By Megan Murray
With spring comes renewed enthusiasm for the year ahead, making it the ideal excuse to get friends and family together. As Soho House's UK Membership and Communications Director, Velma Simmons' role often involves organising events and hosting members.
'I love bringing our members together and making sure everyone is having a good time,' she says. 'Kicking off a new time of year with a dinner or lunch is so much fun, especially experimenting with seasonal food and drinks.'
Here, we see Simmons bring her tips for spring entertaining to life with friends at Soho Farmhouse.
Do you think planning is essential for a successful dinner party?
'Absolutely. From prepping your cold dishes in advance to choosing your outfit the day before, there are so many stages to planning an event. I like to imagine the journey for my guests starting with the invitation, dress code and theme, and the decorations they'll see when they walk through the door. My favourite thing to do, though, is putting together a little present for people to leave with. Being a generous host is important to me, so I've been known to pack personalised gift bags with perfume for freshening up, bottled water and snacks for the way home, as well as face masks and beauty products for the next day.'
How important is atmosphere when hosting?
'Setting the mood for a dinner party is just as essential as great food and company; it helps everyone relax and settle in. Home fragrance is my favourite way to do this. I recommend picking a scent specifically for your gathering, so that when your guests smell it again, they think about what a great time they had. Personally, I like our Sicilian Thyme candle, which I light in the bathrooms and around the space.'
Any tips for greeting guests to make them feel welcome and excited?
'I love greeting guests with a drink. When we host Soulful Sundays at Shoreditch House, we always give our members a drink as they arrive because it shows that we're generous and invested in them having a good time. If you want to take it that extra step, create your own cocktail and name it something associated with the night - for my birthday, I made drinks that were based on phrases I always say.'
Favourite drink recipe?
'For me, it's always about the Picante. You can make one at home really easily. First, cut a small piece of chilli pepper and press it with a muddler in a cocktail shaker tin. Then, hand-clap 10 coriander (cilantro) leaves with stems and drop in. Add 50ml of tequila, 20ml agave nectar and 25ml of fresh lime juice, then shake. Fine-strain into an ice-filled Roebling Cut Crystal Rocks Glass and you're almost done. Just cut off the top end of the chilli pepper and place - stem upwards - in the drink to garnish. Your guests will love it.'