The Dinner Party Series: Autumn With Kanoa Lloyd – “Don’t Blow a Gasket Trying to Impress People” & Her Secret to Pleasing EVERYONE 

So much of life’s best memories are shared around the dinner table, and no matter what season it is, it’s always a great time to gather your favourite people, share some good food and great wine, and spend some quality time. 

But everyone’s dream dinner party looks a little different, so we’ve gone to some of our favourite people to ask just what they’d be serving up at their ideal evening soiree, as well as all the little, juicy details of who’d make the guest list, what’s on the playlist and what’s on the table itself! 

This month we chat to The Project host and the woman everyone wants to sit down for a wine with, Kanoa Lloyd, about her dream table. 

Proudly brought to you by our pals at Villa Maria

What is your secret to throwing a fun but non-stressful dinner party? 

Don’t blow a gasket trying to impress people. Pretty much everyone I know is thrilled to eat something they didn’t make themselves, it doesn’t really matter if it’s perfect. 

What is the best dinner party you’ve ever been to and why? 

I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of my best friends. We all get together most weeks. It’s these last minute, unplanned dinners that I love more than anything. Drinking wine on the lawn, the kids are entertaining each other, the sun is going down and there’s nowhere else you need to be. 

What is the most infamous? My husband BBQed an entire eye fillet for a bunch of friends once. I came home a bit late from work and they were all eating outside, with the dinner set up in the kitchen. I poured a glass of wine and was thinking of making a plate, when someone spotted our dog up on the table inside, happily scoffing every last bit of that beef. No one was happy after that, our poor puppy was sick for days! 

Kanoa Lloyd (Image: Instagram)

What is your go-to meal to cook? 

I sort of go through phases… at the moment I like to make chicken skewers, marinated with yoghurt & thyme & toasted cumin seeds, pita pockets & a fresh coleslaw.  

Do you have any particular chefs/cooks/cookbooks/cuisines you would 100% trust to make a meal from for a dinner party?

 I’m not a big recipe person. I kind of think what I want to make, Google a few different recipes and then freestyle it depending on what I have. But one book I do go back to a lot is ‘Dining In’ by Alison Roman. The Key Lime Pie is outrageously good. I also love Nici Wickes’ most recent book and ‘How to Eat a Peach’ by Diana Henry. Just reading their beautiful writing and looking at the sexy food pictures is enough for me!

Do you have a go-to conversation starter? 

God no! Structured conversation would feel too much like work. Maybe that makes me a bad chat at the dinner table, but I’d rather relax and enjoy people’s company than have a plan. 

What topics do you love to talk about at a dinner party? 

I guess we do have some silly games we play to pass the time- usually when we’re eating out and waiting for the food to come, but they work pretty well if you’ve finished dinner and you’re waiting on pudding too! A couple that are in high rotation: Visual Estimation. Someone asks “will the base of this wine glass fit inside the water glass”, or “is my knife taller than the pepper grinder” everyone has to guess and then you measure up and see. Or Name for Me. I might ask someone to name five countries starting with the letter ‘I’ or five blonde movie stars. You take turns coming up with topics and guessing. Honestly, that one can go on for hours! 

What’s your favourite food and wine pairing for a dinner party? 

I put this in the too hard, too fancy category. I’m not mad at a bubbles or a cocktail to start the night. Then it’s whatever red wine or white wine we’ve got at the time! 

What’s your menu? 

If I’m feeling posh and doing a starter (which is incredibly rare, especially now I have a kid!) I might make homemade crackers, goat cheese and a homemade pickle. It feels special but the crackers and pickles are so easy! I’ll give you the recipe if you want. My friends laugh at me because I pretty much put cheese on top of everything. If I’m feeding lots of people I go Moussaka & salad, or Lasagne & salad, or a big slow cooked bit of beef with Parmesan and salsa verde & salad… you get the idea. A cake or a crumble for dessert and that’s it! 

What’s your tablescape theme? 

I’ll usually grab a few herbs & flowers out of the garden & pop them in a vase. If it’s a special occasion I’ll break out the tablecloth my friend Ingrid made me. I really love pottery & glassware so I just let the essential items do the talking. 

Who are your top three dream dinner party guests and why? 

Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and my dearest friend Lili who lives in Germany and I never get to see. I think they’d all be fabulous conversationalists, beautiful to look at, but not so extra that they’d take over and ruin the night. 

If you could hire a celeb chef for the night, who’s cooking for you? 

Jamie Oliver. An oldie but a goody. I swear I learned how to cook from watching The Naked Chef back in the day! 

How about the playlist – who is on the playlist? 

Fela Kuti or Celia Cruz maybe? Something upbeat and cool that’s not too distracting. Or my cool music friend once told me that Forever Changes by Love is a perfect dinner album and I have loved it ever since. 

If you can impart one piece of advice for hosting a dinner party, what is it? 

Buy a bucket of fried chicken and make your own sides and everyone will be happy. Clean as you go when you’re cooking, you won’t regret it. 

What is the role of wine at a dinner party? 

To be enjoyed! 

What is your go-to comfort wine for a dinner with friends? 

I love a Chardonnay. Fresh & fruity or creamy & woody, I don’t care! I love ‘em all. 

A Girls’ Guide to Wine by Villa’s Jess Bell: All there is to know about Chardonnay!

“Chardonnay is often misunderstood. It’s a grape variety that is often associated with not so fond memories, or the wine that your aunty always seemed to be drinking. I promise you; it is so much more. If you are still not convinced know that each expression of Chardonnay is so unique, the one for you is out there, yet to be tasted! 

The Villa Maria Reserve Chardonnay is a charming wine. Classically Hawkes Bay in style, this Chardonnay is the perfect balance to share at your next dinner party. It’s a silky expression that unfolds with layers of fruit and some lovely little toasty elements – in other words, it’s an incredibly classy wine that is bound to please your guests and allow for some great conversations throughout the evening!”

Table styling by Holly Page at Lay Me Down, photographs by Robert Trathen

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