I've thrown a lot of parties in my time at Home House, the London members' club I co-founded, and Soho's L'Escargot, the restaurant and private club I co-own now. Everything depends on your budget but you can still throw a brilliant party whatever it is. The worst party is one where no one turns up. So if you have guests in the room, it's already a success.
If it's a small party, it's more likely to be a sit-down dinner but for a larger party of say, 30 to 40 people or up to 100 people, it's better to have canapés. Then you need to decide how much you want to spend. Whether you want a limited number of canapés or what I call, substantial finger food. It doesn't meant eating your fingers but it means they can be things like mini hamburgers. Things that are filling rather than falling out of your hand.
But you should be able to hold a glass in one hand.
People arrive to parties at different times so it's better to start serving food about an hour after you've invited people for. It's best to serve food for an hour or so, but if you've got lots of money, you have it going all night.
If money was no object, I would most probably have caviar on little blinis. I would have a pâté de foie gras and prawns with a little bit of garlic. But not too much garlic because people want to get laid!
What to drink
When people are arriving, it's nice to give them a glass or two of Champagne and if you can't afford Champagne, then do erm … Prosecco.
If I were having a party at home, I would have white wine the rest of the evening because it's easier to clean. If I were having it elsewhere like the restaurant, white is still better because it makes less mess, especially if it's you've got lots of people. The Salon Noir in L'Escargot gets very busy and you might have people knocking into each other.
But small groups can often be more raucous than the big groups. We've got a lovely little room called the Red Room with just two sofas and that's very popular later on at night … Champagne is always popular to take in there.
… and later on?
There comes a point in every party when people don't care about food anymore. It rolls over to a lot of other things.
My go-to after party drink isn't usually a drink. It's something that just helps you stay awake a bit longer. The trouble with after parties is that you get horrendously drunk or nicely high.
Food with a theme: yea or nay?
The best party I've went to was my 30th birthday party. I had it at the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden which was a very beautiful health club [now closed]. We took the venue at six o'clock in the evening when they closed and in three hours, we turned it into a Roman palace. We served Italian food, lots of grapes, and everyone had to come in costume of the period. There were lots of togas and Roman slaves, lots of emperors and Julius Caesars, and four Cleopatras.
We had a tableau vivant around the swimming pool with people lying down on fur rugs and eating grapes and eating their guests! I wouldn't want to know what went on in the changing rooms. Red wine definitely wouldn't have been a good idea but at least they could have got into the pool.
Another party I held for my 50th at Home House, was a black and white party, based on the black and white party that Truman Capote gave in America. The dress code was black tie, white tie, black and white, and/or diamonds. I'll never forget Princess Diana's stepmother who came in a black and white polka dot dress. She said to me, "I've just been to the bank to get my diamonds out for tonight."
There was a lot of Champagne and a lot of caviar. And anything else that could look black or white.
OTT Christmas or festive chic?
I did a lovely party a few Christmases ago at L'Escargot where I turned the whole thing into Moulin Rouge because the place has a history of being French. We had a set sit-down menu and had a cabaret throughout dinner. Then we had a disco upstairs in the Salon Noir with the Fabulettes, who are a quartet of drag queens who sang Christmas songs.
It's fun to do something different so people remember it.
Dealing with awkward guests
If someone brings some awful wine or snacks to a party, I just throw them away. Simple!
And the best way to get rid of someone who's had too much to drink is to tell them that the drink has run out. Or tell them that there's a party down the road.
Make sure you drink lots of water before you go to bed, if you can remember. In the morning, take a Berocca.
As told to Daisy Meager.
Laurence Isaacson is co-chairman of L'Escargot, a French restaurant and private members' club in London's Soho, with Brian Clivaz. He previously founded private members' club Home House with Clivaz.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in December 2016.