Summer Entertaining | How to cook the perfect barbecue feast

Summer garden party | Design Hunter

The White Company certainly know how to throw a stylish garden party. On Friday I was invited along to their summer party at Eltham Palace for an afternoon filled with inspiration and ideas for alfresco entertaining.

There was gorgeous styling from The White Company's current outdoor collection - their grey and white colour palette always feels so cool, fresh and summery and all of the pieces in their collection work together effortlessly. We also picked up table styling tips from interiors stylist Luke Batchelor, along with advice on which drinks to serve for a summer garden party from 31 Dover and enjoyed a barbecue feast cooked by Tim Maddams, former head chef at River Cottage.

Summer Entertaining with The White Company | Design Hunter
The Great Hall at Eltham Palace | Design Hunter
Summer entertaining with The White Company | Design Hunter

31Dover served up summer cocktails and rosé and we ate charcoal fired salt pollack with bay rosemary and chilli, served with grilled asparagus with goats curd, lemon and mint and wood fired garlic flat bread. The food was amazing and Tim made it look so effortless that I came away really inspired to up my summer entertaining game this year. I'm planning a birthday celebration for Mr P in a few weeks time so it was great to pick up some tips. I love having a houseful of people but if I'm honest I sometimes find entertaining quite stressful. There are so many things to consider when planning and preparing a party and I always seem to end up in last minute panic because I've forgotten something.

Tim shared lots of great advice, showing us how to concentrate on dishes that are quick and easy to cook. He encourages keeping things simple and spending plenty of time on advance preparations so that you'll be able to enjoy the event itself and spend more time with your guests.

Here are his top tips for creating the perfect crowd-pleasing summer barbecue:

Asparagus tips | Design Hunter

1. Preparation is key

Preparation is key. Get your prep done before you want to start cooking. That includes making sure you have all the kit you need to hand, long-handled tongs, more charcoal, serving dishes, seasoning and oven gloves are all a must, but think about chopping boards, knives and somewhere to rest meats too.


2. You don't need fancy kit

A simple kettle type barbecue will be fine for most things - make sure the grills are clean! Don't be tempted to buy a gas barbecue - you might as well cook indoors.


3. Let your location do the talking

If you are planning a barbecue on the beach, serve fish, not chops and sausages.


4. Site your barbecue as near to your dining tables and kitchen area as possible

You don't want to spend all your time running back and forth.


5. Don't use imported charcoal

Opt for coppice charcoal from a sustainable British source, there are lots to choose from. It gets hot quickly and lights easily. What's not to like?


6. Light your fire in plenty of time

It will take a little longer than you think to be ready to cook on. Look for the flames to have died down and the embers to be glowing with a light covering of ash before you attempt to start cooking.


7. Have two different zones for your barbecue

I light the fire on one side and keep it going there. As the embers spread to the other side I know where on the grill to cook, and can manage the heat, moving things that need to slow down to cooler places, and things that need a push to a hot spot.


8. Fat creates fire

Beware if you are cooking very fatty things that they will cause the fire to flare up and often burn things.


9. Allow enough time

Don't try to rush a barbecue, it won't work. If you are in a rush avoid things like chicken and sausages as these require plenty of time to be cooked thoroughly.


10. Use aromatics to deepen flavour

I often grill sardines or mackerel on the barbecue, and always lay branches of fresh bay leaves over the grill first, to add flavour but also as it stops them sticking to the grill and makes them far easier to handle.


11. Avoid sweet sticky marinades

On a hot barbecue they tend to burn and add very little to the end dish except bitter, burnt-sugar notes. I like to use spices, oil and citrus along with fresh herbs to make up my flavour palate for barbecuing.


12. Make sure everything to be cooked on the grill is at an ambient temperature before it goes on

Fridge-cold meat, fish and veg won't cook so well.


13. Cook flatbreads as a quick starter

When the grill is too hot for cooking meats, fish, veg or cheese it's often perfect for getting some flatbreads done. Serve these with a few dips as a quick starter that will help to take the edge off your guests' hunger, buying you time and providing tasty treats.


14. Be creative with your sides

Simple but different salads are the way to go, combined with a carb-laden potato or pasta salad and some flatbreads for those who like their meals heavy.


15. Relax and enjoy yourself

Don't rush, it's all about easy dining so there are no rules. If it takes an hour to cook a whole leg of lamb to perfection, then so be it. Simply cooking one great piece of meat and serving it with lots of side dishes you've prepared earlier is a great way to go.

Summer barbecue with The White Company | Design Hunter

With thanks to The White Company for a lovely afternoon.

Photography by Design Hunter.

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At the Chapel | Somerset

At the Chapel | Bruton

A few weeks ago we took a trip down to Bruton in Somerset to stay at At the Chapel for our wedding anniversary. If my Instagram feed is anything to go by, it's a place that seems to be on every interiors blogger's wishlist of places to stay, and it was a destination that had been on mine for some time too. I'd seen dozens of pictures of the beautiful minimalist interiors on social media before we visited but honestly it's even better in real life.

The ecclesiastical architecture, lofty soaring ceilings, and stained glass windows which flood the building with light give it a very special quality, but the atmosphere is busy and friendly. It's relaxed rather than rarefied.

At the Chapel, Bruton | Design Hunter
Blue chair At the Chapel | Design Hunter

There are 8 characterful guest rooms with luxurious marble tiled bathrooms, each one individually designed with immaculate attention to detail. We stayed in room 2, which had a magnificent 19th century stained glass window and a huge light filled bathroom with a deep freestanding bath and walk-in shower. Quite possibly my favourite bathroom ever!

Marble bathroom At The Chapel | Design Hunter
REN toiletries in marble bathroom At the Chapel | Design Hunter
Marble bathroom - At the Chapel | Design Hunter
At the Chapel | Bruton

There's a bar, café, restaurant and pizzeria, wine shop and an on site bakery from which freshly baked croissants are delivered to your room for breakfast in the morning.

Breakfast At the Chapel | Design Hunter
At the Chapel | Bruton

The stylish interiors at At the Chapel are undeniably the main draw. Every last design detail is perfectly considered, but all of the other touchpoints that go into making a place to stay truly memorable were also on point. From the bed linen and pillows to the mattress and the lovely REN toiletries I enjoyed with my bath, or the wine we drank with the perfectly cooked pizza we had for dinner, not forgetting the 'best-ever' almond croissants we picked up from the bakery to take home with us, everything impressed.

Over the past few years Bruton has evolved into a hip country destination popular with celebrities, boho types and weekending Londoners. The opening of Hauser and Wirth's Somerset outpost at Durslade farm just down the road from At the Chapel in 2014 cemented this reputation, and for interiors lovers there's now Caro Somerset too - a beautifully designed store offering 'objects for life and home'. It's a lovely destination for a weekend getaway. We wished we'd booked in for a couple of nights rather than just the one, but it won't be difficult to justify returning.

At the Chapel | Bruton
At the Chapel | Bruton
At the Chapel | Bruton
At the Chapel | Bruton

At the Chapel, High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AE.

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Images by Design Hunter.

Adding some luxe minimal style to my living room with Lee Longlands

Coffee table styling by Design Hunter for Lee Longlands

I've bought lots of pieces for my own home from Lee Longlands - we ordered our sofa from them a few years ago and I also picked up several lovely lamps from our local Leamington store during a clearance sale a little while back.

Still run as a family business the company has a history stretching back 110 years. Their bricks and mortar stores are based in the Midlands - from the lovely Portland stone art deco flagship store in Birmingham to showrooms in Abingdon, Derby, Cheltenham and Leamington, but they sell online too.

I've been a customer for years and love having the opportunity to work with local companies, so when they recently got in touch and invited me to collaborate with them on a home styling project it was something I was really excited to do.

Ligne Roset French Line armchair | Design Hunter x Lee Longlands

A few weeks ago I visited the Birmingham store to pick out a collection of items to style as a room set within my own home, choosing contemporary pieces that would work alongside our existing furniture and decor.

The first piece I picked out was this French Line chair by Ligne Roset. We already have a large sofa by Ligne Roset in the living room so I was keen to pick something with elegant lines and modest proportions to complement and counterbalance this rather than over-filling the room with a chunkier armchair. The bolster cushion is a nice touch too.

Coffee table styling and mirrors | Design Hunter x Lee Longlands

I've been meaning to gather together some prints to create a picture wall above the sofa for some time now, but when I spotted this collection of mirrors I knew they would work perfectly in this space. They add a strong focal point and the circles provide a contrast to the more formal lines of the coffee table (also from Lee Longlands).

Ligne Roset clara coat rack | styling by Design Hunter for Lee Longlands

The Clara coat stand is a fun piece that adds an elegant but playful tone. Perfect for a hallway or open plan living area, it would also work well in the bedroom if you need a quick place to hang things at the end of the day, or just like having one or two favourite items from your wardrobe out on display so that you can enjoy them!

Ligne Roset French Line chair from Lee Longlands | Design Hunter

The Starlight rug softens the hard surfaces in the room like the wooden flooring and glass coffee table, adding contrasting texture and pulling everything together to make the room feel complete. It has a subtle grid pattern and luxurious soft sheen finish which catches the light beautifully, creating a sophisticated, elegant mood.

In styling the coffee table I've chosen objects that further introduce different textures and materials - a brass tray, some favourite books, a coral ornament, some pretty white roses and my Paris cityscape by Chisel and Mouse.

Ligne Roset sofa and coffee table | Design Hunter x Lee Longlands

I had lots of fun working with Lee Longlands to put this look together and absolutely loved the luxe minimal feel of the finished room.

Styling and photography by Design Hunter in collaboration with Lee Longlands.