Host a sumptuous + stylish spread for friends this winter with our tips for keeping it chic and simple.

Winter is synonymous with comfort food – stodgy carbs, hearty cassoulets and meaty mains… But it IS possible to do winter entertaining on the chic. And without maxing out your preparation time.

From your napery through to your nourishment, a little forethought can finesse your entertaining style. We’re taking you through it step by step with an emphasis on the fine detail.

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Images sourced: Browse tableware online at Zanui.

Set the scene

Curate your lighting to craft your desired ambience. Overlay spheres of candlelight, overhead lighting, and your table and floor lamps to induce a soft nostalgic atmosphere.

Candelabras introduce classical elegance and lend your evening a fairytale lilt, but tealights glowing in upcycled mason jars come with their own vintage appeal. Decorate jars with lace and coloured paint for homely shabby-chic allure.

See our post on mason jar lighting for some inspiration.

Maxwell & Williams Colour Basics Coupe dinnerware 2 Noritake Batik Garden 12-Piece Dinner Set
L to R: Maxwell & Williams Colour Basics Coupe dinnerware and Noritake Batik Garden 12-Piece Dinner Set. Browse dinner sets online at Zanui.

To cloth or not to cloth

Indulging in a little table decoration takes your entertaining up a notch, transforming a meal with mates into a stylish soiree.

Cloth-ing your table is the first step. (Or not cloth-ing it, as the case may be.) A simple cream or crisp white tablecloth works a treat for a more finished look. Linen or lace adds old world charm and textured appeal.

Linen House Beatrice Table Runner Ruffled - photo by -
Left: Linen House Beatrice tablecloths, placemats and runners. Image right sourced: Browse tableware online at Zanui.

If you’re opting for mason jar candlelight and a touch of lace, an antique-style table runner like the Marie French Linen Table Runner continues this theme.

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Images sourced: Browse tableware and servingware online at Zanui.

Ask yourself, are you going for rustic sophistication or textbook chic? If you have an upcycled timber dining table, show it off. We love this distressed wood table traced with foliage and fleurs.

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Images sourced L to R: and Browse vases and tableware online at Zanui.


A statement centrepiece takes your table into gourmet mag territory. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming. We like the idea of getting all the prep done WELL in advance. This way you get to enjoy your guest’s company instead of rushing around like a headless chicken.

Selecting blossoms that have some staying power means you can arrange them the day before. Australian wildflowers meet this description. Plus they introduce unique character to your table with their surprising colour pops and sculptural shapes.

We adore the bold yellow of Billy Buttons, the majesty of King Proteas and Blushing Bride Proteas, and the charismatic shapes of green leucadendron. (These Australian wildflowers are all available in the wintry months.)

Blushing Bride Proteas. Image sourced: Browse tablecloths and runners online at Zanui.

Display your blooms in a contrasting coloured vase, splay them out across your table runner amidst spent petals, or opt for a mod look and post them in wine bottles and jars.

Pique your posy with some lavender, ornamental kale or cabbage, and succulents for decadent shape. Or some goddess lilies – because who can resist such a divine name!

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L: Barber & Osgerby Olio collection for Royal Doulton, Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Serving Board and Small Spoon, and Casa Uno Marble and Slate Boards. R: Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Bread Street collection. Browse tableware online at Zanui.


So your servingware doesn’t suit your dinner set? Investing in some feature pieces fusing organic materials like marble, wood and metal injects pastoral charm and delicious textures into your dinner spread.

Linen House Flax Linen Tablecloth Ruffled - photo by -
Left: Linen House Flax Linen Tablecloth. Image right sourced: Browse tableware online at Zanui.

Not blessed with the blackest of bank balances right now? Improvise by throwing some crisp napkins over your mismatched bowls to create a cohesive look.

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L: Barber & Osgerby for Royal Doulton Olio 16-Piece Dinner Set. R: Barber & Osgerby Olio collection for Royal Doulton, Olio Wood Round Serving Platter 30cm, Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Serving Spoon, and Amalfi Marble Cube Candle Holder (Set of 3). Browse tableware online at Zanui.

Looking to update your dinner set but not schooled in the advantages of fine bone v porcelain v ceramic? Check out our post unpacking the pros and cons of each here.

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Images sourced L to R: and Browse glassware online at Zanui.

Spicy sips to fire up the eve

Say cheers to the arrival of your guests with something signature and spicy on the tongue. We love this Chipotle-Chile-Spiced Margarita recipe. Or opt for your very own homemade spiced pear vodka infused with cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger and pear. Yum! (This one is do-ahead… Suggested infusion 5-14 days.)

These are destined to wake up their appetites. Flavourful and fancy served in sleek cocktail glasses.

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Chicken Enchilada Soup and Slow-cooker White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup. Images sourced: Browse tableware online at Zanui.

Belly pleasers that are easy on the eye

In keeping with our desire to appear the hostess with the mostest with minimal effort, we’re championing this mouth-watering Chicken Enchilada Soup for starters. It’s the perfect partner for your spicy margaritas.

Like something a little more traditional? Try this Slow-cooker White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup. With 10 mins on the prep and 3 hours to savour some R&R whilst it cooks, it’s speaking our language!

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Centre: Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Bread Street collection. Left: Whole Roasted Ricotta with Honeyed Figs (image sourced: and Apple and Custard Tarts (image sourced: donna Browse tableware online at Zanui.

For mains, vegetarians will adore Jamie Oliver’s Whole Roasted Ricotta with Honeyed Figs, or dish up these Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Pies in ramekins for a posh take on traditional winter fare.

For dessert, dish up these Donna Hay Apple and Custard Tarts with cream. Delish!

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Centre: Barber & Osgerby Olio collection for Royal Doulton, Olio Wood Round Serving Platter 30cm, and Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Serving Spoon. Left: Heidi! (image sourced: and Winter Julep (image sourced: Browse tableware online at Zanui.

Sneaky snifters to finish

With the temperature turning chilly, a toasty digestif gifts your guests with a delicious belly burn set to protect them from the wily weather. We’re drawn to our friend Heidi, marrying the magic of a piping-hot hot chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps, or this Winter Julep for the brazen warmth of bourbon.

And of course, there’s always tea and coffee. =)

Too, too tempting. We’re drawing up our guest list as we speak.

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.