I’ve always loved throwing small, seated dinner parties with my authors – it’s a time for me to have proper conversations with them about the books they have been reading, about new ideas, and about having them meet other writers and make connections. I’ve given one each year at the Jaipur Lit-Fest, and for Juggernaut’s first outing at the festival, we decided to do an extra-special event with Vogue magazine, inviting writers we loved and admired. It was wonderful – and great fun.
There are a few secrets to a successful dinner party. The first: location, location, location. Find a place that has atmosphere, charm, and is also new, so that your guests feel they have uncovered a delicious secret. It can be a place no one knows about, or getting a great designer to redo a well-known place. But it should feel fresh and unexpected.
A couple of months ago, I had bumped into the wonderful architect Ambrish Arora, who mentioned working on a new restaurant at the Jaipur City Palace. It’s really special, he said to me, and I immediately began to work the phones and book the venue.
Ambrish was right. The new restaurant, Baradari, is something else. Tucked away off the exquisite main square in the City Palace, past the Elephant Gates, it’s a design classic. Ambrish and his team spent a year working with the palace authorities to create a space that was glamorous and hip, and yet completely in harmony with this grand old palace. I’m not sure there’s a place quite like this in India.
The other secret to a dinner party is the seating. I get teased by my team for being a Nazi about this, but I think it really helps to think through who should sit next to each other and why: X is a photographer and Y loves their work, or A and B both spent a year in Mexico, or D and C are both young novelists who are just starting out in their careers and might enjoy exchanging notes and get along.
The last – though this didn’t exactly happen at Baradari – keep the dinner tables as narrow as possible. You want as many people to talk to as possible, and grand large tables, fancy table decors, and multi-course meals tend to inhibit conversations. We went with a simple, no-fuss menu, plied our authors with lots of champagne and drinks, and lit loads of candles.
I woke up on Sunday morning bleary eyed, with too little sleep, and rushed off to the festival to moderate a session: the ultimate signs of a good party.