Long Live Conviviality

by Charlotte Brook

The season to eat, drink and be merry is once more upon us. Whatever the size of soirée we are allowed to hold this year, make a beautiful banquet of it, says Oilbhe, the Countess of Belfast, who balances her career as a barrister in Dublin with a passion for entertaining. ‘When I was a girl, it used to be my job to lay the table, and my mother taught me how to get creative – in winter, I’d make things like candied oranges to bring it to life,’ she says. ‘Later, studying art history at university, I discovered Matisse’s The Dinner Table, showing a lady perfecting the flowers of a laden lunch spread. It has inspired me ever since.’ These days, the Countess is an accomplished hostess, admired as much for her artful centrepieces as for her boeuf bourguignon. ‘Parties at home are just so much more intimate than in a restaurant, particularly at this time of year. Having the fire roaring and the house filled with friends’ laughter is the perfect antidote to a dark, dreary night outside,’ she reflects. ‘We’ll play jazz LPs on my husband’s record player, make sloe gin fizzes and light candles.’

On the following pages (see full article below), the Countess has set the scene for a quintet of quintessential sea - sonal celebrations, which are accompanied by recipes and reminiscences from five of Town & Country’s favourite chefs. From twinkling tealights for a wondrous Winter Solstice to tabletop tartan come Burns Night, entertaining inspiration for the party season abounds, whether you are cooking for a crowd or decking the halls for dinner à deux.

"Why tablescapes are the lockdown trend that’s here to stay"

"Also focusing her attention on her table this summer is the Countess of Belfast, who started her Instagram account @tablescapestyle back in May to serve as a ‘curated selection of inspiring table decor’, where she encourages fellow tablescape fans to submit their own images. Barrister Oilbhe told the Telegraph: ‘Each person reflects their own personality at their table… I see a lot of people repurposing what they have to create different looks, combining old china with modern pieces."

"Many tables are decorated with wildflowers and green foliage picked from the garden. Blue and white is back in fashion, as is chintz.


Decorating the table has been intertwined with entertaining since the Georgian period, so it is not a phenomenon particular to the digital age, but there has been a surge in the popularity [of sharing posts] in lockdown."

"How 'tablescape' style became the summer trend to master in lockdown"

"Under the handle @tablescapestyle, Oilbhe, Countess of Belfast, has started sharing images of some of the world’s most beautiful and elaborate set ups.

The barrister founded the account just a month ago in lockdown as a source of escapism and encourages her followers (a whole community of table-laying enthusiasts) to submit pictures of their own at-home efforts."