Table etiquette need not be reserved for royalty only. In fact, when you go out for some fine dining, it is expected of you to behave in manner that is acceptable to the restaurant, the host, and all of the guests that are present. So, don’t be that person who has no etiquette.
1. General Don’ts
Here are a few general do’s and don’ts: don’t complain about the food, just leave something if you don’t want to eat it; treat the servers with respect; don’t use your cutlery to point at the other guests; put your fork/knife down when drinking wine; don’t ever smoke at the table unless the hostess says it is okay to do so; and finally, remember to thank your host when the night is over.
2. Difficult Foods
Not all foods are easy to eat. If you encounter asparagus, never eat the whole stalk in one go, but instead eat it one bite at a time. Cut round cheese into pie-shaped wedges before you put it on your plate to eat. Escargot snails are usually served with some special tools: a small fork and another tool for gripping. Use these utensils to remove the meat from the shell instead of using your bare hands.
3. Body and seating
Place cards on the table usually indicate the seating plan, otherwise wait to be seated by the hostess or see whether there is a seating plan near the entrance door. The host sits at the head of the table with his wife or guest of honour at his right. When seated, don’t cross your legs, don’t put your elbows on the table, and don’t lean over your plate when eating.
There are some topics that is best not discussed with guests if you don’t know them well. These include politics, religion, or sex. Also, remember that you are not there to debate, but instead to enjoy the meal and the company. Try not to ignore either the person on your left or right, but instead try to engage with both of them for the same amount of time. Finally, don’t yell across the table.
5. Food in General
Before starting your meal, wait until everyone has been served, except if the hostess indicates otherwise. Don’t use a toothpick at the table, and if you wish to blow your nose, excuse yourself first. Taste your meal first before adding salt, otherwise you might be hurling an insult to your hostess.
Although most of us are used to wiping our mouth with a napkin, that is not what you are actually supposed to do. Instead, use it to just lightly dab the mouth. Also, never tuck your napkin into your shirt or dress, like when you eat at your favourite lobster shack. When your meal is done, place the napkin beside your plate on the left.
7. Knives and Forks
Unlike using only one knife and fork at home, a fine dining table has a series of forks and knives on either side of your plate. There’s a simple rule to keep in mind: work your way from outside to inside. In other words, for your first course, use the cutlery that is on the outside (i.e., farthest from your plate). If you are finished with a course place your knife and fork parallel to each other in the centre of the plate, otherwise cross the two pieces over each other to indicate that you are still busy with your course.
8. Glasses and Wine
Fine dining tables usually have a couple of glasses on them. The largest is for red wine, then a somewhat smaller one for white wine. Next there is a champagne glass, or an even smaller glass reserved for port or dessert wines. And finally, there is a glass for water. Do not gulp down your wine, but instead savour it and sip it gently. Also, don’t become drunk, it is extremally rude.
Use the small side plate to left of your main plate to put bread on. If there isn’t one, then you can place it on your main plate. If there is butter and you wish to put some on your bread, then use your butter knife to transfer the exact amount you wish to. Also, instead of buttering all your bread pieces in one go, butter each piece as you
eat, otherwise it is considered rude.
10. Soup and Pudding
First things first: don’t ever drink from your soup bowl! Also, try not to put the whole spoon in your mouth, but instead sip from it gently. Speaking of spoons, there are two types for soup: one is egg shaped, and the other is a round bowl. Pudding and dessert are not the same thing. Dessert usually consists of some sort of fruit or cheese while pudding is sweet. You eat pudding with a fork and a spoon: don’t put the fork in your mouth, but instead use it to steady the pudding.