Tis’ the season to eat, drink and be merry – but what makes a great party? We asked top local chefs, restaurateurs and planners to give their tips, treats and best ever party memories…
‘It’s party time! And whether you’re having a bash for 10 people or your organising the company do, there are a few simple action points to be aware of to make sure it all goes with a swing. We’ve brought together our top tips to help you along the way. And we also asked local party planners, top chefs and cocktail mixers to give their recipes for fun-filled success. They’ve even contributed their most memorable party moments – we’ve all got those, even if sometimes the alcohol makes them a bit hazy! No great party is complete without great wine, and that’s covered too thanks to our resident expert Rob Price who has chosen his top party picks (check out the magazine pages 26 and 27). So, what are the must-do’s if you want to throw the ultimate party? Here’s six of the best…
- Pick a theme: Important because it sets the tone and guides the planning of the whole shooting match. Decide nice an early what you want it to be – especially if it involves fancy dress. Your guests will need plenty of warning to get those Pirates of the Caribbean outfits sorted in good time! Go for a theme that’ll fit with most of the guests. An over-the-top Vegas-themed do might be uncomfortable for more conservative guests. Factor in the average age of the guest list too.
- Decide the venue: Determine how the party venue may influence the choice of theme. Certain venues (rooftop terraces, sports clubs and so on) naturally convey a feeling that can be incorporated into the theme.
- Get organised: Know your audience; a good party is about the guests not just you – think about music, balance of non-alcoholic/alcoholic drinks, food for vegetarians, etc. Prepare as much as possible in advance.
- Light it up: Choosing the correct lighting makes the difference between an intimate soiree and a wild disco rave. Go for warm strings of fairy lights and candles to say ‘relax and unwind’ – and the full flashing multi-colour monty to shout ‘I wanna dance!’
- Don’t skimp on the food and drink: Probably the two most important aspects of any bash are the nosh and booze – and that’s where our experts come in. Read their tips to give your party an exclusive twist.
- Last but not least: Relax… it’s supposed to be fun!
TIPs and MEMORIES:
Always invite one hilarious character to the party – someone people will gossip about the day after! Best party: The British Soap Awards after-party when I worked at ITV in London – wall to wall celebrities all letting their hair down away from the camera. It was surreal. Anita Champaneri, Delicious
Always have enough helpers on the night, so your guests aren’t waiting for their food and drink. Best party was a facial hair themed bash. Everyone got into the spirit, so there was some hilarious hair on show and the cocktails flowed. The chap who wrote the Nolans ‘I’m In The Mood for Dancing’ was also there – what more could you want? Heather Watson, Crimson Events
Focus first on the food. Well-fed guests are happy guests! I’ll never forget a VIP party at Hard Rock in Dublin where I danced with Bruce Willis! Suzanna Reid Barreiro da Silva, Birmingham REP
Plan your party in good time. Send out ‘save the date’ notes at least a few weeks in advance. The launch of Two Snowhill was very special. It coincided with the award-winning exhibition, Of All The People In All The World by Birmingham-based theatre company Stan’s Café. There was live music, an illuminated bar and lots of champagne. Louise Martin, Just Good Food
Invest in the very best entertainment that you can possibly afford. My favourite party is still the Millennium Ball we hosted. The atmosphere was electric with a host of celebrities present including Johnny Herbert and Roy Keane and a whole gaggle of fantastic celebrity look-alikes that became even more convincing as the evening drew on! Rick Cressman, Nailcote Hall
Make sure you’re clear about your budget and create something for your guest rather than just something that you would want. My first Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Awards at the ICC was fantastic. I was amazed with the impact the room had – it was dressed beautifully and the AV and lighting was perfect. Emma Larkin, AllinAll Events
My favourite party was last year when my friends Tom Kerridge and Daniel Clifford celebrated their joint 40th in Marlow. It was held on a farm with a veritable who’s who of Britain’s hospitality industry. The atmosphere was amazing, with great food and lots of booze flowing to the early hours of the morning. Aktar Islam, Lasan Group
ALTERNATIVE PARTY THEMES
Looking for a cool, different stand out theme for your party? How about these?
- The No Mobile Phones Party: Confiscate and lock away everyone’s phone as they arrive. After the initial shock of being ‘cut off’ from the world, the drinking and talking (that’s called Human Interaction) begins.
- The Anything But Clothes Party: Guests wear anything but clothes. So, black bin liners, lampshades, cardboard boxes, or whatever other wild things come to mind.
- The Anything But Cups Party: Guests have to rock up with something else to drink from – dog bowl, swimming hat, shaving mug, whatever!. Most of these ‘cups’ will be pretty hard to put down, so everyone will be forced to drink!
- The Plain White Shirt Party: Tell your guests to wear a cheap white shirt or T-shirt – and give them non-indelible marker pens when they arrive. Cue lots of fun – and who knows, you might wake up with a couple names and phone numbers!
- The Silly Hats Only Party:The more creative and hilarious the better. A great ice-breaker for any gathering.
- The Cut Price Party: No outfits over £10 – and everyone has to bring the receipts to prove it.
Tasty nibbles and bites are an important part of any great party. Really delicious canapés are quick and simple to make, and are so much better than those ready-made supermarket options. Here are three simple favourite recipes from our trio of top experts.
Oyster Pakora by Aktar Islam at Lasan
For the oyster:
- 30 AAA Oysters (shucked)
- 130g tempura batter
- 20g rice flour
- 20 finely chopped curry leaves
- 1 tbsp Kasthoori methi
- 1 tsp Ajwain seed
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1 handful chopped coriander
- 20g garlic & ginger paste
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Aamchoor Salt
- 180g iced water
- Extra flour for dredging
For the lightly pickled Mooli and Cucumber:
- 1 medium size mooli, peeled and shredded
- 1 medium size cucumber, peeled and shredded
- 50ml rice wine vinegar
- 50ml garlic oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/tsp sugar
For the oyster: Place the shucked oysters on a kitchen towel Dredge the oysters in flour Combine all the other ingredients to make the batter Dip the oysters in the batter and deep fry in at 180c Once golden, remove from the fryer and place on kitchen towel For the pickled mooli & cucumber: Lightly salt the mooli and cucumber and leave for 15 minutes Wash in cold water and pat dry Combine rice wine vinegar, sugar and mustard, garlic oil Mix with the cucumber and mooli for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce, if you don’t like oyster, substitute with any white fish cut in to small bite-size chunks.
Santa Claus Hats canapés by Louise Martin at Just Good Food (Makes 24 canapés)
For the biscuits:
- 100g unsalted butter
- 125g plain flour
- 50g icing sugar
- 12g egg yolk
For the topping:
- 24 small strawberries (all roughly the same size)
- ¼ pint of double cream
Pre-heat your oven to 160˚C. Mix the butter, flour and icing sugar together by hand until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk and add to the mixture, combining everything to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface until it’s roughly 5mm thick. Use a 3cm round cutter to cut out the biscuits. (The mixture should make roughly 24.) Place the biscuits on a greaseproof tray and bake in the oven for between 10 and 12 minutes. Take the biscuits out and place onto a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks. Be careful not to over-whip it. Hull the strawberries but leave the fruits whole. Once the biscuits are cool, put a small amount of cream in the centre and place a strawberry on top. Using a piping bag, pipe small amounts of cream around the strawberry and a little on top. It should now look like a Santa hat! Repeat with all the other biscuits and serve.
THE TIME SAVER
Serrano ham, celeriac remoulade on toasted sour dough by Greg Pryce at Hotel du Vin Quick, simple and delicious this is a great canapé for both hosts and the guests. Try to get the very best Serrano ham possible – it’s readily available from most good supermarkets, although all the better if you can carve straight from the leg as Greg does at the hotel.
Ingredients (10 portions):
- 10 x 3cm square pieces of Serrano ham
- 10 x thin baguette slices (toasted with olive oil and salt)
- 10 x tsp celeriac remoulade. Again, available from supermarkets.
- 10 x sprigs of chervil to garnish
Method: Assemble and serve!
Wine and beer are all very well, but to make a party really stand out there’s nothing like mixing up some really mean cocktails. A couple of key points though – remember not everyone will be drinking alcohol so have a cocktail that’ll make them feel special too, and make sure you have lots of ice on hand – you’ll need more than you think. Here are three great cocktails from three top local ‘mixologists’.
This simple and delicious cocktail from the boys at East Z East, Broad Street is perfect for non-alcohol revellers – amend volumes according to personal taste.
- Fresh mango
- Mango juice
- Lime juice
- Orange juice
- Cranberry juice
Puree the mango by skinning and de – stoning and add the remaining mango flesh to a blender – blend to a puree. Add the mango puree to a shaker with some mango juice, a small squirt of lime juice and orange juice. Shake and pour over ice in a tall glass. Top with cranberry juice, garnish with a mango or orange slice.
PEAR & GINGER COBBLER
Something a little different to kick-start the party, prepared specially by the mixologists at Chung Ying Central, Colmore Row
- 20ml Couvoisier
- 20ml Xante Pear liqueur
- 7ml Martini Rosso
- 15ml lemon juice
- 15ml ginger & tea syrup
- 3 thumbs of ginger
Muddle ginger in a Boston glass. Place all ingredients into a Boston tin – fill with ice, then shake. Fill a wine glass with cubed ice and pour contents in. Serve.
A great cocktail for a party – if you fancy making a nice big pitcher just multiply the quantities below.
- 2 measures of rum
- 1 measure of strawberry liqueur
- 1 measure of lime juice
- 6 strawberries
- Ice cubes
To make Add all ingredients in a blender. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar if you like your drinks extra sweet. Blend until smooth. Pour into Martini glasses for extra style – prepare the glasses by rubbing the rim with a lime wedge and then with granulated sugar