How to be a natural entertainer

The Onolla team and Contributing Editors share their hosting secrets from delicious recipes to florals with flourish and post-dinner entertaining. We have also hand-picked our hero products to ensure you look and feel your best too.

suzanne-duckettSuzanne Duckett
My favourite Onolla products. 

I can fall foul to perfectionism when it comes to entertaining which can create unnecessary stress so I do a shot of Ilapothecary SOS Pearl Drops before I start preparing to chill me out so I can enjoy the process as well as the party (much more sensible than a shot of Tequila!). This potent pre-party remedy combines homeopathy, flower essences, herbs, gems such as amethyst and gold helping soothe, protects and create calm. (It's also good for children pre exams).

Create that boutique hotel vibe in your downstairs loo with a delectable hand wash. Given washing hands before meals is more important than ever (always has been in my book!) La Eva, Rosēum face and body wash smells and feels utterly divine and is a necessary luxury turning the humble hand wash into an indulgent experience. As does Wildsmith, linden and chamomile hand wash - both are super moisturising too.

This Yotam Ottolenghi burrata salad with chargrilled grapes fennel seeds and basil is a real show-stopper starter, super simple and can mostly be prepared ahead. I serve it on on a beautiful  platter with hunks of fresh sourdough baguette and a chilled glass of rosé.  

My other must-have are little low vases of fresh white flowers of whatever is in season with some green sprigs cut from my garden. Small jars and vases are pretty, mean you can still see your guests across the table and don’t cost too much as you just need a couple of stems per vase.

emma-howarthEmma Howarth, Moon Editor 
My favourite Onolla product. 

Like most of us I've spent much of the last few months stuck behind a laptop so Ilapothecary's Digital Face Mist is top of my list of pre-party fixes. 

There's nothing quite like the energy of a full moon to add a bit of extra sparkle to an evening. And after a year-plus of being unable to host my IRL moon rituals and meditation sessions, I can't wait to gather a few friends together to harness some moon power soon.

I love using scent to set a scene when I'm entertaining, whether that's lighting a beautiful aromatherapy candle or spritzing the room with a fragrant aura spray before my guests arrive.  

eve-hackingEve Hacking, Garden Editor 

I always like to decorate my table with fresh foliage from the garden rather than flowers to bring a bit of the garden into the house. I use multiple low vases on my table or even just several small water glasses filled with sprigs of evergreen shrubs or herbs such as rosemary and bay. It's also nice to take this through to your table settings and use a sprig the same foliage on top of each napkin. Useful evergreen shrubs are Choisya ternata, Skimmia japonica, large leaved Fatsia if you want to make an impact, and any ferns also look dramatic at the centre of a table. Go ahead and plant grasses in a sunny spot in your garden now as these also make great decoration in the house when freshly cut - and are even better dried out in the bathroom later in the year. My favourite is Calamagrostis brachytricha which is a tall deciduous grass with a feathery wispy large brush like flowers which looks great catching the light in a garden but also fantastic at the centre of a table. Other key favourites would be the obvious but wonderfully scented purple loveliness of Lavender (of course) and don't forget your Peonies - my favourite is Paeonia Sarah Bernhardt with double light pink bulbous flowers in June.

My favourite Onolla product

For me it would have to be the Organic Pharmacy SPF30 to ensure my ageing face is fully protected from the sun when I'm out in gardens meeting with clients and landscapers all year round.

anne-harnan Anne Harnan, Seasonal Food Editor 

My Go-To Menu:

Summer entertaining is about keeping it relaxed and enjoyable. Plan a simple, get-ahead menu that is easily assembled on the day.

I like to serve just one hot, or warm dish with an array of salads and a basket of fresh breads.

A marinated, butterflied joint works well on the BBQ – it takes less time to cook as it’s opened out flat, and it’s easy to judge when it’s cooked through (use a meat thermometer if you’re not sure). A simple marinade is easy with a handful of smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and sprigs of rosemary rubbed into the meat the night before.

Elevate a basic salad by adding colourful layers and textures. Start with a selection of fresh leaves, and add crispness with sliced celery, cucumber and spring onion. Bring it alive by adding soft summer fruits in with the savoury. Chargrilled peaches pair well with salty cheese or melon pieces compliment continental meats.

Add texture and crunch with a sprinkle of toasted nuts and seeds, or make rustic croutons from an Italian focaccia.

Dress with a fruity wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and you’re ready to serve.

 And also:

Entertaining outside gives a wonderful backdrop of nature. I love to set the scene by creating an attractive table - so for an abundant spread, my must-have accessories are an array of serving platters.

A variety of large, filled plates look great across any table. For easy presentation, they immediately cover the surface making it invitingly full. Guests serve themselves easily in a relaxed atmosphere – no need to wait to dig in!

Even the simplest of foods benefit from being assembled on an oversized server.

Don’t forget fly covers for the food on a hot day - those flying pests have an ability to sniff out your food from streets away.

My favourite Onolla product 

My number one product from the Garden Party collection is Margaret Dabbs nail varnish – a beautiful nail varnish always makes me feel put-together even if the run up has been busy. Apply the night before, allowing yourself plenty of time for other last-minute tasks on the day.

sarah-tilleySarah Tilley, Sexual Health & Relationship Editor  

The perfect romantic evening feels exciting and sensual long before the food. Its a build up of anticipation and erotic expectation which I want to cultivate. I like to wear beautiful underwear and if my romantic evening is at home I will even have dinner in my lingerie with a black laced gown layered on top which is fun and sexy. Choosing a light menu means we won’t be too full for the playtime later, Korean food is my favourite at the moment, it's veggie based and spicy enough to create an exotic mood. If I'm creating a romantic setting music is really important so I'll either put on some house chill or my own playlist on Spotify made especially to create my favourite restaurant atmosphere in Ibiza.

Of course preparing my mood in anticipation of a romantic night is super important. I don’t want to have a missed deadline in my head and best still is to have done a workout or yoga session earlier in the day to get my endorphins up and to have changed my work mode to relaxation. A dash of my current favourite perfume from Viktor and Rolf Flower Bomb and I'm ready to go!

I love playing games with friends after dinner. The most fun currently is Jenga with dares written on each of the pieces. Silly fun that creates lots of laughter.

Sarah's Onolla must-have

Transform Space diffuser oil, ilapothecary, because it contains Palo Santo a cleansing, fortifying  sacred wood used by the Incas known to purify and dispel negative energy and emotions and restore vitality and Bergamot, the releasing, uplifting ‘happy’ oil because it carries the warming energy of the sun.

amara-devereuxAmara Devereux, Graphic Designer 

I like to get all my prep done early so I can relax and mingle when people arrive

Big platters for sharing the 'Australian' way (I'm from Melbourne) is to have cheese boards/platters first thing when people arrive rather than after dinner which always surprises people here in the UK. 

I always pick some greenery/flowers out of the garden and pop them in jars I've kept to reuse from gin bottles, empty candles, bath oils, bath salts etc. I've been loving tulips for adding a touch of brightness and joy in the house this year. Cheap and cheerful!

I like to go with a theme for the food as find it's fun to cook and fun for the guests as well -  I love mediterranean style food and have a cracking recipe for a Cypriot Grain Salad from a restaurant in Australia that is always a crowd pleaser - it's the perfect Spring/Summer BBQ accompaniment. It has quite a few ingredients but you can easily substitute with whatever herbs, grains and nuts you have to hand. 

Amara's favourite Onolla product 

Kalmar, Joy Energise Body Lotion, 

Revitilising soothing and moisturising to the skin, plus the combination of crisp lemon top note paired with frisky ginger and bergamot, spirit-lifting Jasmine and heady Magnolia makes is energising and sensual. 

eliza-bruneroEliza Brunero, Health & Beauty Assistant 

For me, it’s all about options. I love hosting but I’m hopeless at deciding on a menu and I find with inevitable dietary requirements to cater for (my own included) simple is always the best bet. My go-to one dish meal is a piece of roasted or BBQ’d wild-caught fish, with a bunch of seasonal veggies alongside fennel, asparagus and baby new potatoes tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. As for drinks, I have a shockingly low tolerance for alcohol so I tend to opt for low-alcohol alternatives. Pentire Drinks have a great botanical spirit made from unique plants native to the North Cornwall coastline. Add their ‘gin’ to a big jug along with some fresh lime juice, tonic water and sliced grapefruit to garnish and people will be none the wiser and not a sore head in sight.  

Eliza's Onolla must-have 

Lockdown turned me into a Gua Sha junkie and it has now become a fundamental step in my skincare routine. The Jade Beauty Restorer from Hayo’u is my absolute favourite (although their Body Restorer is a close second). I use the Jade Gua Sha every evening with a face serum and as well as feeling like a real pamper, it has a whole host of benefits from reducing inflammation to lymphatic drainage and relieving facial tension to name a few, it's the perfect dose of self-care. 

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