With a house of a size not well-suited to vast parties (and, if I’m honest, a colour scheme that could be described as “impracticality neutral”), the dinner party is the preferred form of entertaining at Blonde Towers.
Combine a small group of people; a lot of food; enough booze to disguise any mistakes I’ve made with aforementioned lot of food; low lighting; and plenty of conversation of the sort you wouldn’t want taped by an undercover News of the World reporter, and in my book you’ve the recipe for a damned good night.
Happening on a semi-regular basis, Blonde Towers’ dinners tend to be fairly boozy affairs. A recent number saw The Medic turn up at the front door clutching a magnum of Veuve, declaring that it seemed foolish to start with anything smaller. On that occasion, we polished off almost a bottle of wine per person; raspberry gin digestifs with pudding; port with cheese; and a round of whiskies with coffee. You get the picture (if anyone has a well-kept liver going spare, do get in touch).
Of course, because the dinners are relatively alcoholic events for which I drag everyone out - shock horror - past Zone 6 (here be monsters) no one tends to leave the same evening. Forget three-course affairs: dinners chez Blonde seem to have turned into three-meal numbers, with guests never leaving before breakfast, and rarely before lunch. I still can’t work out whether people don’t leave because they know they’ll be fed, or that I feed them because they don’t leave.
But for a dinner party to be successful, a little planning needs to go into the mix as well as all that booze.
Most important of all, far more so than the food, is the guest list. With the right people round the table, a few boxes from Domino’s would do the trick. Get the company wrong and not even soufflé Suissesse will save you.
My rule is never to have a table full of people who already know each other - just one new voice will spice things up with new topics of conversation and previously unheard anecdotes.
Singletons should be prepared to sing for their supper in the form of stories about recent dates - the more horrific the better.
Too many people from any one sector are banned: they’ll inevitably talk shop. I love my lawyers, but not when they’re all talking caseloads at each other over the crabcakes. Ditto medics, who’re terrible for fiendishly gruesome stories whilst people are eating.
And I’ve found it’s advisable to give a brief thought to politics too. Polite company might not find politics a suitable discussion for the dinner table, but my lot aren’t polite company - and they’re happy to argue. Mercilessly. Watching Boy Whose Job In The City I Don’t Understand, a consummate Champagne Socialist, take on the arch Tory that is PolitiGal on a finer point of policy is a wonder to behold but not entirely conducive to friendly conversation.
Make sure you keep separate the ones who’re likely to hint heavily, and with huge amusement, at your previous indiscretions (Hot Flyer Boy) in front of the person you were indiscreet with (Speckled Lad / Speckled Lad's brother).
Don’t think you can ever over-cater on the cheese front. There’d be a mutiny at my place if there weren’t enough Brie left over for SL to make a sandwich from with the remainder of the breakfast bacon to eat on his drive back to barracks.
Use a table cloth. You can always bleach it to be rid of the red wine, or chuck it out in the case of cigar burns. Such stains are rather harder to remove from the surface of the table.
Along with the ibuprofen, make sure you’re equipped with very large drinking vessels for the ensuing hangovers, or you’ll come downstairs to find HFB drinking squash out of your favourite vase.
Give yourself enough recovery time between one and the next. Your fridge shelves; glassware; and the chap who has to empty your recycling box will thank you.