AD Singh does most of his entertaining out of the comforts of one of his 28 restaurants. His motto when it comes to hosting is fun and flexibility.
By and large, sit down dinners for groups bigger than six or eight become quite difficult. Everyone is on their own schedules and it’s tough to gather a group of 20 to eat and drink at the same time. Flexibility is key, don’t get so stuck up on the details and let the night flow. Someone may enter starving whereas another guest may need a few drinks before their tummy rumbles. Either way, start off at the bar with drinks and a few appetizers.
What do you do about seating when you have a mixed group who isn’t keen on a sit down style dinner?
We like to mix it up. If you have enough space, it’s always nice to have some sit down seats, some standing space and high tables for those you need a place to put down their drinks. Once everyone has come in and mingled, we start taking down orders for mains. Appetizers and desserts are usually pre-ordered and come out as and when people are ready. Sometime it helps to set up a small mezze or salad station.
What do you think makes a night memorable for a guest? Ambience, food or the company?
I truly believe that if you’re asking someone to take time out of their schedule and spend the evening with you, it all comes down to the host. Guests feed off the energy and hospitality of the host so if you’re having a great time, chatting and laughing, your guests will naturally feel welcomed and enjoy themselves. If you have someone who is constantly ducking into the kitchen and generally a bit stressed, your guests are likely to notice. It’s all about being warm and welcoming and letting people know you’re happy to have them there.
What about the décor and music?
Since each of our restaurants have their own personality, unless it’s something really special like our 15-year anniversary at Olive Bandra where we transformed the place, we like the restaurant’s style to speak for itself. Music needs to start off at a conversational level and can pick up the tempo once guests have had a few drinks. For me and my wife this is always a struggle! If she had it her way, Sabina would start the night off with Bollywood immediately whereas I would play jazz or lounge music. So we compromise. At home, it’s her choice and at Olive, it’s mine!
Do you have any failsafe options when it comes to food and drink?
I think good cocktails are key. You can get a vodka or whiskey anywhere but it’s always fun to create a little drama around the drinks. A good cocktail can really light up the evening. When it comes to food, I always want to serve what is on our restaurant’s menu rather than create new things. We have spent so much time perfecting our food that we love to showcase those dishes. You must be aware of allergies and preferences so again, flexibility and choice are key.
Have you had any disastrous dining experiences?
Loads! You must be prepared for anything in this business. I remember one sit down dinner with about six people where it so happened that one of the ladies present had recently stolen the boyfriend of another diner. Needless to say the tension was palpable. Another night, I was seated at a table of four with my niece and another couple. Unfortunately for us, the couple was in the midst of a huge break up and I must say that was one of the worst nights of my life!
One tip for anyone hosting a large dinner.
Have a photographer around to capture all those great memories.