Planning a Retro Dinner Party

Some people might run away in horror at the thought of some of the great dishes from the 1970’s or 1980’s, but I cannot disagree more. There is something comforting about taking a delicious dish, your mum used to make and turning it into a dinner party special.

You might want to create the whole picture including all aspects of an era gone by and or just want to pick out some elements of retro food to add a little nostalgia to the evening.

I myself belong to the latter category, but occasionally I have gone for the full Retro dinner party for special celebrations. On these occasions, the evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all, especially those that had decided to dress up accordingly and come armed with 12″ vinyl.

The Full Retro Atmosphere

This could be a lot of fun to plan and your friends will thoroughly enjoy preparing themselves if you let them know in advance. Make sure you have some music from your era as this is the sure fire way to get everyone in the mood.


This is really down to what you fancy, but here are a few ideas to think about. Fizzy drinks could include Pomagne or Babycham, but there are also many retro cocktails to choose from. The Harvey Wall-Banger was very popular (champagne and orange juice with a shot of Galliano floating on the top) as was the Sidecar (Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and brandy), but you may just want to have beers available (unfortunately the classic Party 7’s are no longer made) or wine. Think Mateus, Mateus Rose or Black Tower (I have noticed that many supermarkets are selling Mateus again).

Other drinks to consider (just jogging your memory) include Advocaat, Campari, Pony or Pimms but remember – it is all about what you enjoy serving.


This is straightforward with lots to choose from. Prawn vol au vents are the obvious choice, but also popular were; cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple on (sometimes stuck into a half grapefruit), mini cocktail sausages, mini slices of pork pie or mini scotch eggs are all an option. Although you may think these a little indelicate, it was reported that, inthe UK, Marks and Spancer have seen a surge of popularity for these things recently.


Plenty to choose from again. The British chef Anthony Worrall Thompson, reported that he put Avocado and Prawn Salad on the menu in one of his upmarket restaurants as a bit of a joke, but it quickly turned into his most popular dish. Make sure you use that lovely red thick seafood sauce to get the full impact

Other ideas for starters include the classic prawn cocktail with sliced buttered brown bread and a slice of lemon, thick French onion soup with gruyere croutons to garnish, melon with (what was then rare!) Parma ham or homemade chicken liver pate served with toast.

Main Courses

You might want to go for something fun like gammon and egg with the obligatory grilled pineapple on the top or a tasty chilli con carne served with lovely crusty bread and salad but for a special party I would advise something that may take a little more time but well worth the effort.

Beef Bourguignon and Lancashire Hot Pot is a firm favourite (for any dinner party) and allows you to spend time with your friends rather than chained to the cooker. Also consider coq au vin or slow cooked casserole of pork with apple and mustard. Beef stroganoff, chicken and leek pie with a puff pastry case are more options as is the traditional steak in a pepper sauce (onion rings optional!) but if it really is a special occasion (and budget allows) then you cannot beat a beef Wellington or a lobster Thermidor. My sister, who now lives in California, makes the best lobster themidor on the planet and still makes it for me every time she comes back to the UK.

One of my favourite options would be a Fondue, but don’t forget Coronation Chicken for more informal affair.


Chocolate mousse is quick and easy and can be made in advance as can crème brulee or a homemade cheesecake. Profiteroles and black forest gateau take a lot longer and if you are feeling particularly brave you could go down the route of Baked Alaska but if you choose this option I would suggest you limit how many Harvey Wall-Bangers you have!

To Finish

A classic coffee with a shot in the bottom and cream on the top can be a great way to finish, but I cannot finish this article without suggesting Galliano Hotshots as an alternative. These have been firm family favourites for years and I am yet to meet someone who does not like them! Get your shot glasses dusted off and get a caffetiere of coffee brewing. You’ll need some double (or single if watching the calories!) cream and a bottle of Galliano too.

Pour hot coffee into each shot glass, to about three quarters full, then gently pour in a shot of Galliano. Top up with about 5mm of cream and drink down in one. Delicious! Just make sure the coffee is a drinkable temperature (which it normally is by the time you have persuaded everyone to try one!)

Finally, don’t forget those compulsory vinyl 12 inch records and have a great party!