Chances are you know Sophie Conran from her iconic tabletop collection with Portmeirion. With its clean modern shape and neutral colour palette, Conran’s tableware has topped registry charts since it launched 12 years ago, and she has just added two chic new patterns—White Oak and Blue Oak—to her portfolio. British-born, London-based Conran has also authored three cookbooks and is of course part of the renowned Conran dynasty (her father is designer and restauranteur Sir Terrance Conran; her mother Caroline is an acclaimed food writer; and her brother Jasper is a fashion designer). Sophie was recently in Toronto for the launch of her new tableware line (available at Hudson’s Bay) and we had a chance to ask her about how to entertain like a pro-star.
What are some essentials everyone needs for great entertaining?
“I love dinner parties and having people over—it’s really the social glue of your circle. Having those special moments with your family and friends as your guests. Setting the table is all about being creative and bringing your own personality and style to it. It’s one of my favourite things to do! I use masses of candles, metallic pieces and crystal because it picks up the candlelight. At holiday time I love fairy lights. I always have tons of fresh flowers to set the tone and match the season. Make your table fun and have fun playing!”
When it comes specifically to pieces on the table, what does every household need?
“A pattern that can work for casual or formal is key. Then I recommend a few pieces you can dress it up with and layer, like chargers or lay plates. You also need some amazing serving pieces that you can put on the table and use for family style parties—those are my favourite kind of event because it’s less work, no plating required! I love to use tumblers and glasses for flowers and it’s great to mix in vintage pieces and lovely linens and napkins. I am a huge napkin fan and have a rather embarrassingly large collection of them—I use them every day, for every meal!”
Everyone needs a signature dish for entertaining. What’s yours?
“Everyone needs a go to! To be honest, mine changes all the time but I do have a few. I make a quick easy tomato sauce (garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper) that you can do 1,000 things with that I love and is hallmark of mine. I also love to make different mayonnaises. Red pepper, garlic, herbs. All different flavours which I serve with roast chicken, veg and lots of big salads.”
As a Brit, you obviously love tea! Do you have a favourite spot for afternoon tea in London?
“In the office we literally drink tea all day long! If there’s a birthday, it’s tea and cake to celebrate. I have a few places I love in London—The Wolseley and Claridges London would be my very top choices though.”
Who are your dream dinner party guests, past of present?
“Picasso, because he looks like he’s really fun. I’d love to get all the heads of the religions around the table—Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha—to talk about the state of the world and how we can solve it. David Attenborough as it would be great to also solve climate change. And a few of my favourite foodie people: Diana Henry, Nigel Slater and my mum.”