London Dinner Parties Across The Decades

They used to start with a written invitation and finish with wafer thin mints – but today’s dinner parties are more likely to begin with a Whatsapp message and end with a game of Twister, according to new research.

And those are not the only changes to the traditional middle class social event thanks to a generation raised on more informal habits and TV shows such as Come Dine With Me.

“The number of guests, what to bring and even who does the cooking are other ingredients which have changed over the decades”

In a survey of 1,000 adults of all ages, it charged the differences between those who went to dinner parties in the 70s and 80s to those who attend such events today. For instance, the modern host now cooks a variety of dishes simply to cope with the growing number of vegetarians, gluten intolerant or others with special dietary needs.

Back in the 70’s the guests brought wine and possibly flowers while today they bring a pot plant or a food-based gift such as expensive olive oil, the survey found.

Parties up until the 90s would begin with either a polite written invitation or perhaps a telephone call and the number attending, in total would be four to six people. Now 28 per cent of invites are done on the mobile app Whatsapp, 19 per cent through Facebook and just one per cent in writing. Today, the average number round the table is most commonly eight people and those in their 20s are more likely than any other age group to have ten or more for dinner. The main food served in the 70s and 80s was British – such as prawn cocktail and a good steak – and cooked by the lady of the house and everyone ate the same meal. Today it is most likely to be Mediterranean, though 57 per cent will cater for at least one vegetarian and 17 per cent for a guest who is gluten free. And there were even examples of a ‘low carb’ dinner party among some younger hosts in the survey.

While women are still most likely to cook in 43 per cent of cases, 22 per cent of meals are cooked by men and 24 per cent shared. But in a real sign of the times, 11 per cent get someone else in to do it – either a friend, relative or a hired private chef. The survey also noted other changes between the 70s and 80s and now. Wine is still the most common gift – 44 per cent of guests take a bottle – but while older Brits preferred to take flowers, modern foodies take a culinary gift, like rare olive oil.

“Dinner parties have evolved from more formal occasions – like inviting the boss and his wife – to far more informal but social gatherings. This means fewer rules and regulations but it doesn’t stop hosts going out of their way to impress. That, combined with hectic modern lifestyles, has seen a rise in the number of people who have help in making the food, from asking guests to bring dishes to hiring a chef.” Karl Naim, co-founder of ChefXChange said.