Feeling good about mingling again? Keen to make contact? That invite to your first dinner party in months might be exciting, but in post-lockdown times it does beg the question – how do these things go again?

Since restrictions on home visitors eased in Sydney, Nicolas Pestalozzi, co-founder of the Japanese-inspired Fishbowl chain, has been making the most of seeing friends, catching up and having a (socially-distanced) good time.

“I feel like everyone was keeping to themselves for a few months,” he says. “So it was nice to come out and come together in a more social setting. It’s still a little bit unfamiliar initially, but you quickly get over that.”

We asked Pestalozzi for his tips on making sure your first post-iso dinner or party invite yields a second.

Offer to help
Hosting a dinner party can be stressful: from preparing food to greeting guests to making drinks – and cleaning up long after everyone’s left – hosts have a lot on their plate. If you can help in advance, says Pestalozzi, do it.

“Talk to them before the night and suggest things they might need or ask if you should bring anything,” says Pestalozzi. “Figure it out together.”

He says one easy offer is to handle dessert. (His go-to? A homemade tiramisu.)

“I just think it’s nice to have a dessert at the end of the meal,” he says. “It’s an easy thing to forget but it rounds out the night well, leaving a sweet taste with everyone. Even just having something simple like yogurt or fruit or chocolate would be good.”

If not dessert, booze will do (or flowers)
If the host has it sorted, you should still arrive with something. “Never turn up with nothing,” says Pestalozzi. “At [least bring] a bottle of wine.”

Wine is easy to pair with food, even if you’re not across what the menu will be. But sometimes a decorative touch works too.

“I went to a dinner party last week and took tulips,” he says. “It adds a bit of colour to the table or to their house, and they stay alive for a couple of weeks.”

Leftovers stay with the host
“Obviously when you bring a gift like flowers, you leave them there,” says Pestalozzi. “You can’t take them with you. But it’s the same with food or drinks.”

What if you’ve left half a bottle of expensive wine? Or the cheese is just … sitting there? Leave it, says Pestalozzi. “What goes into the dinner party doesn’t come out of the dinner party. That’s a given – don’t make that mistake.”

Plan your exit strategy
Pestalozzi says whatever your intentions are – be it kick-ons or an early night in – think ahead. And chart a route home. But not at the first drop of your fork.

“After you have dinner, have some fruit or a bit of whatever is on the dessert menu,” he says. “It’s completely fine to leave after that.”

If you’ve had a few drinks, make sure to jump in a rideshare like DiDi to take you home. And remember to keep an eye on the latest social distancing and home gathering requirements in your suburb.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with DiDi Australia. DiDi has launched DiDi Hours in Sydney, making rides during peak socialising times more affordable than ever. Between 4pm and 10pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from August 3 to August 29, use the code DIDIHOUR to receive two 50% off vouchers (capped at $20 per ride). Code can be redeemed once a week for four weeks.