I’m a big fan of tablecloths. I think they really give your meal a sense of occasion – not to mention protecting your table. We recently upgraded our dining table to this recycled Ballina Teak Ten-Seater from Schots Home Emporium and it has such a beautiful finish I like to dress it with linens when we entertain.
Laying the table often takes longer than I think it’s going to so it’s a great one to smash out in advance. Same with the food – baking veggies, mixing marinades and sauces and chopping veg and herbs can all be done in advance. I love my airfyer for reheating roast veggies and crisping them up nicely.
Day to day we just use placemats and coasters but for special occasions you can’t go past Cultiver Linens and LM Home for beautiful tablecloths. However, ironing a nearly four-metre tablecloth when guests are only an hour away is super stressful. A stylist gave me this trick: throw your tablecloth in the washing machine on a rinse cycle to wet it then put it in the dryer until it’s about half dry. Check on it to make sure it hasn’t balled up in the dryer (use dryer balls if you can they help keep everything plumped out) and then drape them over the table to finish drying. You can do the same with the napkins and lay them flat, then casually knot them or drape them over the plates.
I try to hit the markets to stock up on reasonably priced flowers, but if I find myself stuck without any blooms, you can get pretty creative with whatever is in your garden. A huge vase filled with magnolias, blossoms, jasmine or hydrangeas is heavenly, but even greenery like ferns, monstera or eucalyptus leaves gives the room and table a sense of life. If you’ve got lots of it, go large – it can make a beautiful statement. If you don’t have a lot, pick a few leaves and pop them in tiny vases or wrap them in a string and place on each napkin as a little detail.
I find a big slow cook or roast is one of the easiest ‘set and forget’ things to make for a group. Damo and I often do a slow roast lamb shoulder with fresh chimuchurri and roast veg because we can pop it on in the morning and then it’s just a matter of baking some potatoes and steaming some greens. Pastas are also nice and low maintenance and you can easily cater for gluten-free and vegans. Add a couple of salads and you have that nice buffet share-plate vibe.
I’m calling it. The grazing board is THE hors d’oeuvre of the twenties. Here’s my hot top: raid Aldi for all the accoutrements. I often buy a couple of nice cheeses from the deli and mix them back with a cheddar and Jarlsberg from Aldi, hummus, crackers, berries, nuts, veg and fruit all from Aldi. Then pile on every delectable thing you can find. Don’t forget things like pretzels, figs and chocolate coated nuts to give it a really decadent vibe. You can make a Pinterest board (or borrow mine) of grazing boards you like to help you style it.
We love to serve the grazing board outside before coming inside for mains. We also found our outdoor table and chairs at Schots Home Emporium. They have an incredible range of cement tables and outdoor furniture that’s really durable. We got the Santos table and paired it with these Galvanized Steel Metz Chairs which are also great as they are anti-rust and don’t weather at all in the rain and sun.
If you have an area where you can send the kids while adults catch up it’s great to stock it with some games and activities prior. A deck of Uno or cards, some drawing or colouring stuff is always a win. We’re lucky enough to have a backyard with a trampoline and basketball hoop, so I usually send the kids there on arrival so they can get some outdoor time in before they inevitably end up watching a movie.
When you have time (long car trips are good for this) create some lunch/dinner-friendly playlists so that you’re not stuck trying to set the vibe as people arrive. I also like the Radio function on Spotify, if you have a single song that you know is perfect for the occasion, play it and then select Play Radio from that song and you’ll get similar stuff, that’s usually on theme.