I am very mindful that the first article on table manners was coming close to being a list of do’s and don’ts so I wanted to write a second article, based on the order of a dinner service, to give a few little pointers, tips and hints about the correct way of doing things to the Gentlemen of the world.
I have assumed the situation of a formal dinner here, as this will provide the most little changes to shine as a Gentleman.
As with all situations, help the lady with her coat (if necessary), and help her to drinks and canapés, if they apply, before helping yourself.
When you are being seated at the table, help the lady to her seat. If you are on a larger table, help the lady on your right to her seat first, then the lady on your left, then yourself.
As soon as you are seated, place the napkin on your lap, where it should remain until such time as you rise from the table.
If at any point one of the ladies in your party leaves the table, it is still considered a nice touch for the gentlemen to rise – there is no need to stand completely, but make an effort towards standing – and likewise to rise as she returns to the table.
Don’t order on behalf of the lady, unless she has asked for you to do so.
Remember to help others on the table to butters, water, any sauces, as well as salt and pepper as described in the first article. Also don’t forget the pointers about the bread.
For longer meals, there may be a host of cutlery on the table. If you are not familiar with each item of cutlery, then there are a few pointers that make life much less confusing.
The cutlery closest to the plate is for the main course. This should stay there until the main course. The other cutlery (depending on the size of the menu) will be supplemented to by the waiting staff as the meal progresses. As the first course comes, use the outside cutlery. The second course, use the cutlery now outermost of what you have left.
If at any point the waiters bring cutlery either before a dish comes out, or with a dish as it is served, then this new cutlery should be used for the up-coming course.
As you go through the meal, the waiters (or sommeliers) will change the wines for you to accompany the different courses. Like the food, the wines will become fuller of flavour throughout the meal, so it is best not to return to a wine that you were poured a few courses ago.
Let the waiting staff clear the glasses; don’t hold on to the last drop of 3 or 4 glasses.
Another little foible of dining etiquette is liquids in bowls. If you are eating a savoury course, you are supposed to tip the bowl away from you to get the liquid out of the bottom of the bowl. However, at the end of the meal (for and sweet courses) it is assumed that you would be too drunk to tip the bowl away from you without spilling it, so you are supposed to tip the bowl towards you. That way of you do spill anything, you spill it over yourself, and not the lady opposite you.