There’s no getting away from it, choosing a meal for a large number of people can be enough to put you off your food. Celebrations invariably throw together an eclectic mix of people - suddenly you find yourself juggling great-grandma’s false teeth (metaphorically, of course) with the bright young things’ insatiable desire for sushi. Not to mention the vegetarian contingent and an Anglophile aunt who won’t touch anything with a whiff of the exotic.
It really can be a headache, but enterprising caterers have come up with the answer to the harassed host’s dreams. Bring on 'bowl food'. Think of it as a fusion - this is a full meal, served canapé-style. Beautifully presented starters, main courses and cocktail desserts served to mingling diners by staff who constantly circulate bearing the food in ceramic bowls.
There’s no need to disturb the momentum of the party atmosphere while people take their seats or select from a buffet spread. Occasional tables situated around the room provide parking places for glasses, and a few chairs ensure those who prefer to park themselves may do so.
Virtually any type of cuisine can be served in this style, but particular favourites are meltingly tender slow roasts, aromatic curries, seafood casseroles, warm salads and fresh ravioli with imaginative stuffings. For dessert, think light-as-a-feather steamed puddings, delectable ice-cream sundaes, bittersweet tortes or individual mousses, expertly created in an assortment of flavours and colours to appeal to the eyes as well as the taste buds.
You can serve a multi-course meal offering choices all the way. With bowl food there’s no need to ask guests to pre-order, or for the host to 'dumb down' in the hope of appealing to the broadest spectrum of tastes. With this style of eating, you really can work that wow factor - mixing styles and flavours from far-flung corners of the globe, introducing intriguing and unusual dishes, while keeping less adventurous guests tucking in enthusiastically.
Special dietary requirements and allergies are no problem for experienced caterers, but do ensure you inform them when you select your menu.
An added bonus of bowl food is that you can fit more people into your room or marquee and make savings on table, chair and linen hire.
So when you’re planning your party, whether your style is splendidly sophisticated or comfortably informal, the answer to keeping everyone happy is simple - go bowling!
This article was contributed by Martin Bradley, of www.chezvous.co.uk, the specialist event caterers