If you’ve been to a London dinner party lately, chances are you might recognise one of these characters.
The #dreamhost (I mean, heaven)
Lettie woke at 6am to churn her famous Turkish date and rosewater gelato accompanying her mincemeat kouign-amann (soooo much more chic than mince pies). Somehow she has still had time for a mani, to direct her favourite Instaflorist’s wildflower arrangements (including individual sprigs on each linen napkin to reflect each guest’s favourite winter bloom, preference demanded on the Paperless Post invitation) and despatch venture capitalist husband Leo to pick up extra seasonal Diptyque because their Primrose Hill living room still didn’t look bloody festive enough. That was four hours ago and he’s not back yet. But never mind! Because Wolfie and Egg, her tousled-blond five-year-old twins, are trussed up in the sweetest matching Caramel corduroy pinafores, ready to hand out the oven-fresh mini Welsh rarebits with quail eggs, the ingredients of which came from favourite local organic greengrocer Tony — expensive, but he just gets in the best produce. Guests have the most fabulous time, according to Instagram (Lettie DMs everyone the next day to ask them to PLEASE tag the florist as they’re getting shirty about the discount). A shame Leo was called off to New York at short notice though.
The yuletide yogi
A non-denominational wreath made of twigs and old leaves (and an accidental fox poo) guides Leonora’s guests to her Crystal Palace maisonette, as does the stench of cranberry incense that’s been burning since noon. Most people are actually followers from reiki Twitter who she’s meeting in person for the first time tonight, so she’s prepared a speed poetry challenge on the theme of ‘dreams’ as an icebreaker — much needed, given that this is an alcohol-free event (Leonora’s pine-infused silver birch tea is equally festive, and no sore heads tomorrow!).Unfortunately it turns out that although Sula writes amazing haikus about the healing power of forgiveness online, IRL she has very, very strong opinions about crystals, which cause Nigel from her breathwork class to, somewhat ironically, choke on his vegan rainbow pie. Thankfully Leonora’s reiki teacher is on hand to hover his hands over Nigel’s throat chakra, although it’s actually Sula’s accountant boyfriend Chris’s Heimlich manoeuvre that averts party disaster. A quick namaste led by Willow, a ban on crystal chat and Chris’s dash to the corner shop for four bottles of Blossom Hill and some frozen pizzas puts the evening back on track.
The baby boozers
‘Shhhh!’ hisses Bea as she yanks her guests inside, thrusts a pint glass of mulled negroni into their hands and eases their creaking Walthamstow Victorian terrace front door closed. ‘Joni and Dylan have just gone to sleep but we’re eating in the kitchen so we can smoke and you can stay as long as you want. Til 3am if you like!’ Tom’s upstairs rolling some cheeky joints for later, having ensured there are at least four bottles of unfiltered Prosecco and Beaujolais chilling in the fridge, with another six of Pinot within arm’s length on the counter. Since Joni started teething and with the stress over Dylan’s lazy eye, they haven’t had time to put up Christmas decorations yet, unless you count the variously stained muslin cloths draped over the chairs. Nor have they actually started cooking the free-range Lidl venison haunch, so the first three hours consist mainly of triple-strength gin and tonics and hunks of old Parmesan chopped with increasing unpredictability by Tom until he actually stabs his finger a little bit. By the time the ragu is ready at 11pm, Tom and Bea have dragged everyone into the overgrown garden to drink whisky sours and wear cracker crowns to reminisce about their mental early 20s party days as they stare into the ochre London night sky.
Christ, dinner parties and Christmas are such a f***ing liberal elite wankerfest of a concept. What are we, Tony and Cherie f***ing Blair with personalised mugshot Christmas cards? But after Zee overheard her Bristol Uni mates Milly and Cassie bitching at their last get-together about her lack of hospitality, she thought she’d show them by offering to do the Christmas party. The only thing is, she was like, busy? In her job as a freelance ecopolitical docublogger? So yeah, it’s Domino’s for dinner, guys, unless anyone is like, too hideously bourgeoise for that? Good. There’s own-brand vodka and Coke in the fridge if you want a drink — though I suppose we could open the bottle of Louis Roederer that Theo brought, given it’s ‘Christmas’. The only decorations are a Poundland string of fairy lights, 11 out of 16 of which are not working and which during pudding (a Hotel Chocolat gift box brought by Hugo) will blow the fuse, plunging the Brixton new build Zee’s parents bought for her into darkness. Obviously there are no candles or torch, and Milly sprains her ankle on her way to the loo. Zee never hosts again.
The Snow Rangers
Carlos and his third wife Niki host a crystal-cut fabulous party every year at their Notting Hill townhouse. Six Cellar Society waiters are lined up in the entrance hall with flutes of Krug; the dress code on the calligraphed cream invitations suggested lounge suits and cocktail dresses, although Carlos is inevitably sockless in furry Gucci loafers and Niki is in a full-on floral brocade gown. The giant Christmas tree in the dining room is decorated with live candles, which seems ill-advised given Carlos’s rather unpredictable movements since the third trip to the bathroom before the amuse bouches are cleared. Guests include a charity executive, a TV breakfast show presenter, two music producers on gardening leave following a totally out-of-proportion #MeToo scandal, and at least four people indirectly and directly responsible for Brexit. And their wives. The a capella choir who featured in the last film Carlos executively produced starts up with ‘Silent Night’ in between the foie gras-stuffed beef Wellington and the palate cleanser vodka sorbet, but most of the guests are too busy enjoying the snow to pay attention.
The over-Anxious prepper
Louise has been planning this Christmas dinner for weeks, waking with a jolt at 2am to jot down notes (‘is marzipan gluten-free???’) and cancelling her own birthday party in order to pore over Good Housekeeping guides to casual seating plans. She’s spent last month’s salary on three different organic joints of meats with two veggie options (there’s actually only one vegetarian, but you never know), with additional options in case anyone turns out to have a nut, gluten and/or dairy allergy. One of the fridge shelves has broken under the weight of mixers she’s bought just in case anyone doesn’t want the red wine, white wine, champagne, whisky, beer or cider housed in ice buckets around the room. When the first guests arrive to the sound of her curated six-hour Christmas playlist, she has been in the kitchen since 3am but she’s totally fine, ha ha! Spiced Moroccan feta cigar, anyone? I made them so they’re probably not very good, ha ha, turns out Ottolenghi’s Simple isn’t as simple as it seems! Everyone has a brilliant boozy time, leaving stuffed and carrying thoughtful personalised gifts selected for each of them — apart from Louise, who never actually had time to change out of her dressing gown and spent the entire evening in the kitchen swigging from an old bottle of Tia Maria.
The waif and stray welcomer
So the thing is, everyone loves Jez. He’s such a teddy bear, so sweet and considerate, and such a great cook — his annual salted caramel croquembouche is legendary. But the other thing is, he’s also quite trusting, and likes taking in waifs and strays. Last time Jez hosted ‘a quiet dinner’, that bloke he fancied from the pub nicked his MacBook, smeared Stilton on the Sonos and managed to make lovely Ange from his book group cry. Two Christmases ago, poor Jez had to have his whole flat deep-cleaned after a hideous incident involving the lady with the facial tattoo he met volunteering at Crisis, two jars of goose fat and the jelly from the Delia Smith trifle (and his iPad got nicked). So guests this year are apprehensive when they turn up to Jez’s lovely Bermondsey warehouse conversion, where the gentle strains of Christmas carols are wafting from the new Sonos. Repeat guests eye the newbies suspiciously over the spiced quail, like they’re playing an Agatha Christie murder mystery game. But what’s this? Everyone seems… normal? Doctors and IT consultants and solicitors the lot of them? It’s a Christmas miracle! Then someone joking-not-jokingly suggests strip poker, and well…
Illustrations by joe McLaren