Vintage Cellars

How To Host A Hellenic Dinner Party

It’s the stuff you dream of at 4pm on a weekday, staring at your screen and wishing you were anywhere else. 

A Santorini sunset, honey-soaked saganaki and an ice-cold glass of Assyrtiko (Greek white wine) to wash it all down. But if a Grecian summer isn’t on the cards, the next best thing is to pretend you’re in Paros and throw the kind of dinner party that Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! would host. Here’s how.

Set The Scene

When it comes to the table, take your cues from the Santorini landscape. Begin with a crisp white tablecloth that looks plucked from a taverna, then layer on colour and pattern which nods to ancient buildings scattered along the Grecian shore – tones of yellow, pastel pink, terracotta and blue are reminiscent of a Cycladic sunset. Mismatched tableware lends a rustic feel, while an artful display of florals and fruit creates an unfussy but elegant centrepiece, especially when finished with timeless pillar candles. As for a playlist, the mood is lost-in-time Santorini – and we have just the thing.

Master The Menu

The best part of going to a Greek restaurant is having a table teeming with food, where plates and glasses have to be maneuvered to fit everything. Recreate that feeling of abundance by preparing one show-stopping main dish and complementing it with loads of easy-to-make side dishes like Greek salad, tzatziki, olives, flatbread and grilled saganaki with thyme and honey. Don’t forget to smother everything in lashings of olive oil (in fact, just leave a bottle on the table for guests).

For the main dish, a leg of lamb and moussaka are guaranteed crowd pleasers, but few dishes elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” at a dinner party like a whole grilled fish with herbs & lemon. It’s easier to pull off than you think (usually you just whack it in the oven) but be sure to ask your fishmonger to clean and scale the fish when you buy it so all the hard work is done for you. 

Pair It Perfectly

To immerse your guests instantly in that laid-back atmosphere, pour them an aperitif of Ouzo 12 Ouzo to sip on before dinner. Pair your meal with a Jim Barry Assyrtiko, made from the classic Greek grape of the same name that is native to the island. Similar to a riesling (they’re both incredibly fresh, crisp and dry whites) but with less floral and more stony and earthy notes, it provides a beautiful counterbalance to seafood, salads and all the zingy flavours you are serving up. If any of your guests don’t drink white wine (or just prefer red), go for Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge, a fresh, crisp and silky winter-friendly red that works beautifully with saganaki. 

The Recipes

Entrées / Sides

Greek salad

Ingredients (serves 6) 
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced 
4 medium heirloom tomatoes, mixed colors if available, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cucumber, sliced into half moons
1 red capsicum, cored and sliced
1 handful pitted Kalamata olives
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
Flaky sea salt, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
1 block Greek feta cheese in brine, crumbled
Juice of ½ lemon 

1. In a large salad bowl, combine the thinly sliced red onion, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, and Kalamata olives.

2. Sprinkle the dried oregano and flaky sea salt evenly over the vegetables.

3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice and drizzle over the salad.

4. Gently toss the salad until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.

5. Add the crumbled feta on top of the salad.


Ingredients (serves 4-6) 
1 cup finely grated cucumber, excess water squeezed out
1 cup thick whole milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, chopped 
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped mint (optional, for a fresh twist)

1. Grate the cucumber and squeeze out excess water using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the grated cucumber, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, chopped dill, and chopped mint (if using), mixing until combined.

3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.

4. Before serving, give the Tzatziki a final stir and garnish with toasted pine nuts.

5. Serve with a side of flatbread and kalamata olives. 

Grilled saganaki with thyme & honey

Ingredients (serves 2)
125g wedge of kefalograviera cheese
50mL honey
Juice of ½ lemon  
A pinch of dry thyme
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios 

1. In a heavy base pan cook the cheese till golden and turn over.

2. When cooked, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with thyme and finish with a squeeze of  lemon juice over the top.

3. Serve with chopped pistachios


Whole grilled fish with lemon & herbs 

Ingredients (serves 4) 
2 whole fish (such as sea bass, trout, or snapper), cleaned, scaled and gutted
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon slices and wedges for garnish
Fresh parsley for garnish 

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil to prevent sticking.

2. Rinse the whole fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Score the fish on both sides with diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart, slicing down to the bone. This helps the fish cook more evenly and allows the flavors to penetrate.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped parsley, dill, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to create the herb marinade.

4. Brush the herb marinade generously over the entire surface of the fish. Allow the fish to marinate for at least 15-20 minutes at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour if desired.

5. Place the marinated fish directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and grill the fish for about 5-7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the flesh is opaque and easily flakes with a fork. 

6. Add the lemon wedges to the grill in the final 3-4 minutes.

7. Carefully remove the grilled fish and lemon from the grill and transfer it to a serving platter. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh herbs.