Eating in can sometimes seem an uninspiring choice, yet who says you can’t achieve a restaurant-standard meal from the comfort of your own home?
Achieving the right ambience plays a big part in this, with some easy tips letting you wow your family and friends. Etiquette expert William Hanson shares his tips to help you recreate this experience.
1 Set the table
We'll start with the basics. Once you've cleared space on the table and dining area, you'll need your cutlery, plates and napkins. Forks sit on the left, knives and spoons on the right - the glass should sit just above the blade of the knife on the right-hand side, and the napkin should be placed on the very left-hand side of the setup. Laying all the dining equipment out will mean you're ready to eat as soon as dinner is served.
2 Use the nice china
Make your meal an experience. Get the nice china out - there's no point leaving it sitting in the cupboard, gathering dust as you wait for the ideal situation to use it.
3 Find a centrepiece
A simple unscented candlestick sitting in the no man's land that is the centre of your dining table can provide a certain elegant quality. If it's more of a daytime meal and the candle isn’t suitable, either a platter of fruit or small floral arrangement will make an effortless impact.
4 Dress for dinner
While the dinner jacket may be a step too far for a Tuesday night you should at least change out of your work clothes and put something decent on. You won't eat properly in your pyjamas or loungewear - keep it simple, chic and mainly, fresh!
5 If music be the food of love
Use music to create some atmosphere - either make your own playlist, or alternatively, you can find specific dinner time playlists on music-sharing apps, saving you time and effort.
6 The big turn off
Switch your phone off - you don't need a screen while you eat your dinner. Instead, you should focus on your food and chatting to your dinner companions. Even if you are alone, meal times present a good opportunity for a digital detox.
7 Perfect presentation
Avoid chucking everything on the plate and hoping for the best. If you've gone to the trouble of cooking a good meal, spend the next 30 seconds laying it out on the plate to make it look as visually appealing as possible - we eat with our eyes first after all. Follow the high-end restaurant rule - this means putting the meat or fish in the bottom section of the plate and having the vegetables laid out above.
8 Salt and pepper
Taste is incredibly subjective - you and your fellow diners may wish to heighten the flavours of the meal with a touch of salt or paper, or another condiment. Remember to move the salt and pepper mills or shakers to the table - and the salt should be placed in front of the pepper. When you add salt to your plate, the correct etiquette is to pour a little pile on the edge of the plate, using a knife to add a few granules of salt at a time to each mouthful - in comparison, you can sprinkle pepper everywhere.
However, do try your food first to check the seasoning before adding anything.
9 Getting saucy
Some dishes require table sauces to accompany them - for instance tartare with fish. Avoid plonking the jar or bottle on the table, instead decanting the sauce into a small dish or ramekin instead.
10 Elbows in
Sit up straight with your shoulders back - after all, you don't want to end up spilling food down your clothes. Good table manners will give the food and chef the respect it deserves, and helps you eat it properly.
Don't worry about what wine snobs say about pairing food with wine. Pair your dinner with whatever wine you want, regardless of what the puritans say. There are some lovely lighter reds that go with fish, flying in the face of the 'white wine with fish' rule. And it doesn't need to be wine you enjoy with your meal - juice or a cordial could add something to your meal too.
Tips courtesy of Young's and etiquette expert William Hanson