing, sneak­ily strong and easy to serve as a punch. If your strength in the kitchen is a Bun­nings snag, roll with it. No­body ex­pects you to be Marco Pierre White (un­less you are Marco Pierre White). Can­dles and lamps are your friends, and un­der no cir­cum­stances should you play any­thing that says “Smooth Back­ground Mu­sic” in the ti­tle; your guests will die of bore­dom. When an ex­tra shows up un­ex­pect­edly, don’t panic. Smile and knock back a mas­sive gin. And the golden rule? Don’t in­vite any­one you don’t like. It’s your house.


Never let a per­son over the age of 18 ar­rive at your house and not have a drink in their hand within two min­utes. Stand­ing around won­der­ing what to do with your hands should never hap­pen. I like to have jugs of gin cock­tails to make it easy. Last sum­mer it was Bloody Shi­raz gin, Cam­pari, le­mon tonic, lots of ice, soda and lime. Pour away and the party’s al­ready started! Open mul­ti­ple bot­tles of the same wine so you’re not go­ing up and down to the cel­lar every 10 min­utes. Un­in­vited guests add a cer­tain fris­son to the evening, so wel­come them with open arms.

Anna Plun­kett and Luke Sales DE­SIGN­ERS, RO­MANCE WAS BORN

Flow­ers are of­ten the first el­e­ment you no­tice and can set the tone for the type of party you’re in for. It’s su­per cute when peo­ple get to take them home at the end of the night, too. We’re flower mad – we’ve named en­tire col­lec­tions af­ter flow­ers (Elec­tro Orchid, any­one?). Be­yond that, you need plenty of Cham­pagne (a tower, please), oys­ters, a mir­ror ball and a DJ who will­ingly takes re­quests.


The best party should take ef­fort but ap­pear ca­sual. De­tails don’t need to be too de­tailed. We once had an ex­hi­bi­tion launch at Carriageworks and the caterer, John Wil­son, brought fo­cac­cia still in its bak­ing tray, a huge wooden pal­let of ri­cotta, and truf­fle to grate over the top. Peo­ple al­ways re­mem­ber one sim­ple thing done per­fectly. And this was to­tally no-fuss but still felt ex­tra spe­cial.

Anthea Lou­cas Bosha CEO, FOOD AND WINE VIC­TO­RIA

A great party is all about a re­laxed host. And that means lay­ing out a DIY spread so guests can help them­selves to food as they please, leav­ing you free to flit around. A glazed ham with lots of soft white bread rolls, an Ital­ian-style coleslaw, a wheel of cheese and loads of dif­fer­ent condi­ments are my go-tos. And Ne­gro­nis, al­ways Ne­gro­nis.


If you’re host­ing at home, set the ta­ble some­where dif­fer­ent from where you usu­ally eat, per­haps on the porch or in the gar­den if you can. There’s some­thing re­ally spe­cial about eat­ing out­side. When peo­ple of­fer to help, let them; it’s more fun cook­ing with friends. I al­ways go for big, gen­er­ous and of­ten fa­mil­iar flavours, some­thing I can ex­e­cute eas­ily so I’m not in the kitchen with tweez­ers try­ing to plate up food and miss­ing all the fun. And I al­ways have a pile of vinyl ready to go for when din­ner turns to danc­ing.


The food must be light, sim­ple, sexy and have oomph. A fish crudo with ginger-and-lemon­grass mayo and Yarra Val­ley Caviar salmon roe is great. Or Xin­jiang-style Uyghur lamb skew­ers with cumin, chilli, le­mon and an easy rice pi­laf. Then there’s char siu: cook it over a char­coal burner and serve it with pick­les and fluffy man­tou buns. With food as light as this, every­one will think you’re a rock star. And it’s fun and easy to make, so you’ll have time to party.


To start, serve a pét-nat from the Ade­laide Hills (easy, fresh, fun) or top Heiwa Shuzo yuzushu with an equal amount of fizzy wa­ter (a cit­rusy smash). Be­ing a wine nerd, I al­ways have a mix of fizz, white, rosé, am­ber and light reds open on a ta­ble for peo­ple to help them­selves to. If the sun is shin­ing, host your do at the park, in a beer gar­den or at the beach. Ask peo­ple to bring easy stuff: a loaf of bread, some char­cu­terie, a hunk of cheese. And if you don’t have the pa­tience to work the bar­be­cue, takeaway from Flower Drum or Su­per­nor­mal is al­ways a luxe op­tion.


Cook some­thing with flair so every­one can roll up their sleeves and get in­volved (paella, fresh pasta). Have a small court of witty reg­u­lars to spark things up, and some­where in that lot in­vite a mu­si­cian – they can’t help but belt out a few tunes. Get a crew to­gether to back you up with the prepa­ra­tions, so you have a mini-party to set up, then the party-party, then a clean-up party the next day. Be open to some crazy shit go­ing down. A few years back at one of our par­ties, a wo­man stripped off, painted her body with acrylic paint and made an im­pres­sion on a primed can­vas. It was all very spon­ta­neous. She gave the paint­ing to her hus­band as a birth­day present.

Chris­tine Man­field CHEF AND AU­THOR

Your party should re­flect you as a per­son. Great glass­ware, fab­u­lous cock­tails and high-cal­i­bre Cham­pagne and wine add style and glam­our. So do good­look­ing staff who know how to de­liver pol­ished ser­vice and add a bit of theatre. As host, you need to be present for your guests to help spark the en­ergy, not slav­ing away be­hind the scenes, so keep the food sim­ple, fresh and full of flavour. Gor­geous ce­ram­ics, linen nap­kins and in­ter­est­ing cut­lery help show food in its best light, too.


Start with chilled or­ange-wine shots, then move on to cock­tail may­hem. Whiskey Sours, Margaritas, Mar­ti­nis, mez­cal shots (for the ones still not pick­ing up on the vibe), more or­ange-wine nips – any­thing plu­ral re­ally. The ’80s usu­ally nails the mu­sic, but a live band can also get a crowd bounc­ing off the walls, ceil­ing and floor. As for a lo­ca­tion, opt for some­thing with dim light­ing (Africola’s base­ment comes to mind). A hand­writ­ten in­vi­ta­tion gives it an­other level of charm, es­pe­cially when you de­liver them per­son­ally. And a good host will also char­ter a bus to drop the guests home. Two days later.

Food that you can eat with one hand is es­sen­tial. And don’t skimp on the bub­bles. The con­stant pop of Cham­pagne screams full-throt­tle fun.

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