A dinner party is about those little moments that make life lovely, says Jen Nelson. A fusion of friends, flowers and local flavours create fabulous festive supper clubs. Elysia Agnew takes a break to talk teatime treats and winter retreats...

What does tea mean to you? A warm, wake-me-up cup? An afternoon treat to accompany something sweet? In Yorkshire, tea is a moment in time. A time to switch off and socialise over supper. Tea is an everyday fixture, but sometimes it’s nice to take it out of our own hands, hand it over to someone else and toast to something special.

With all of that in mind, Tea and a Toast was born. With an eye for vintage styling, combined with a career in catering and a genuine love of all things local and lovely, Jen Nelson – the brains behind the new business – saw a gap in the market for teatime treats with a difference.

A supper club with Tea and a Toast is about sitting back and socialising over supper. Throw in a bit of colour, Christmas decor and Yorkshire charm, and you’ve got a fabulous festive feast on your hands.

TEA TIME: TEA & A TOAST“For me, it’s about picking a theme and following it through in everything from the food to the flowers,” says Jen, from Hutton Rudby, North Yorkshire.

“I’ve always been a foodie and had an eye for design, so it seemed the perfect project for me after years of working in bars and restaurants,” she adds.

Tea and a Toast likes to keep things simple. Vegan and vegetarian cooking takes centre stage, with emphasis on flavour, fresh produce and floral decorations. A vintage tea party with all the trimmings.

“Vibrant, vegetarian cooking is what I bring to the party,” says Jen.

“I just love to share my ideas, inspiration and love of food with others. It’s about experimenting with flavours and creating a truly unique experience for guests.”

Jen’s eclectic vegetarian supper clubs start with a cuisine theme, often inspired by a city or country she’s travelled to. It’s about taking an idea, running with it and injecting a bit of fun into the whole process, creating a beautifully relaxed atmosphere where people can enjoy delicious food, sip cocktails and gather around a colourful table.

“Tea and a Toast is about taking time out to appreciate the finer things in life,” says Jen.

“It all started with pop-up supper clubs held in cafes, homes and village halls,” she adds.

“We’ve had some amazing events at The Rusty Bike Cafe in Swainby. At the foot of the North York Moors, it’s the perfect, rustic backdrop for a proper country dinner party.

“Next year, as the business grows, I will be running a series of retreats and getaways based in the North Yorkshire countryside.

“The retreats are centred around the idea of experiencing a slower pace of life; whether it’s learning something new in a workshop, switching off for a yoga class, sitting back with a cocktail or watching the sunset from a canvas tipi. It’s about stripping things back and enjoying what we love most – or in some cases, what we can’t find the time to do in our busy lives.”

Whether you’re looking for help on how to host at home, you’d love to join a specially designed Yorkshire dinner party, or you need top tips for a stress-free supper, make time for festive feasts and winter treats this season.


Choose a simple menu…

A small starter, a one-pot main with a mixed-leaf salad, and a cake or tart for dessert. Ideally, make something you’re already comfortable with, and don’t risk trying an obscure recipe when you’re unsure of the outcome. A few drinks and nibbles when guests are arriving can stall if you haven’t quite got everything ready.

Prepare as much as you can the day before >> Opt for a main dish that can be prepared and assembled ahead of time, then just pop it in the oven, or on the hob, before everyone sits down. Things like curry or lasagne, and even cakes taste much better the day after you make them. Serve everything family-style, bringing the dishes to the table for everyone to help themselve.

Create some ambiance…

Turn off the main overhead lights where you’re eating, and use lamps, mismatched candles and fairy lights for an intimate, cosy vibe.

Turn on the music…

Whether you opt for a mini speaker,  record player or a full sound system, music makes a big difference. Find ready-made playlists on Spotify or YouTube if you don’t trust shuffling your own music.

Set the table… 

Personally, I love a colourful table, with a mix of modern and vintage crockery collected from charity shops over the years. It’s also useful if you need to borrow extra plates and dishes for a large party, as it looks intentional! Use flowers, either bought or foraged from hedgerows, to add colour.


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