Dinner parties aren’t just for summer nights on the patio. For chefs like Luke Mangan of Sydney diner Luke’s Kitchen, the colder months are a chance to show your guests a different set of flavours. “I think you tend to look at more hearty food,” Mangan says. “I’m not into really rich, heavy things … we’ve got lovely braised beef cheek on our lunch menu, but it’s not overly rich and sticky. I always like using winter root vegetables, too. Think of Jerusalem artichokes, think of celeriac – those sorts of hearty vegetables that match with winter.”
For Mangan, winter is all about seasonal produce and cool-season flavours, but balance is still the key. “We’ve got a venison dish [at Luke’s Kitchen], for example, with a beetroot puree. You wouldn’t put that on in summer. In summer, you might put on veal or something instead of venison. We’ve got a lovely rare-grilled tuna and we serve that with braised curried lentils, so you’ve got a nice, wintry feel to that as well.”
Mangan’s other winter favourites include simple dishes like root vegetable soup or chicken and pumpkin curry, which uses a whack of aromatic spices to stave off the winter chill.
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And if there’s ever a time of year to go heavy on the dessert, this is it. “You’ve got to have a chocolate dessert, and I think it’s got to be warm as well,” Mangan says. “We have a great chocolate tart at Luke’s Kitchen … you can serve that individually or you can do a large, warm chocolate tart.”
The ideal wine match
I think that a great start to a winter dinner is with a cocktail, and in the colder weather, a Negroni is perfect. At Kimpton, my Wilmot Bar has perfected this! For wine, winter lends itself to heavier reds, like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, that match with hearty menus. “For example, with that venison, I’d have a nice, big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz,” Mangan says. “With the rare-grilled tuna, you could have a glass of shiraz with that as well. I’m very open, but I think wine in winter tends to red styles.”
In general, though, Mangan isn’t overly prescriptive. If you like a wine in the summer and still want to drink it in winter, go for it. It’s a philosophy that he puts into practice at his own dinner parties. “At home, I always like to start with some Champagne or a Gin and Tonic or a cold beer,” he says. “And then with entrees I generally offer white wine, whether that be a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay or a Riesling. At home, with a main I just put white and red on the table, and if people want to stick with white, they can.”
Putting it all together
Mangan’s big tip for hosting applies year-round. “Get as much done as possible before your guests arrive,” he says. “It could be a beautiful pie you’ve made, it could be a braised chicken curry. Things where pretty much all you have to do is reheat for when you need to serve.”
If you’ve got a few moving parts in your prep time, it’s okay to enlist some help. “I’ve got a kitchen counter I cook off at home and I get someone to pick the fresh herbs that I’ve got or chop the chives … I like to get people involved in the finishing touches.”
When it comes to serving, Mangan recommends a casual standing entree before heading into the dining room to enjoy dinner family-style. “You might have some prawn toast, some oysters, or pate or terrine, and it’s all laid out and people just help themselves to a drink around the kitchen counter,” he says. “Then I move them to the table and sit down and put a big pot of chicken curry (that is also on Luke’s Kitchen menu), a big pot of steamed rice and some veggies, and everyone helps themselves instead of trying to pre-plate everything.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Kimpton Margot Hotels. Bookings for Luke's Kitchen can be made here.