However, it’s also quite easy for someone who’s unaccustomed to fine dining etiquette to spoil the culinary experience for other diners. It may be the fellow yelling to the waiter from the far end of the room or the lady who walked into the restaurant in her sweats.
Table manners are important both for professional and personal situations. Especially when it comes to refined dining environments, the value of acting in an appropriate manner simple goes without saying.
Here are a few reminders on dining etiquette to ensure you keep the “fine” in fine dining:
When Sitting Down
For the host:
- You and your spouse should take the seats farthest from the door to indicate that you’ll be the last one to leave after everybody has eaten.
- You could plan for a seating arrangement where guests are seated according to importance or alternately, according to gender.
- If there’s no pre-seating arrangement, you need to wait for your host to show you your seat. You wouldn’t want to sit on the wrong spot and be asked to move later on.
- Make eye contact with the waiter and slightly raise your index finger to signal that you’re ready to order. Waving of arms to call the waiter’s attention is improper.
- Avoid asking about prices. When it comes to wine, for example, point to the category of your price point, so the waiter can make recommendations within that price range.
- Start eating only after everyone has been served. In some cases, the host may indicate that it’s alright for you to begin eating when there are too many guests to coordinate.
- Always hold both your knife and your fork. The practice of cutting up your food, then placing the knife down and switching the fork to your right hand to eat is no longer adopted by European dining culture.
- Bring the food to your mouth instead of leaning over your plate to eat. This is a simple rule that should apply whether or not you’re in a fine dining environment.
- Use the pudding fork only to push the dessert onto the spoon. Do not put your pudding/dessert fork into your mouth.
- It is acceptable to remove bones or seeds from your food with your fingers and place them on the side of your plate. On the contrary, you must excuse yourself if you have food particles stuck between your teeth, as you should never use toothpick at the dining table.
- Some foods like artichokes, asparagus, and cheese are considered difficult foods. Use your fingers to break open the artichoke and use your fork and knife to eat the heart. Asparagus may be eaten using your fork and knife. Eat cheese with the wedged or pointed end first.
- Snacks served before the main course must go from the serving tray to your plate before you can eat it. For obvious reasons, don’t put anything from the serving plate directly into your mouth.
- Use the bread plate or side plate found on the left side of the service plate to hold your bread. Break the bread into bite-sized portions with your fingers, do not cut your bread with a knife.
- Do not pick up any cutlery that you drop on the floor. Wait for the server to replace it for you.
When leaving the table
- Request the permission of your host if you have to leave the table. Then place your napkin on your seat, so the server knows you’ll be returning shortly after. If you don’t plan to return to the table, place your knife and fork together vertically on the center of your plate, with the tines of the fork pointing up and the blade of the knife pointing to the center towards the fork.
- Another way to indicate that you’re not done eating yet is to cross the tips of your knife and fork on your plate to form a neat “X”.
When paying for the bill
- The person who invites (the host) is expected to pay the bill.
- If possible, make payment arrangements with the restaurant ahead of time. Alternatively, you could give your credit card to the waiter even before you sit down to dine.
Other Rules in Fine Dining
- Be punctual and skip the grand entrance. Your punctuality is a sign that you value the time of your host or dining companions.
- Choose your conversation pieces carefully. Stay away from politics, religion, or very personal issues.
- Check the dress code in advance. If you’re not sure how to dress for the occasion, go for the more formal look. It’s easier to dress down a bit than to scale up when wearing a casual outfit.
- Be aware of the formal table setting. When it comes to cutlery, always work from the outside to the inside, meaning you must use the cutlery farthest away from your plate to eat the first course.
- As for glasses, wait for the bus person to pour water into the water glass, or for the waiter or sommelier to pour wine into the appropriate wine glass. To make a toast, simply raise your glass and exclaim the toast. You shouldn’t clink glasses together to avoid any potential accidents.
Fine Dining Etiquette Matters
Proper decorum is essential to fine dining. It helps set the standards on how guests and diners should interact with others in a formal dining event so that everyone gets to enjoy every moment of eating in style, comfort, and luxury.
If you’re looking for a good place to test your fine dining etiquette, Solaire offers some of the best fine dining options in Manila:
- Finestra Steakhouse - Indulge yourself with some of the world’s best cuts of beef paired with old Italian and continental favourites.
- Red Lantern - Experience the height of authentic Chinese cuisine made with the freshest local and imported ingredients.
- Yakumi - The near-perfect attention to detail of Japanese cuisine has been fully adopted by Solaire’s signature Japanese restaurant, serving the best of old classics and modern masterpieces.
Whichever you choose, the next time you find yourself in a fine dining establishment, be sure to remember these rules and you’ll be able to show your dining companions how to put the “fine” back in fine dining!