One of my favorite scenes in the brilliant movie Julie and Julia is right at the end when Julie is celebrating finishing her challenge and throws a dinner party on their roof terrace.
The glimmering fairy lights, sound of clinking wineglasses and laughter, city skyline providing the backdrop, is just perfect.
There is something special about eating outdoors, food tastes better and people are more relaxed, but unless you happen to live in a Mediterranean climate where al fresco dining can be pretty much guaranteed from April to October, you need to take a few steps to ensure everyone stays comfortable and the evening isn’t cut short because it’s too dark and cold.
The best conversations always start somewhere between the main course and the dessert and moving indoors too quickly changes the dynamic and the conversation, and most of the time not for the better, so it’s always best to extend the time around the table for as long as possible.
It’s a good idea to have blankets available so anybody who is feeling a little chilly can wrap one around themselves, lots of cushion so people can kick back after dinner or even lie down and look at the stars. Light the space with plenty of lanterns, fairy lights or candles to provide mood lighting as the sun sets.
Keep the menu and table setting simple, this is not the time to show off your Michelin star cooking and best china as you want to maximize the time spent with your guests and minimize stress.
Enamel plates are wonderful for outdoor dining for their durability and great vintagey feel, any glasses should be fairly sturdy as all that fresh air sometimes make people a bit clumsy.