Professional diplomats tell us which wine to serve, what food to cook, and how to keep the conversation flowing
Planning a party is hard work - and pulling it off is even harder. But London’s most distinguished diplomats do just that, week after week.
With that in mind, we asked them for what they’d serve at the ultimate dinner party. They didn’t disappoint.
Lobster and Skyr
HE Mr Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson, Icelandic ambassador to the UK
“Hosting a dinner party is a good way to reflect on what you represent. Gender balance, in terms of the guest, is very important. It’s more conducive to an interesting dinner.
“We’d serve Icelandic lamb, or maybe lobster tails. Then skyr – which is a kind of yoghurt, a cheese actually – for dessert. We don’t boast of good wines in Iceland.”
Roast goose and wine
HE Mr Lubomír Rehák, ambassador of Slovakia to the UK
“It’s important to have a story behind your food. We like to serve Slovak cuisine: in the autumn, that means roasted goose or duck with with potato pancakes called lokše, and red cabbage stewed in caramel.
“We’ll always eat serve wine with dinner, too. There’s a Slovakian saying: ‘Let’s have a glass of wine, or else the goose might think it’s been swallowed by a dog.’”
Modern Scandi fare
HE Mr Lars Thuesen, ambassador of Denmark to the UK
“Every dinner should be bespoke, so I sit down with the chef ahead of time to plan it. It all depends on who is coming - some people expect traditional Danish cuisine, others are looking for something more modern.
”Hygge is important to us. It’s a special atmosphere of cosiness. It’s about being relaxed, feeling at home. That’s what I try and transfer into our dinner parties at the Embassy, because it’s always helpful when things aren’t too stuffy.”
Rustic bread and fig liqueur
HE Mr Joseph Cole, high commissioner of the Republic of Malta to the UK
“The host should know their guests properly. And I don’t just mean by name or by face, I mean also a little bit about their backgrounds. Their religion, their traditions and customs, whether they drink alcohol or not.
“I’d serve Maltese dishes, such as bread with tomatoes and olives. There is a particular Maltese liqueur which is an extract of the prickly pear tree, along with the nectar from figs, which is very good.”
HE Mrs Janice Charette, Canada’s high commissioner to the UK
“At the risk of sounding clichéd, you’d be crazy to host a dinner party during the ice hockey playoffs. You run a pretty decent risk that no-one will show, or else you’ll have to move a TV into the dining room.
“Diversity is important. Nothing brings a conversation to a shuddering halt like a bunch of people who agree on everything. Finally, serve Canada’s icewines – grapes picked on the night of the first frost and made into a phenomenal dessert wine.”
A French gastronomic meal
HE Mr Jean-Pierre Jouyet, French Ambassador to the UK
“You should always have somebody leading the table, instead of people chatting individually with their neighbours. Select an issue which everyone is happy to talk about, then help people feel at ease and encourage everybody to chip in.
“As for the food, there’s a famous Talleyrand quote that goes ‘Give me a good chef, I’ll give you good treaties’, but that applies even when treaties aren’t involved. We have something called ’The Gastronomic Meal of the French’, and that’s what we’d serve.”
Honey wine and pear brandy
HE Mr Tadej Rupel, ambassador of Slovenia to the UK
“Choose tastes your guests are not familiar with. We pay attention to digestifs, such as viljamovka, which is a pear brandy where the pear is grown inside the bottle, on the tree. It’s very picturesque.
“We also serve honey wine - Slovenia is often described as the heart and soul of beekeeping in Europe. Every 200th Slovenian citizen is a beekeeper. So there’s always delicious Slovenian honey, and honey sparkling wine, which isn’t very common elsewhere.”
Cardamom and saffron tea
HE Mr Said Tayeb Jawad, ambassador of Afghanistan to the UK
“It is not only what is on the table that matters, but also what’s around the table. Food is always splendid at an ambassador dinner - so, the focus should be on the guests and the table chart.
“A good Afghan dinner would not be complete without good tea, made with Cardamom and Saffron.”
Steak, Malbec & `Dulce de leche´
HE Mr Renato Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, Argentinian ambassador to the UK
“I like to give our guests a taste of Argentina. It is about making them travel to our land through their senses.
“The first treat is a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza at the reception, along some empanadas. Followed by our most simple and effective dish: a special cut of Argentine beef combined with our reds, specially Malbec, and good company. The last stop includes desserts where `Dulce de leche´ is the key ingredient, such as `alfajores´ or crème caramel.”
Plenty of coffee
HE Dr Hailemichael Aberra Afework, Ethiopian ambassador to the UK
“Ethiopian food is very unique – we serve rich spicy stews and vegetables full of flavour on a base called injera, a spongy pancake-like flatbread, which is our national dish. Must-haves on the menu include: Shiro (chickpea stew) or Misir Wat (red lentil stew), Doro-Wot (spicy chicken stew) and meat.
“An Ethiopian dinner would not be complete without a traditional coffee ceremony, which is regarded as a sign of respect and friendship. It’s tradition to drink three cups in one single sitting.”
Fresh seafood and healthy sides
HE The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand High Commissioner to the UK
“We don’t really go for dinner parties in New Zealand. It’s a much more relaxed environment, when you’re getting people to come round to the house. One thing with New Zealanders, and I think it’s the same with Australians, is if you say to them ‘Drop around whenever you want’, that is a genuine invitation, instead of just a nicety.
“Our dinner parties tend to be a little more relaxed, though. We’d serve a mix - if we’re having a fish main, the starter would be something different. And we’d want it to be something with a semblance of being healthy, not too heavy a meal.”
(Images: Getty, Shutterstock)