Seren on Saturdays: Retro Dinner Party Revival

By Seren Charrington Hollins

Food had been all about frugality and functionality for the best part of the 1940’s and 1950’s and whilst the food had been wholesome by the 60’s people were ready for a change. Bright, brash and decadent was the new trend, with different foods and cooking habits being introduced into the kitchen.
As people started to take the first package holidays, inspiration was brought home in the form of exotic dishes such as Coq au Vin and Duck a l’ Orange. Whilst fish and chips remained the nation’s favourite takeaway, fancy new dishes such as chicken Kiev and sweet and sour were being produced by housewives all over Britain. At the same time the arrival of Indian and Chinese restaurants heralded the beginning of the foreign takeaway tradition. Tastes were changing and food was about to become about feeding the eyes before the stomach.
As the consumption of meat and sugar reached record levels and a much greater variety of foods became available in the shops, the 1960’s housewife really did become the hostess with the mostess. The growth of air travel meant fruit and vegetables could be flown in from exotic countries enabling the availability of fresh produce all year round, whilst the appearance of fancy fare such as avocados began to be seen in the shops.

As acclaimed television cook Fanny Craddock demonstrated how to cook for a dinner party whilst wearing a strapless evening dress, dramatic make-up and cocktail jewellery, it was clear that fine and fancy food was in vogue. It was out with bread and cheese for supper and in with the wine and cheese party.
By the end of the decade, the popular TV chef Graham Kerr, known as the Galloping Gourmet, was jet-setting around the world and providing viewers with recipes for far-flung dishes such as Lamb Apollo and Jambalaya. The nation was captivated by his culinary shenanigans and colourful cooking. Mealtimes were changing and grapefruits stuffed with crab were on the menu and salads were getting saucy.

By the 70s the British palette for all things foreign was insatiable and undeniably this was the decade that brought the dinner party to the masses. Fondue, foreign cuisine and fiasco’s of wine were the height of fashion as hosts entertaining at home were keen to wow their guests with exotic fruit, sophisticated recipes, fancy garnishes and colourful culinary combinations.

It wasn’t all style over substance, whilst presentation and a taste for the exotic were key to putting together a 1970’s dinner party menu; many of the dishes provide interesting ingredient combinations that work, whilst other dishes are still firm favourites today.

Whether you fancy the dishes on this retro dinner menu or not, it has to be said that the 60’s and 70’s breathed colour and life into British dining and started the trend of a more relaxed style of entertaining. With an emphasis on wowing guests and dishes that put an artist’s palette to shame there is no better time for a retro dinner party revival.



  • Seren Charrington Hollins

    Seren runs a catering business and delicatessen in Mid Wales, but she is not your run of the mill caterer or deli owner. She is a mother of six and an internationally recognised food historian who has created banquets and historical dinner parties for private clients and television. Her work has been featured on the BBC, ITV & Channel 4 and she has appeared in BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South's Ration Book Britain, Pubs that Built Britain with The Hairy Bikers, BBC 2’s Inside the Factory, BBC 2’s The World’s Most Amazing Hotels, the Channel 4 series Food Unwrapped and Country Files Autumn Diaries. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Her two most recent books are 'Revolting Recipes from History' and 'A Dark History of Tea'

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