Thursday, 9 December 2010

Lessons in The Art of Hosting - with Champagne Laurent-Perrier & Lucia van der Post

Proper etiquette is not about whether you say "loo" or "toilet". So says Lucia van der Post, author of "Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me; Lessons in Grace & Elegance". The Australian in me is quietly pondering where "dunny" fits in to the grand scheme of things? However, as one who makes daily cultural faux pas by reference to flip flops as "thongs" and trousers as "pants", the sentiment is a welcome relief.

In her poised and elegant style, Lucia is giving her thoughts on modern day etiquette at a small gathering at the Mandarin Bar hosted by Laurent-Perrier. At this time of year, many of us will be at gatherings or hosting Christmas parties, so what better time for a refresher on manners and the joys of fine bubbly to help one float through the festive season with style and grace. Just business as usual at Chez Greedy. Hmmm....

I quietly sip my luxurious Grand Siecle and try not to reveal I have so much to learn.

"Etiquette" is an old fashioned word. But, Lucia opines, at its core etiquette is simply about thinking of other people; it's about making other people feel comfortable. Here are some of Lucia's tips -

For guests:

  • be punctual (to be otherwise suggests you consider your time is more important than the other person's)
  • dress appropriately for the occasion - don't wear flip flops to the White House (thongs are most likely ok)
  • don't blank people you've been introduced to before
  • show an interest in the person sitting next to you, regardless of where they sit in your perceived ladder of social importance and personal utility
  • take a small gift for the hosts
  • send a thank you note later (I don't think a Tweet will cut it, but remember that paper and pen stuff? The longer you leave it, the longer and more eloquent your note will need to be)

For hosts:

  • make your guests feel comfortable - Lucia remembers a party where one guest turned up in a roll neck to a more formal occasion and was touched to see the host dash off to don his own empathy roll neck
  • make a seating plan and try to match people - don't sit people next to their partners or people they see all the time (I think this one's contentious - your thoughts?)
  • it's charming to seat yourself next to the person who has travelled the furthest to be there or who knows the least people in the room
  • ensure your guests are having a good time - at the expense of your own fun if necessary (think twice about that next tequila, perhaps?)
  • saying "sorry" is important (I put this in the host section, thinking of my first attempt to make gravy)

And, last of all on my list of Lucia's tips, flutes or coupes don't matter - drink champagne in whatever glasses give you pleasure.

David Hesketh on pouring champagne (with a slow
twist of the bottle) while Lucia van der Post looks on

Which provides a nice segue to the bubbly before me. We're drinking Grand Siecle which is Laurent-Perrier's most prestigious champagne. Would I drink anything less? (Don't answer that.) David Hesketh, Master of Wine and Managing Director in the UK of family run house, Laurent-Perrier, explains that the wine is made from 100% Grand Cru grapes from 3 different vintages - in the current cuvee, the vintages used are 1999, 1997 and 1996. It's roughly a blend of 50% Chardonnay (giving elegance) and 50% Pinot Noir (giving weight) and is aged for a minimum of 7 years.

Mandarin Bar canapes

It's lovely and lingering - the toasty depth and richness match well with our mixture of canapes like smoked salmon (surely a natural pairing for champagne), mushroom risotto, scallops, cheese and walnuts, foie gras and later with chocolately, sweet desserts.

It's a fine wine with a fine price, available at Harrods and Harvey Nichols from £120. If you really want to add some elegance to proceedings, you can serve the champagne from a specially designed Aiguiere, which is handmade by Loire Valley pewtersmiths (available with a bottle of Grand Siecle champagne for £350 at Harrods and Selfridges).

Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle is also available at the Mandarin Oriental for £35 per glass throughout November and December - careful not to spill a precious drop!

Mandarin Bar, Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA (Tel: 020 7235 2000)

Greedy Diva was a guest of Laurent-Perrier


  1. Lovely write up of what was a fun evening!

  2. Gourmet Chick - Thanks, was lovely to see you there.

  3. Lucia looks like a very fine lady, it would have been lovely to meet. Glad you passed on her tips though, much needed.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie


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