You know how it goes. You run into a friend on a Thursday, get to chatting, and next thing you know you find yourself promising to host an intimate little dinner for 8 couples the following evening, so you can 'catch up properly'.
Cue the panic attack.
Before you claim a stomach virus so you can leave work four hours early, start slicing up the Crudités, dust the ceiling fans, and have those three pre-game cocktails to 'calm your nerves', check out our easy-peasy guide to party prep, and behold the stress-free, free-plan dinner party.
'Less is more' may be a bit of a decorating cliché, but in the case of the casual dinner party, this little phrase is your new mantra. What you want is a table setting that invites relaxation and conversation, and that usually means losing the salad forks and going ridiculously simple with the presentation.
Never underestimate the power of a bangin' bouquet to make your space look special. Plenty of little spots in Brisbane are home to gorgeous blooms that don't have to be pre-ordered. Sourced Grocer, Hawthorne Garage, The Hawthorne Pantry, and Flower Trap (in James Street Market) always have gorgeous flowers on hand so you can grab a bunch on the go and rest assured your table will look amazing.
Low lights are going to hide all the tidying you did not do before dinner. Flicking a few light switches and scattering some candles might seem naff but it's killer for disguising that pile of folding on the couch. We love the Ecoya candles at New Farm Editions, the Circa candles from Jamieson's Home and Fashion, and the Astier de Viliatte candles at Magnolia Interiors.
When it comes to hassle-free dinner-party chow that everyone is going to love, I have two little words for you: order out. (And no, it's not cheating.)
In dire, time-sensitive circumstances (read: every dinner party, ever), you can't go past a one-stop-shop that houses all your dinner party fare under one roof. And we have a few goodies that will save your life when you need food, fast.
Tognini's offers a drool-worthy selection of cheeses, deli meats, and frozen meals (don't judge—we're talking crab ravioli, amazing curries, and quiche). Pop in the day of the event and put together your own delish menu on the fly, or, better yet, let the Tognini's gang do all the hard work for you, and pre-order platters, salads, and cocktail tasters (oysters with ginger and shallots, smoked salmon and caper bruschetta, and grilled lime chilli prawns, to name just a few of their delectable offerings).
For home-style fare your guests will never guess you didn't make yourself, head to the iconic Pamela's Pantry on Caxton Street. With an extensive list of meal options available like individual and family sized pies, pad Thai, lasagne, every curry you can think of, and even such classic home cookin' as Mac'n'cheese, you can realistically take credit for this completely yummy food. Pamela also has a range of salads and desserts available to take away as well, so this really is the only stop you need to make for a three-course meal to impress. Pop it out of the tinfoil before your guests arrive, obvs.
The Rosalie Gourmet Market is a great option to swing by and nab some truly amazing dinner party fare, like an amazing selection of antipasto options, fresh breads, and a gourmet salad bar to pick just the right light meal. And, if you're organised, they can also put together a platter for you. Choose from a dips platter, a build-your-own canapé platter, French and Australian cheese platters, and even a gourmet sweets platter! Easy!
Ok, so your friends are never going to believe you made sushi. But, if you source your sushi from Fresh Sushi Co, you know it will be so fresh and tasty they won't be complaining. The gang at Fresh Sushi Co can put together a dinner party platter for you if you have time to order ahead, so you can even pull off a stand up affair on the fly.
Yes, this party food group deserves its own sub-heading. We know that suggesting pizza as a takeaway is a no brainer, but we think it's high time this King of Foods lost the footy-game-and-a-six-pack connotations and became a bona fide dinner option in its own right. Our picks of the best takeaway pizza in town have to include our Tenneriffe faves, Beccofino (who also do a mean take-away pasta and, yum, calamari). We are also loving Rosalie newbie Il Locale, who are serving up really great takeaway pizzas to the time poor on the West Side. And, of course, the always heavenly, Sugo Mi, whose pizzas hold a special place in our hearts, and are a sure bet to impress you friends.
Show stopping desserts don't need to be in the pipeline for weeks. Drop into Jocelyn's Provisions and choose from their jaw-dropping range of scrummy sweet treats, like their famous chocolate layer cake, puddings, cupcakes, chocolate ganache tarts, and chocolate roulade. Ascot's Vanilla Pod does an adorable sweet petite tarts platter, as well as cupcakes, scones, and mini lamingtons. Too cute.
Or, in the spirit of the truly Laissez-faire dinner parties, pop into your fave gelataria (ours include Gelateria Cremona in the Rosalie village, Shlix on Brunswick Street, and Quench in the James Street markets) and grab a bucket of cold creamy bliss for your nearest and dearest. Anyone who complains about gelato is not worth inviting over anyway.
Sophia is a Brisbane-loving food fan and long time Beyonce enthusiast. Since 2012 she's been a writer, editor, and professional eater for The Urban List Brisbane, where her love of punctuation and jam donuts comes together nicely.