I live in a one bedroom apartment with my fiancé. We love it – it has great views, it’s close to the beach and there a couple of friendly street cats who pop in when they feel like it (aka they’re hungry). But, it also has a tiny kitchen and lounge. This doesn’t stop us from having regular dinner parties though, and since our friends keep coming back we think they enjoy the experience as much as we do. These are some of things we’ve learned along the way.
This sounds obvious I know but I really can’t stress it enough. Having a plan for each of your courses, having all of the ingredients ready (something I still can’t quite manage to do!) and making sure you have enough wine/beer/soda (actually having more than you think will be enough is always a good idea) makes your life so much easier and allows you to relax and enjoy the time with your guests.
Another aspect of being prepared is to prep as much of the food as possible. My fiancé jokes that I make more mess in the kitchen than a bomb because when I finish cooking a meal nearly every dish has been used, there’s a pile of tea towels on the floor and the walls are splattered with a rainbow of drops. Since our kitchen is tiny, the mess looks so much worse than it is (or so I tell him). So, the more I can get chopped, mixed and cooked before our guests arrive the less mess they have to see. Plus it gives me an air of being extremely organised and sophisticated.
Finally, we try to ensure that our lounge is as tidy as possible before our guests arrive. This includes clearing as many of the surfaces as we can as it makes the space appear bigger, and also gives us more room to put candles, flowers and drinks out.
Keep things simple
When we’re entertaining we gravitate towards dishes that can be made ahead and reheated, or that can be left to cook unattended and served up when we’re ready. In fall and winter we use our slow cooker a lot to make stews, chilli’s, soups and curries and, in spring and summer we do a lot of grilling. Both of these methods are great for entertaining as they don’t take up a lot of space and keep you relatively free to socialise. In terms of dessert we choose simple, no fuss recipes that can be made earlier in the day and then whipped out impressively after dinner. On a cold day we might make a fruit pie or a crisp, and in the warmer months a cake or mousse with fresh fruit.
As much as we would love to have a big group of friends round, we know that we can’t comfortably fit more than 6 people in our lounge – and that is a stretch. So, if it’s someone’s birthday we will meet them at a restaurant or bar rather than trying to have a party here. Also, because of space restrictions we try to invite only couples that are already friends, or that we know will get on. It would be difficult to avoid any awkward silences or lulls in conversation when you’re all in the same small room.
As our lounge is so tiny we don’t even have a dining room table – we normally just eat off the coffee table while sitting on the couch. But, when we have guests over we try to be a little more civilised so this has led to us coming up with some creative solutions to the lack of available space. For example, if it’s a warm, calm evening we’ll put a blanket on our front lawn and have a picnic regardless of what we’re eating.
If it’s not suitable for eating outside we try to brighten the place up as much as possible to ensure it feels welcoming and cosy rather than cramped. We place freshly picked flowers around the place and open some of the windows. Towards dusk we dot candles around the room, and put brightly coloured blankets over the couches.
On one memorable occasion we had a ‘Moroccan themed’ dinner party. We picked up some red and purple fabric and draped it over couches, and also bought some large cushions which we placed in a circle on the floor. We served a beef and apricot stew on cous cous, and red wine poached pears for dessert. We were worried the novelty of sitting and eating on the floor might wear off over the night but everyone had a great time!
I hope these tips have provided you with a little inspiration to entertain no matter where you live. With a little preparation and ingenuity you can create a cosy, intimate space and have a great time!
By Pippa Vague