There is no better way to celebrate the long, balmy summer evenings than an alfresco feast with friends. Here are our top tips for hosting a beautiful Scarlet-style feast to be proud of…

Preparation
Try and leave as little as possible until the last minute. Salads can be prepared well in advance and just removed from the fridge a little before serving.

salads
Dress the table
A little bit of decoration goes a long way – freshly picked wild flowers in jam jars add a lovely summery feel. Scatter the table with inexpensive tealights, or even strewn the table with herbs for a wonderful aroma.

flowers
Drinks
Don’t forget the drinks – keep it simple with refreshing gin and tonics, a nice bottle of something sparkling, or even a glass of pimms with plenty of summer berries. Take a look at Scarlet summer drinks and the perfect gin and tonic for some inspiration.

pimms
Starters
If serving three courses, try and have a cold starter which are pre-prepared earlier in the day. And the idea of a feast is for your guests to help themselves, this puts a stop to any time consuming plating up. If you want to serve a hot starter, soups work really well as they can also be cooked and then chilled, and re-heated just before serving.

starters
Meat
If doing a joint of meat, slow-cooking is really the way to go. If you’re wanting cook beef or lamb and serve it pink it can be quite distracting as you will always be worrying about overcooking it. Brisket of beef of a slow cooked leg of lamb is just as impressive, it just takes a little longer. Cook it in a very low oven for 3 to 4 hours covered in tin foil and just serve when you’re ready.

beef
Desserts
For dessert, try not to do anything too fiddly. A nice tart or pie can really impress just serve with a jug of cream or some crème fraiche. Try to focus on getting the technical parts of the dessert right and don’t worry about presentation.

lemon-tart
Scarlet Feasts
For a feast this summer without all the hard work – take a look at our Scarlet Feasts. Hire out our private dining space for a group of 8 – 20 friends, which comes with an iPod dock for your own party mix, your own private sea view terrace and host for the evening. Take a look at the menu.

Scarlet-feasts