February 1, 2023
Wine & Dine

Ultimate Dinner Party Guide

From table settings, to music playlists, to menus and drinks, here is your ultimate guide - compiled with the help of some local experts - to putting on the perfect dinner party.

Words Zoe Rice Photographs Sarah Long

Floral flourish

Garner inspiration for your next breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner party with these gorgeous creations from some South Australians who really know how to set a table.

Bursts of colour

There was no early morning dash to the flower market for Katie Steinwedel from The Garden Depot.

She’s plucked all the décor for her table from the garden, albeit a bit of a special garden at Wandilla Park.

There’s a smattering of poppies, viburnum, waratah, wattle and one giant peony. There’s also some rosemary, halved citrus and edible pansies – in case you want to add something special to your cocktail right there at the table.

Katie says rather than using vases, why not amp up the theme of an outdoor table with garden pots?

“Obviously I have the pick of the crop with flowers here, but there are some really simple things like daisies, or you could use so many things that most people have in their back yards,” Katie says.

“You can even use foliage; magnolia foliage or viburnum foliage or hedging plants look great in the middle of a table.”


Keeping with tradition

Amanda Swale describes her creation as “whimsical garden with elegant sophistication”. The co-owner of One Rundle Trading Co runs the styling arm of the business and says you can’t underestimate a classic look.

“I went very old school, using old family China,” Amanda says. “I was gifted the glassware for my wedding 30 years ago from my favourite aunty.”

As for the flowers, Amanda has gone for sweet pea, tiny gerberas, Queen Anne’s lace and a base of viburnum.

The result is stunning, but the process is achievable. Amanda first laid aluminium foil down the centre of the table and then ran floral foam along it. From there, you start low and build your creation from there.

“And if you’re having a night party, you can put pillar candles straight into the foam.”

Rustic elegance

Sally Wotton may have created a grand statement, but in reality, the blooms she’s selected are quite simple.

The owner of Floristry by Sally on Melbourne Street has chosen a palette of green and white in bursts of foliage.

Sally’s philosophy is local is best and the Queen Anne’s lace is from a woman at Swan Reach, while the viburnum blossoms are from the Adelaide Hills.

Sally says the key to florals on a table is variation in height. “If you do them all at one level and all going in one direction, the brain gets quite bored,” Sally says.

To complete the styling, Sally has used ceramics, glasses, plates and jugs from Asser + Co, vases by Meg Michell, a painting by her daughter, Abbey Wotton and lampshades by her husband, Chris Wotton.


Words and Photographs Ben Kelly

Planning the ultimate dinner party

A few simple tips and recipes from these entertaining experts are guaranteed to elevate your dinner party to another level this season.

French Martini
by luma restaurant and bar mixologist greg perrot

“This cocktail is easy to make with just a few ingredients and works for a lot of people because it’s sweet, tasty and fruity. To make it even better, use your own vanilla-infused vodka,” says Greg.

45m vanilla-infused vodka
50m Chambord
45m pineapple juice
Garnish with pineapple slice

Pour all ingredients in shaker, add ice, shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with pineapple and enjoy. To elevate this cocktail, create your own vanilla vodka by infusing a sliced vanilla bean in any brand of vodka over several days, or use two beans and infuse for 48 hours.

Mint & Juniper Highball
by nola venue manager jamie fraser

“This is the perfect welcoming palate cleanser for your spring barbecue. This is better than a mojito but with half the faffing about,” says Jamie.

30ml juniper-forward gin
90ml prosecco/dry bubbles
30ml lime juice
5g sugar
1 raspberry

Fill a highball glass with ice and add a teaspoon of sugar. Add 30ml lime juice and fill the glass almost to the top with dry sparkling wine. Slowly add 30ml of a good juniper-forward gin like Ounce Bright or Never Never and give it a light stir. For garnish, lightly place a nice mint sprig in the top and add a fresh raspberry for colour.


Out in the Paddock’s Ally Aoukar and Ray Dahdah

Being hospitable and welcoming starts from the minute your guests enter your home. This means a warm smile, some background music and fresh flowers in the entrance.

Having a theme when styling will help set a mood for your dinner party. We love bold colours and playing with textures, but there is always time for classic tones, pastels and a monochromatic look. We personally love classic crisp white linen, beautiful crystal glassware and an abundance of fresh flowers and candles.

Candlelight is absolutely important as it sets the mood. These days, we are so lucky with the range of candles available to help create a beautiful style for your table. Use multi-height and textured candles in one tone to compliment the colour of your linen.

Coloured and textured linen is the best trend to have made a comeback. Nothing says luxury like a gorgeous linen tablecloth and napkin.

It’s important to use the food as part of your styling, having starters or nibbles on the table ready for guests as soon as they arrive. Beautiful, themed or coloured dishes or vessels, styled in abundance, add an inviting and indulgent look to your table.

Make sure to have fun! There’s nothing worse than a stressed host. Choose dishes you are comfortable making and plating that won’t take you away from your guests for too long.


Cured Beef Tartare
makes 25
recipe by aurora sous chef rick silva

“This canapé is a classic and a staple for our Aurora events team,” says Rick. “It is simple but delicious which makes it the perfect starter to share at your next event with friends and family. Eye fillet is great as it’s not too fatty and intense, allowing the flavours and seasoning we add to shine through. We like to lightly cure the beef and veer away from tradition by adding Australian bush tomato as the main spice which gives a rich and robust flavour.”

500g eye fillet beef
80g shallots
2g bush tomatoes (Kutjera powder)
2g smoked paprika
3g truffle oil
10g chives
11g salt

to serve
300g French baguette
10g chives
splash of olive oil
salt to season

Finely dice the beef eye fillet into cubes sized approximately 3mm, removing any tough bits. Mix with salt, vacuum seal if possible and leave overnight to cure. Finely dice the shallot and mix well with beef, chives, spices and truffle oil.

Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Cut the baguette into very thin slices. Lay onto a tray lined with baking paper and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake the bread at 150C for 4 minutes or until golden and crispy before removing from the oven and allowing the crisps to cool on a cake rack.

Use a spoon to create oval-sized portions of the beef tartar to serve onto a slice of toasted baguette and garnish with chives. Best served with a glass of beaujolais or a sparkling rosé.


Classical Dinner Party Playlist
ASO ConcerT master Kate Suthers

Bach: Goldberg Variations – Aria
Walton: Two Pieces for Strings from Henry V: No. 2
Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2: II. Adagio sostenuto
Ravel: String Quartet: I. Allegro moderato, très doux
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings: II. Valse
Korngold: Violin Concerto: II. Romance
Gershwin: Three Preludes: II. Andante con moto e poco rubato
Alistair Savage: Tunes from the River / St. Andrew’s Lament / By the Clyde / Glasgow Folk
Vaughan Williams (arr. Daniel Pioro): The Lark Ascending
Stanford: 8 Part-Songs: No.3, The Blue Bird
Bach: Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042: I. Allegro
Nicholas Hooper: Loved Ones and Leaving, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Trad. arr Danish String Quartet: Sekstur from Vendsyssel – The Peat Dance
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G: II. Adagio assai
Jessie Montgomery: Strum
Caroline Shaw: Valencia
Anna Meredith/Vivaldi: ANNO – Bloom
Stanford Bawler: The Descent, from Monument Valley


Contemporary Dinner Party Playlist
DJ Mark Kamleh

George Benson/Dr. Lonnie Smith: It’s Changed
Ahmed Malek: Bossa
Eddie Chacon: Hurt
Recloose: Deeper Waters
Kelis/Raphael Saadiq: Glow
Arthur Verocai/Azymuth: Bis
Nu Genea/Celia Kameni: Marechià
Tony Adams: India
CHIC: São Paulo
Andrew Jackman: Planes, Boats and Trains
Lucas Arruda: Kalunga
Osunlade: Crazy You
Marvin Gaye/Lord Finesse: I Want You
Khruangbin/Leon Bridges: C-Side
Surahn: Watching the World
Feist: Inside And Out
Rhye: The Fall
Beastie Boys: Song For Junior
Jordan Rakei: Wind Parade
The Juan Maclean: Running Back to You


This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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