Whilst my friends were splurging on at-home fitness equipment, running trainers and baking gadgets during lockdown, I spent a horrifying amount of money on paisley tablecloths from Alice Naylor-Leyland, condiment holders from eBay and vintage candelabras from a sweet old man in Paris via Etsy. Despite not being able to actually host any friends, I was forward planning and it looks like it paid off; with restaurants forced to close at 10pm, hosting at home is the new eating out.
Laura Jackson, supperclub aficionado, much-loved hostess and founder of Hoste, agrees. Laura launched Hoste, the food and lifestyle brand, to bring the joy back into hosting and entertaining through the vessel of food and her #makeamealofit movement took Instagram (and my Etsy shopping cart) by storm during lockdown. The simple idea of laying the table, lighting a dinner candle and making mealtimes ceremonious really resonated with people from all over the world and resulted in thousands of people taking part.
I avidly followed her posts, devouring her decor inspo and hosting tips to emulate in my own kitchen. It’s handy, then, that she’s teamed up with Restaurant Kits, the new to market e-commerce site which specialises in delivering signature dish and drink kits from the UK’s most loved independent restaurants, chefs and personalities, nationwide. Laura’s ‘Make A Meal Of It’ Hoste Boxes collab kicks off with the Friendsgiving offering, which is a delicious meal for two plus all the tabelscaping essentials you need to, you know, make a meal of it. It really takes all the faff out of hosting so you can spend more time eating and drinking. Hurrah!
To mark the launch, I grilled Laura on her best hosting tips so you can make a meal of it with your loved ones (only 5 of them, please) this season.
How did you get into the art of hosting and tablescaping?
I think it happened so organically – setting the table has always been something I have done from an early age at home. I also studied events management at university and worked for an events company as my university placement. Tablescaping, a phrase not yet coined, was something we did for every dining event. From flowers, to the way the napkins were folded – the table decor was a huge part of every event.
What have been the benefits of doing it through lockdown that others can benefit from?
It’s been a great way to punctuate the day for me – setting the table and enjoying dinner. It’s really lovely to lay the table, it’s quite a ceremonious exercise that I take great joy in doing – and it’s nice to be at the table phone-free!
What are the basics of hosting?
For me the basics of a dinner party are great company, delicious food, some wine and a fun playlist! Themes can be anything from films, cuisine or occasions. I love Italian nights and a fondue evenings!
What are the 5 most essential things you need for a cracking tablescape?
A candle, napkins, cutlery, wine glasses, water glasses – and a table cloth but that’s not essential!
What are 3 quirky things you can do when hosting to make your night stand out?
Personalising the table – fun salt and pepper pots, place settings and name cards and having a bright and colourful fun tablecloth. (Laura has also launched a collection of thoughtful, little touches, like hosting books, recipe cards, and menus with Papier).
If we can only have 6 people over for Christmas, how can we make it a day to remember?
Set the table and go all out for 6, champagne cocktails, canapés and Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Have a great sound track for the day ready, from mornings opening presents to something more festive at dinner then party tunes for after. Get creative with some fun games for after dinner too – with espresso martinis. Make bespoke crackers for the table with personalised gifts for everyone – I do this every year and it’s always a winner.