Best stress-free entertaining tips

Everyone loves gathering together over food, however hosting can be daunting. Sarah Hammond is the force behind leading caterer Rhubarb, which has venues such as Sky Garden, and caters Ascot, The London Eye, weddings and private parties. For a special occasion, a caterer can take the stress out of a dinner party. Here are Sarah’s tips for making entertaining run smoothly.

Plan ahead

The most enjoyable evenings are the most relaxed ones. Make sure you get organised so you can sit at the table and enjoy being with your guests. Lay the table first thing in the morning and you’ll feel ready for the rest of the day. Seasonal flowers are good value and will dress up a plain white table-setting.


Cold starters such as burrata with radish, cucumber and mint; or carpaccio of beef with Parmesan shavings are a lifesaver, as you can prep early in the day and plate them up easily last minute. And a starter that’s always popular (and easy!) is giant king prawn and avocado cocktail with bloody mary mayo.

Our dinner party menus feature fish such as silver bream with radicchio hearts, or sea bass with lemon butter sauce. But for 6+ people, getting the timing right for fish is trickier for the home cook. A simple rump of lamb with thyme dauphinoise is easier to make ahead of time, and can be served in the middle of the table for guests to help themselves.

You don’t have to make every element from scratch. Seasonal fruit such as caramelized peaches with bought ice cream is stylish in its simplicity.

When guests arrive

A cocktail gets things off to a good start and shows you’ve put some effort in, but it needn’t be complicated – a glass of champagne or prosecco with a splash of crème de cassis or orange bitters is lovely. Or cheat with a pre-made mix you can just shake, pour over ice and add garnish (olive likes M&S Cucumber Martini, £12).

Always serve canapés as soon as guests arrive – they will be hungry and people notice food most at the beginning of the night. Parmesan biscuits with goat’s cheese; crab on crostini; and mini Asian duck rolls are some Rhubarb specials.

Lastly, relax and enjoy yourself! The moment you get flustered guests will feel uncomfortable, but if the host is relaxed the party will be a success. rhubarb.net

For more dinner party tips and recipes, you may also like…

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