Around The Table....With Oscar Park!

With dinner parties becoming increasingly popular, we thought we’d share some fabulous dinner party ideas with our readers.  
We look to offer top tips around hosting a party, setting the scene, dressing a table or simply greeting your guests…   
Our first guest to launch the Around The Table blog is OSCAR, GRAPHIC DESIGNER (EX CHALET HOST) 
How did you get into hosting dinner parties? I signed up to do this job which was mainly about skiing…and partying. Turns out this  job also expects you to cook, clean and generally look after these people that the company has put in your chalet with what seemed to be the sole purpose of stopping you skiing.
Before that I was a chef in a hotel in London, before that I used to have massive parties at my house. They tended to be the talk of the school for the next few weeks. Guess that was my first foray into dinner parties.
What makes a great dinner party in your home?  The little things. Keeping things stress free, so people can have a good time. Guests can tell if your stressed and then they get stressed. People don't like being stressed at the best of times and certainly not when they are eating your vol au vents.
Lighting and music are pretty key. Lighting that is sensitive to the mood - select gatherings, delicate, soft, subtle lighting. Larger parties, don't be afraid to get some sort of colourful lighting people always love a bit of a light show. Music at a dinner party is the one people often overlook in my humble opinion. Too much and people shout at each other from very close range. Say it don't spray it. Too little and and the party will have an atmosphere similar to the moon. Personally I like it when the music can't quite be heard over the burble of whatever people are engaging other people in small talk with. A neat trick that I heard was to play really heavy bassy dubstep and whatnot, but really quietly. Gives the room a gentle background noise. Heard it in posh restaurant and nearly spat out my japanese mushroom sake stew when I picked up Cockney Thug trickling out of the speakers. Rest of the diners didn't even notice.
Which five words would sum up your typical dinner party?
Beer, Meat, People, BBQ, Fun…Beer
What style do you like to go for when hosting?  Causal. Mi Casa, es su casa vibe. Low stress lots of fun. Sharing platters and getting messy, enjoying the food and company. The way we interact with food is changing and the idea of sitting down to a restaurant style starter, main, pause whilst Tim and Sandra go outside to discuss fresh marital issues that have arisen as Tim’s wine glass emptied for the 7th time, dessert is a bit pastiche and stuffy. Why try to imitate the formality of a restaurant in your home? Just go to a restaurant. They do it better, it’s their profession after all. Dinner parties are about sharing what you have, be that food, wine or stories, and the fun that comes with that. And that’s something much more valuable than what a restaurant can offer you. 
What would be the first thing you’d do when preparing for a dinner party?  Have a beer. Then marinade a big slab of meat in BBQ sauce overnight.
When setting the mood with music, which one song could you imagine being played?  
Haha, that depends on the party, but Followers Of The Beat by Goldfish is one I like at the moment
It’s quite a lively one. Some chilled African Funk is pretty good for a more chilled party
Is there a best dinner party menu you like to use?  Not really, I like to experiment when I get the chance and like to cook seasonal dishes, but this one is a tried and tested winner.  Theres a great sharing slow roast tomato, procsuttio and sour dough deconstructed bruschetta that you have to make. That usually goes down a storm and is dead simple to make.  
Slow roast shoulder of lamb in honey, rosemary, anchovies with a big salad, flat bread, loads of dips and tasty things and a big herby cous cous.
White chocolate and ginger cheese cake (this sucker can be made the day before)
A good bottle of wine…Yezzzir.
Candles or no candles?
Candles. What kind of monster doesn't like candles?
Is there a magic number around how many guests to invite?
No. More of a ratio man myself. 3:2 girls to boys seems to work well.
What would be your top tip?  
Keep it simple. Don’t use sausages or little bits of meat. They are more expensive and easier to mess up. Get some friends round earlier to help (drink wine/ beer)
Signature cocktail?  
Negroni. 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, 1 part campari, slice of orange. Perfect on a hot summer day.

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