The dos and don'ts of dining
Follow a set of rules when you're eating out at a restaurant or someone's home
We all know that eating is sustenance, but dining is an experience. It's all about building relationships. A special occasion - a first date or a business meeting.
When you receive a formal invitation for dining, first thing you notice is the dress code, it could be Black Tie, business attire or smart casual. Usually, both the attire and timings will be apparent in the invitation card. It's important to understand that timing is essential. There is no such thing as fashionably late on a dinner invitation. In fact, not arriving on time may lead to attracting undue attention to yourself.
If you are dining at a fine dining restaurant, the maître d' will escort you to your table. Chivalry suggests that a man follows the lady followed by the maître d'. But don't say the word "ladies first" because modern etiquette is gender-neutral.
If you are dining at an evening hosted by your friend, then, of course, bring a gift - it could be a bottle of wine, fresh baked baguettes or a piece of interior ornament, whatever you think is appropriate for the occasion and your relationship with the host.
A few tips:
Seating: Traditionally, a table for four, supposedly with two couples, would have the man and his significant other on his right. In an in-house invitation, it's always the host on head chair. Of course, today's manners are modern and seating arrangements are more relaxed and less formal in modern etiquette. Most of the time, host requests the diners that they determine their own seat. While wishing someone a good meal, 'bon appetit' is passé, the phrase is 'please enjoy'.
Napkins: The first thing you do while sitting for dinner at a restaurant, put your napkins on your lap immediately. Remember you don't wait for the food to serve, then place your napkin. If you're dining at someone's home, wait until the hostess does so first before following suit. Make sure to dab your lips only with the inside of the napkin. This is because you don't want the stains to come into your dress or trousers.
Place the napkin to the left of your plate as a signal to the service staff when you're done with the meal. Similarly, napkin in chair is a sign that you are coming back.
Don't announce that you are going to the men's/ladies' room. Instead, just excuse yourself. No one wants to envision what you do in a lavatory.
Elbows always off the table while dining. British way of dining suggests that your hands are off the table at all times; however, in European fashion of dining, you can keep your wrist on the table while talking but not while eating.
Any discards go to the upper left of the plate if you are not served a discard plate.
Tea cup and saucer handles are to sit at 3:00. Stir your sugar or milk from 12 to 6'o clock fashion, without making a clinking sound. The teaspoons are placed right behind the tea cup parallel to the handle. Once used, it doesn't go back to the table. Milk and sugar always come after tea has been poured.
Remember high tea is a meal, afternoon tea is formal tea with proper tea settings, biscuits, scones served with clotted cream and dainty sandwiches. Pastries and macarons are also served but not cupcakes.
It was invented by Anna Maria, Duchess of Bedford, while she felt peckish in between lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea was an elegant and relaxed soirée among the English aristocracy. Chivalry is never out of fashion, but if you are meeting a colleague for a business meeting, don't pull her chair as business etiquette is gender-neutral. Also, whoever invites the other, pays. If you are a lady and are inviting a colleague for lunch, you are expected to get the tab even if the gentleman insists.