a search for the uncommonly beautiful

Entertaining with Claire Delmar

Food and drink, family and friends, and an endless flow of good conversation – these are the basic ingredients of a memorable dinner party. We spoke to stylist Claire Delmar on how she pulls off a flawless and fun-filled gathering.

What is the best dinner party you’ve ever been to? 

We have a wood fire oven at my parents’ holiday house north of Sydney. There is nothing better than making fresh dough and then getting all your friends to select their own pizza toppings. We often get very competitive! Good wine and company – you can’t beat it.

Why is gathering around a table important to you?

Memories of childhood. My mother instilled in all her three girls a love of food and flavours and always experimenting. I once bought an inspector gadget extendable arm for my dad as a joke because he used to always steal food off our plates if we were too slow. I blame him now for bad indigestion as I eat so fast to ensure I don’t miss out – a big no-no if you ever visit a health retreat.

What kind of vibe do you try to create when you’re entertaining?

Relaxed – I know it might sound like a strange comment as a stylist, but I try to avoid things looking too styled. There is something beautiful in the casual and unexpected. Also a warning, you don’t get invited back if you go to too much trouble as people feel pressured to return the favour and feel overwhelmed with keeping up with expectations.

"There is something beautiful in the casual and unexpected."

Do you have any essentials for an eye-catching tablescape? 

Working with multiples of one shape or form is an easy way to create impact. I also consider different heights and always consider guests sitting opposite each other. There is nothing worse than trying to have a conversation over or through a vase.

When it comes to place settings, do you lean towards the formal or informal?

Informal always – that said, I use formal elements in the mix like Christofle spoons or a beautiful decanter but I tend not to have everything matching.

Are there any décor details that might be overlooked but can really set the mood?

I believe lighting is more important than the decorations and the food to create the mood but plate shape can also take a starring role. If a plate feels awkward to eat from, like the sides are too high so you are hitting your dinner partner with your elbows as you are cutting your meal, it’s not a good look!

What is your go-to dish for summer? 

Trout – I could eat it three times a day.

And for winter?

Curry or anything Asian that is warm and large.

Can you share the recipe for your cocktail of choice?

Gin and tonic, perhaps some cucumber – I’m simple and boring! I tend to prefer a good Pinot Noir.

What’s the easiest way to put guests at ease and get the conversation going?

Champagne, obviously, or any alcohol!

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what’s your favourite Armadillo rug to have beneath a dining table?

I’m in love with all of the Heirloom Collection’s rich muted colours, and the texture underfoot. I always spec them for clients because they are forever rugs.

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