How to host a party like the pros

Partying at Madame Brussels in Melbourne.
Partying at Madame Brussels in Melbourne. Photo: Simon Schluter

We love to ask industry pros for their tips on how to throw a party, and they always oblige, but with what we suspect is some PG-rated advice. This year we asked them to ditch the delicacy and dish on the best party they ever threw. Not everything here can – or should – be tried at home, but, there's some truly bankable party wisdom.

Gerald Diffey, Gerald's Bar

This is the man behind Melbourne institution Gerald's Bar, and its outpost in San Sebastian, places where your drink is never empty and no one is lonely unless they want to be.

The party

It was a 30th-birthday party infiltrated by some of the world's top chefs, visiting town for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Why this party? "All the best ones are impromptu," says Diffey. "This was one of those times where you gained critical mass – everyone showed up and made their own fun, like children.

You had Peter Serpico (Momofuku) trying to hula hoop on the median strip. Someone in a sparkly dress turned into a human mirror ball dancing on the bar and Massimo Bottura (from one of the world's best restaurants, Osteria Francescana) presented her with a napkin promising free dinner for two at his restaurant any time." [Editor's note: that voucher was faithfully redeemed.]

The menu

Gussy-up your devilled eggs with caviar, Gerald Diffey suggests.
Gussy-up your devilled eggs with caviar, Gerald Diffey suggests. Photo: Peter Rae

There was the whole salt-baked ocean trout. That's where the whole fish is baked in salt meringue, then you crack it open and it stays really moist. We served that with a lemon aioli. I think we did jerk quail too, marinated in a Jamaican jerk paste of allspice and scotch bonnets peppers, cumin and coriander all mashed up. Most of it was finger food, no cutlery required, which is key.

There was duck liver parfait, and a whole pig's head poached in a court bouillon for about two hours and kept in the oven with the heat turned up until it got a suntan. This had a necklace of blood sausages to make into sandwiches. And devilled eggs with Olasagasti anchovies.

Drink on arrival: negronis, and the champagne and cava were flowing because it was a balmy Melbourne night. There were mini Fernet Brancas too, which are essential, I think.

Advertisement

Rules of engagement

■ Don't keep anyone waiting. Stick a drink in their hand as soon as they walk through the door and have a nibble to stick under their nose 10 minutes after that.

■ If people turn up early and they don't know anyone, befriend them in some way, introduce them around. Keep a full drink in their hand. That's just good hospitality.

Diffey at his Melbourne bar, Gerald's.
Diffey at his Melbourne bar, Gerald's. Photo: Drew Ryan

■ I don't let people determine what the music is going to be. If you're in my bar you're going to get soul, funk, the classics, then also some garage and punk when people want to get moving. Otherwise they'll put on REM and people will stop drinking and start crying.

■ I think the key is to have an amount of control but don't dominate. Set the scene and then let it go where it's going to go. You can't force parties upon people, but you can grease the wheels.

■ Keep the room neat and tidy – I don't like to see plates and glasses. There's constant gardening. Because if you've set the playing field, people will respect that. If you can't walk without sticking to the carpet, people won't worry about tipping their drink on the floor.

Prawn cocktail (right) at Madame Brussels.
Prawn cocktail (right) at Madame Brussels. Photo: Simon Schluter

Devilled eggs

1. Boil a dozen eggs for 10 minutes, cool in cold water and peel (under water is easiest).

2. Half lengthwise and scoop out yolk.

3. Mix the yolks with two tablespoons of mayonnaise (home-made is best, or Kewpie wasabi), half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, six shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a half tablespoon of dijon mustard, a cracking of black pepper, and a drizzle of sherry vinegar.

Monty Koludrovic of Icebergs in Sydney.
Monty Koludrovic of Icebergs in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

4. Mix or blitz to a smooth paste, put in piping bag and pipe into egg white cups.

5. Pile 'em high. Cross with Olasagasti anchovy fillets or salmon roe or beluga caviar, depending on your budget.

6. Bob's your uncle. More champagne, vicar?

Koludrovic's Bo Sammy is like a cross between Korean pork belly bo ssam (pictured) and tuna poke.
Koludrovic's Bo Sammy is like a cross between Korean pork belly bo ssam (pictured) and tuna poke. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Makes 24

Monty Koludrovic, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar

Maurice Terzini's mini-empire of good-time venues needs proper food to sustain the party vibes and Monty Koludrovic is a chef who can deliver. Executive chef across Sydney's Icebergs, the Dolphin and Bondi Beach Public Bar, Koludrovic is well-versed in the art of serving the right food at the right moment – the key to any party's success, really.

The party

A sauna negroni from Madame Brussels.
A sauna negroni from Madame Brussels. Photo: Simon Schluter

I was a part of so many incredible parties when I lived in London. The best one was in 2003 and it was the first time I had experienced a London spring. There's something about that first weekend of spring in London that makes everyone lose their mind. My flatmate Soren and I threw a little garden party in the communal area of our apartment block. We set it up to be a mature, responsible party with nice tables, fish and salad, however it turned into a whole-building party that went for more than 12 hours. There was tabletop dancing and three or four trips to the off-license for illegal acquisition of more booze. I remember poking my fingers through the off-license letterbox hole and saying "it's me again!".

The menu

I absolutely loved the smoked mackerel from Portobello Road markets and we served it with a jersey royal potato salad. We also made an amazing frisee, witlof and shallot salad with a David Thompson dressing. Soren was working at Nahm at the time so we always had a pantry full of incredible Thompson Thai dressings and pastes.

Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael.
Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. Photo: James Brickwood

Rules of engagement

■ Make sure your neighbours are on board. Nothing ruins a party like the cops arriving or the neighbours hating you for eternity. You also don't want to be in that situation where you genuinely care about your neighbours being upset, but your mates don't, so you also end up not liking your mates any more. Even pay your neighbours off if you have to – whatever needs to be done.

■ These are kind of life tips as well, but make sure you drink lots of water, wear sunscreen and have enough booze on hand to see you through the party. As funny as it is to say you need to do another booze run, no one really likes doing it, and it means you don't have the chance to curate a drinks list to its full potential.

Paul Carmichael's 'Take a Sweet Moment' cocktail.
Paul Carmichael's 'Take a Sweet Moment' cocktail. Photo: Ryan Stuart

Summertime Bo Sammy

It can be lot of fun for guests to build their own snacks. Use what's available, in season or just your favourite ingredients. Don't be held back by cuisine-styles and stuffy old rules. Have fun and aim for combination of raw, cooked, fermented, crunchy, soft, salty, sweet and hot deliciousness.

INGREDIENTS

2kg pork belly

salt and ground white pepper

2kg good raw fish, such as tuna, diced

1 daikon, peeled and diced

1 bunch chives

500ml hot chilli sauce

100ml extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon, lime or orange

6 bird's eye chillies, minced

200ml rice wine vinegar

300g small cucumbers, thinly sliced

500g cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

4 hass avocados, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

1 small tub kimchi

​6 endive, washed and leaves separated

4 baby gem lettuce, washed and leaves separated

1 bunch mint, washed and trimmed

1 bunch basil, washed and trimmed

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Score pork belly and roast on a rack until tender – approximately 90 minutes depending on thickness. Allow to cool to room temperature and cut into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Mix raw fish with the daikon, chives and pinch each of salt and pepper. Dress with a small splash of olive oil and transfer to a serving bowl.

3. Divide chilli sauce into four large ramekins or cereal bowls. Top with olive oil and citrus juice and liberally fleck with salt and pepper but do not mix ingredients together. This is your dressing.

4. Combine minced chilli and rice vinegar. This can be served on the side or used to dress the cucumbers.

5. Arrange all remaining vegetables, herbs and kimchi on a collection of plates or large platter. The deal is to grab a lettuce leaf, line it with herbs and fill with tuna or pork. Garnish with vegetables or kimchi, dip once in a dressing and eat.

Serves 20

New season potato and garlic salad with chives

For me this recipes harks back to the start of summer in London when people are coming back to life, thawing out and learning to smile again. It's amazing with smoked mackerel, sausages, cold roast chicken, cricket, beer, wine and music.

INGREDIENTS

3kg small young potatoes, washed

stalks from 1 bunch of mint

2 bulbs new season garlic

salt and ground white pepper

250ml extra virgin olive oil

2 bunch chives, finely sliced

1 tbsp good French mustard

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

METHOD

1. Place potatoes, garlic and mint stalks into a tight-fitting pot. Cover with water, season liberally with salt and poach until tender. Be careful not to boil them.

2. Strain potatoes and garlic, discard the mint stalks and water. Transfer garlic cloves into a bowl and mash them with mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and whisk into a dressing.

3. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and vigorously mix. A few split potatoes here and there will only enhance your salad. Transfer to a salad bowl and cover with chives.

Serves 10

Miss Pearls, Madame Brussels

Miss Pearls is the madame in residence at garden party bar Madame Brussels in Melbourne's CBD, where the shorts are short, the whites are crisp and the days and Pimms are long.

The party

A few years back we threw Madame Brussels' Aphrodisiac party. There was an oyster-shucker dressed in nothing but a knife-proof abbatoir glove. Secretly we closed off the parlour and super-heated it, creating a negroni-drenched sauna. In the background, Donna Summer moaned I Feel Love, and we collaged together eye-candy scenes from every film that ever mixed sex with food. A plus plus-sized life-model reclined on our chaise-longue, peeling grapes. A well-known Melbourne restaurateur went home without his shoes and scarf.

The menu

We set up a banquet table on our outdoor terrace, and mounded it up with lavish platters of grapes, whole hams, pomegranates, figs, and with cumquat trees. Before the installation was demolished, staff created a tableau vivant of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, then everyone hoed in! Our guests were able to dunk strawberries or whatever into a luscious chocolate fountain, and waiters circulated with dishes of quivering little saveloy sausages, and martini glasses heaped with prawn cocktail concoctions. The mess afterwards was somewhat bothersome.

For less orgiastic parties, poached chicken sandwiches on white bread with real mayo and butter always make a good start to a soiree to help line the tummy. I love a good croquembouche (a profiterole tower). Cracking off a crunchy ball full of cream drives me insane. I can't cook a croquembouche, so I tend to leave this to a pastry expert.

Rules of engagement

■ Have something wonderful or bizarre hidden around every corner, so that guests are rewarded by exploring.

■ Schedule pop-up events – at least three – through the party, so that people keep getting surprised.

■ Make sure you have strong and whacky theme, so everyone can go all-out, adopt a character, and get involved.

■ Have a cheese table with cheese at gooey room temperature.

Sauna negroni

INGREDIENTS

1 measure 4 Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin

1 measure Campari

1 measure Maidenii sweet red vermouth

METHOD

1. Stir over ice in an old-fashioned glass tumbler.

2. Garnish with a slice of fresh red chilli.

Paul Carmichael, Momofuku Seiobo

Within seconds of meeting the perennially smiling Paul Carmichael you just know he's the kind of bloke who would be a hoot to party with. In addition to possessing the best hair in the business, the Barbados-born executive chef of Sydney's Momofuku Seiobo also knows a thing or two about making people happy with big, bold flavours.

The party

The best party I've ever been part of was the James Beard [food awards] after-party at my old New York restaurant, Momofuku Ma Peche in 2013. It was pretty freaking epic with loads of people getting loose across three levels. We were underground, which meant everyone could be as loud they wanted without worrying about noise complaints.

The menu

I was the only person cooking that night and did a crayfish that was really messy with a lot of sauce. There was also lots of fried chicken. Mountains of it. It wasn't food that was easy to eat, but no one cared and it was a lot fun watching people in suits and expensive dresses not be able to resist fried chicken and crayfish. It doesn't matter if food is too messy at a party – if it's good, people will get stuck in regardless.

Rules of engagement

■ Everything can't be little pop-and-go style food. That gets annoying. Sometimes people are really hungry, so you want to have a few substantial things. You also need to make sure there are enough places people can put their food down between bites if they're standing up and have a drink going at the same time.

■ If it's a casual party at home, just cook whatever you feel comfortable with and you know will taste good. I'll do something that's not too labour-intensive so I can hang out too. Any big piece of meat such as pork chops or lamb. Prawns too. I would try to do everything on the grill so you're not stuffing around with load of pans.

■ Looks are one thing but, more importantly, you want it to be tasty food. Something cravable that makes you immediately want serving. Sometimes that comes in the for something that's humble, warm and goopy, like a curry.

■ As far as booze goes, I'm a big cocktail guy, so I reckon having something pre-batched is vital. The negroni is perfect because it's easy, stable and tasty. Also have a bottle of whisky lying around, some gin, soda, tonic and loads of ice. And maybe some [bitter artichoke-based amaro] Cynar. I love that stuff.

'Take a Sweet Moment'

Pre-batch the Cynar and Aperol to save time later if you like. This cocktail is low in alcohol so you can drink a few of them.

INGREDIENTS

45ml Cynar

45ml Aperol

soda

lime juice and wedge to garnish

METHOD

1. Pour Cynar and Aperol over ice in a tall glass.

2. Give a good squeeze of lime and top with soda. Garnish with lime wedge.

Curried Prawns

Combines the two all-time great party hits that are prawns and curry into the one delicious dish.

INGREDIENTS

24 curry leaves

¼ cup grapeseed oil

3 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp white pepper

6 tbsp Keens curry powder

2 cloves garlic, grated

3 french shallots, diced

8 tbsp butter

3 tbsp oyster sauce

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sugar

½ tbsp sweet soy

1 long red chilli, thinly sliced

12 large green prawns, de-veined

lime juice, to taste

METHOD

1. Fry curry leaves in grapeseed oil over medium heat until crisp. About 1 minute. Reserve

2. Over medium heat, dry toast black and white pepper for 1 minute. Add the curry powder and continue to toast for another minute. Set aside.

3. Sweat the garlic and shallots in butter over low heat for 8 mins. Raise the heat to medium and add the reserved curry mixture, the curry leaves and all the remaining ingredients except lime juice and prawns. Taste and season if necessary.

4. Season prawns to taste, brush with oil and grill for 2 minutes on each side. Over medium heat, toss prawns with curry mixture and adjust with lime juice to taste. Serve.