Alexandra Dudley On Hosting The Perfect Dinner Party

By Ellie Smith

10 months ago

The host extraordinaire shares her top tips


Seating plan or no seating plan? Magic number of guests? Nightmare dishes? When planning a dinner party, there are lots of factors to consider to make it excel – and serial host Alexandra Dudley has got it down to a tee. A food writer and journalist, Alexandra hosts regular events at Soho House, plus chats to chefs, restaurateurs and artists about all things entertaining on her podcast Come For Supper – from Mark Hix to Prue Leith. And now, she’s here to share some pearls of wisdom with C&TH. Here we speak to Alexandra about all things food, hosting and living a life in balance.

Alexandra Dudley On Hosting The Perfect Dinner Party

Alexandra Dudley

How would you describe your food ethos?

I like to keep things simple but always want my food to have a bit of flair. I tend to lean towards things that are easy to cook and then give them a little something to make them really pop. It could be a good sauce or salsa or even just a tumble of herbs. 

What do you think is the perfect number of people for a dinner party?

Six to eight: I love cooking for big groups, but the conversation is usually more intimate with a smaller number. 

What are your thoughts on a seating plan – should you do one?

It depends on the group. If everyone knows each other really well then I think there is no need, but I think a seating plan can be a really good way to create a good conversation flow as you can work out who might get on well with who. 

Which dishes should be avoided at a dinner party?

I’d steer clear of anything that feels new or daunting. A dinner party is not the time to experiment. Keep it simple and go with what you know. If you’re cooking for over 10, I’d say things like risotto can be a bit tricky unless you have a huge pan, but it also demands you to be stirring in the kitchen. A few really good veggie dishes that can be prepped ahead and either assembled just before or given another whack in the oven work well. Then you can have one thing that can bubble on the stove or cook in the oven for 30 mins before you sit down.

 

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Top tips for avoiding stress as the chef?

Prep, prep, prep. And always make sure there is good wine! I’m currently working with Villa Maria on their Live in the Delicious campaign and their Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a real favourite.  

Tips for making a dinner party more eco-friendly?

I’d say don’t make too much, but I love leftovers as they’re equally delicious the next day, or can make perfect ingredients to get creative with for making other dishes! If you really didn’t want to waste anything, and felt you’d have too much, you could give leftovers to guests in jam jars. 

Dream dinner party guests?

Nora Ephron, Andy Warhol, Meryl Streep.

If you’re not in the kitchen, where are you?

It’s important for me to try and find time in the day to slow down and enjoy some me time, whether that’s enjoying going on a long walk or relaxing and enjoying delicious food and wine.

Food heaven and food hell?

Heaven: lots of grilled shellfish and veg with a good herby butter and a glass of chilled white wine, followed by ice cream. Hell: baked camembert. People love it. Not me. 

Favourite cookbook of all time?

Hard to choose just one. I love them all and have collected them for years. I’d say Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food and then Jeremy Lee’s Cooking .

How do you live a balanced lifestyle?

I struggle with living a balanced lifestyle like most of us do. I make sure that I am structured with my time and try to limit meetings and coffees that eat into time that could be spent either working or spending more quality time with people I love. My one non-negotiable is exercise. I do something every morning, be it a walk or a gym class. It keeps me focused. 

Favourite three restaurants in London?

Rochelle Canteen, Caravel, Ducksoup.

Favourite bar in London?

Claridges bar. 

Most memorable dinner party of all time and why?

A mix of all the dinner parties I have had with my family in Norfolk. They usually end with everyone singing around the table with a couple of people on the guitar. 

Top three ingredients of all time?

Lemons, olive oil, anchovies. You can make almost anything taste better with them. 

Alexandra Dudley is working with the UK’s most loved New Zealand wine brand, Villa Maria to help you ‘Live in the Delicious’. The campaign encourages you to take time to savour those rewarding moments at the end of the day, like spending time with friends and family, or relaxing with a glass of Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.