From cutlery to seating and napkins to manners, we give you the inside track to fine dining.
According to Nicholas Clayton, author of A Butler’s Guide to Table Manners, the way we eat says more about us in a mouthful than our entire CV ever can. That means it is crucial to know your dinner etiquette, in any social or professional setting. Let’s face it, it is confusing when you see multiple utensils laid out – so here are nine easy rules to leave you well-disciplined for your dinner.
1. Seating; by level of importance
The head of the table is where the person with the most honoured position sits, with individuals of greatest importance seated to the right and then the left of the head of the table. If a couple is hosting, they each sit at opposite ends of the table.
2. How to deal with Your Napkin
Your napkin (never call it a serviette) will either be placed to the left of your place setting, on your side plate or in the centre of your place setting. Your napkin should be placed on your lap as soon as you are seated. When you leave the table, leave your napkin loose and unfolded on the table, to the left of your place setting. At most formal restaurants and functions a member of the waiting staff will place your napkin on your lap. If so, sit back slightly, to make its placing easier for the waiter.
3. Do not switch knives and forks
The British, in the European style, never switch their knives and forks like Americans might, preferring instead to keep knives on the right and forks on the left. When finished, the knife and fork should be laid parallel to each other – knife still to the right, fork tines facing up and the sharp edge of the knife facing the fork – across the bottom of the plate.
4. Cutlery – Start from the outside
The salad fork is located to the furthest left spot; the soup spoon to the furthest right. Always start with the utensils on the outside of your place setting first, working your way in towards your dinner fork and dinner knife.
5. hands rest in the lap
When not eating or using silverware, hands should remain in your lap at rest. They should never be placed or rested on the table.
6. Pass to the left
Never pass dishes to your right; they always go clockwise when being passed down the table. The port decanter, too, is served to the left – and if someone asks you if you know the Bishop of Norwich, you’ll know you have got it wrong.
7. rest between bites
Never lower your head down to eat; maintain a good posture while at the table. Bring your utensil to your mouth, not the other way round, then rest cutlery on your plate or bowl between bites.
8. Don’t point
Don’t point or gesticulate at with your cutlery, and quietly your utensil down when not in use. Refrain from scraping your plate or bowl to prevent causing a disturbance at the table.
9. Make some space
Always leave your fellow dining companions ample elbow space and do not reach over them; ask for something to be passed to you. Normally 24 inches is allowed between chairs (measured from the centre point of the seat) to allow for sufficient elbow room between fellow diners. In formal dining, the distance is usually increased to 30 inches.