How To Host The Perfect English Dinner Party

You’re gonna need something a little more substantial than scones.
Shepherd's pie at English dinner party

Wipe up the remnant crumbs of your petit fours and put the high tea accoutrements away. It’s time for an English dinner party, and you won’t want to be the only sorry old bloke who doesn’t know a banger from a sausage roll.

The typical pub menu is full of quixotic-sounding dishes that are mostly all variants on meat and potatoes, but if you’re looking for the ultimate distillation of traditional fare, we’ve narrowed it down to this English dinner menu. Frankly, it’s what we would want to eat.

Remember: you’re not required to adopt a British accent just because you’ve got shepherd’s pie on the menu. (But if you’re going to discuss the merits of your spread, don’t say that it’s “quite good” if what you really mean is “rather good.”)

Drink: Pimm’s Cup

pimm's cup

The choice libation of the Wimbledon tennis tournament and U.K. summers, the Pimm’s Cup will set the right tone right off the bat. This quintessentially British cocktail usually consists of Pimm’s No. 1 (a gin-based liqueur), ginger ale or sparkling lemonade, mint and fruit (orange, strawberry, lemon, apple and cucumber are all popular choices). This concoction was invented in the 1800s by James Pimm, a bar owner in London, as a digestive aid that included quinine and herbs. Eventually, the original Pimm’s Cup became more properly known as a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup as more variants were invented (a No. 2 with Scotch whisky, No. 3 with brandy, and so on). We like this recipe because it’s classic with a twist, featuring rhubarb stalks, rosemary and thyme.

Appetizer: Yorkshire Pudding

Board with Yorkshire pudding and gravy

Across the pond, pudding is sometimes savory, not sweet. And few things make the English as nostalgic as Yorkshire pudding, a baked dish made of eggs, flour, and milk or water. These baked treats were traditionally used to catch the fat drippings from the meat roasting above it. Yorkshire pudding is an integral part of what’s known as “Sunday dinner” in the U.K., a traditional meal that’s believed to have originated in medieval times. Note: you should serve this right out of the oven while it’s still crispy. Here’s a recipe you can follow for your English dinner party.

Main Course: Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds pie

This crowd-pleaser is sure to satisfy and warm the bellies of everyone at the table. This baked meat and mashed potato pie originated in Scotland and northern England among, you guessed it, sheepherders. It’s believed that they originally functioned as a hearty means of repurposing Sunday roast leftovers. One thing to note: what’s known as shepherd’s pie is the version that contains lamb. There’s a similar dish called cottage pie that’s usually made with beef. Here’s a recipe you won’t go wrong with.

Dessert: Trifle

Strawberry Trifle Dessert

And now, the final reveal: a decadent trifle that’s too delicious to be a mere trifle. If you’ve never had one, a trifle is basically like a cake and whipped cream version of a yogurt parfait, usually made with custard, fruit, jam, whipped cream and sherry-soaked cake. The word “trifle” comes from the old French trufle, which means “something whimsical or of little consequence” (oh, this old thing? It’s just a little trifle I put together for dessert). A traditional English trifle usually features strawberries or raspberries, but you can get creative with this format. Here’s a recipe that features lemon and blueberry.

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