Tips for throwing a French dinner party
PUBLISHED: 11:39 29 February 2012
Fine-dining expert Fred Sirieix shares his tips for throwing a successful French dinner party...
The French are renowned for their art de la table and, as an award-winning maître d’, Fred Sirieix – who co-hosted the BBC2 series Michel Roux’s Service with the Michelin-starred chef – knows the value of an elegant table setting for turning a mere meal into a fine dining experience. It may sound obvious but small touches can make all the difference: “A table cloth, nice porcelain plates, flowers and candles,” he says.
For the aperitif, Sirieix suggests serving champagne accompanied by canapés. “It’s always a great way to start. Serve them on a tray and pass them around maison bourgeoise style. As the host, you should always make your guests feel at ease, especially when serving tricky-to-eat foods such as artichoke or lobster. “Use your fingers first if appropriate,” he adds. When it comes to the cuisine, Sirieix, who has previously worked at acclaimed restaurants such as Le Gavroche and Brasserie Roux, suggests keeping it simple: “If your guests like oysters, get them to help you open them and serve them with shallot vinegar for a starter. Alternatively, serve warmed goat’s cheese with a mixed salad and walnut oil dressing.” He recommends gratin dauphinois as part of the main course as it can be cooked in the morning and then reheated later. “Do match the wine with the food,” he says, “but think about what your guests would prefer. That’s what it’s all about.” If you’re hosting French-style, serve the cheese course before the dessert. Again, simplicity is the key. “Serve Roquefort and Saint-Nectaire with a side salad, bread and crackers,” says Sirieix. “For dessert, go for something light such as sliced pineapple with coconut ice cream.”
When it comes to conversation, which topics does he deem off limits? “Politics,” he replies. “But, then again, who knows?”
Fred Sirieix is the general manager at Galvin at Windows, at the London Hilton on Park Lane. He is the creator of The Art of Service, a training tool for restaurant owners. See www.theartofservice.co.uk