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A dummy's guide to fine dining

Phorum Dalal learns table manners and tips on how to conduct oneself at a formal gathering from Rukshana Eisa, an etiquette expert, who will conduct a workshop in the city this week

Etiquette trainer Rukshana Eisa’s Arabian Sea-facing home at Mahim is like a museum. Every every piece of furniture and upholstery — from the couches, bolsters, cabinet doors, side tables and floor rugs — is a piece of art.

We are conscious of each step we take — lest we spill a glass, tilt a lamp or break a glassware. “If you are feeling low on confidence at a social gathering, fake it. And, follow the host. You’ll survive the evening without making a fool of yourself,” Eisa tells us.

Rukshana Eisa

She directs me to her 10-seater dining table, which she has set up with fine cutlery, mats and a flower centrepiece. I feel I am transported to the first-class dinner hall in the Titanic.

The cutlery for a fine dining meal is laid out with precision. The plate for the first main course — appetisers — is laid on a decorative base plate. The napkin held by a napkin holder is placed on it. Use the fork and knife placed on the very end on either sides of your dish.
The cutlery for a fine dining meal is laid out with precision. The plate for the first main course — appetisers — is laid on a decorative base plate. The napkin held by a napkin holder is placed on it. Use the fork and knife placed on the very end on either sides of your dish.

“I mix and match all my cultery, depending on the occasion. Keep an eye out on your travels and pick up sets you think will be useful,” says Eisa.

The cutlery for a fine dining meal is laid out with precision. The plate for the first main course — appetisers — is laid on a decorative base plate. The napkin held by a napkin holder is placed on it. Use the fork and knife placed on the very end on either sides of your dish.
The third course is usually a sorbet. Mind you, it is not a dessert, but just a palate cleanser. Next course is the  salad. The waiter will place a set of fork and knife for this course

She gently removes the napkin holder and gently places it on her lap. I do the same, but she frowns. “The folded part of the napkin must face you,” she says.

Just before the main course, servers will clear the base plate. The last set of fork and knife is used for the main course. The next course, an optional one, is fruit, cheese and crackers
Just before the main course, servers will clear the base plate. The last set of fork and knife is used for the main course. The next course, an optional one, is fruit, cheese and crackers

Now comes the dreaded part — there are two forks on the left of my plate, one short and one tall, and a two knives and a spoon on my right. There’s also a set of fork, knife and spoon above my plate. The glasses, I recognise, are for red wine, white wine, water and liquers. “Remember, when in doubt, move from outside to inside,” Eisa explains.


Follow a simple formula for dessert: spoon for ice-cream, mousses and souffles; fork for firm cakes; and fork and knife for crepes. You can now use the cutlery placed above the plate

Stir, shake, sip
Every alcoholic drink has a specific glass depending on the temperatures they are served at:
>> THE WHITE WINE is always served chill in a glass with a narrow mouth. A white wine glass should be held at the stem, as holding it at the bowl of the glass will warm your drink.
>> RED WINE is served warm in a glass with a wider mouth. It can be held from the bowl of the glass.
>> A BRANDY SNIFTER is used to serve brandy, which is usually served hot. There’s a trick behind heating the glass — all you have to do is pour hot water into it, leave it in for a few seconds and empty it. The glass can be held from the bowl of the glass.
>> LIQUER GLASSES are used to serve after-dinner drinks, which are flavoured drinks such as Baileys, Amaretto, Drambuie, Cointreau and Kahlua.
>> CHAMPAGNE  is usually served in a tapererd flute glass. Served chilled, it should be held from the stem of the glass.
>> If you drop something, use your fork and knife to lift it and put it on the rim of your plate. If it drops on the floor, get the attention of the waiter/server and they will do it for you
>> Never whistle, snap your fingers or clap to call the waiter
>> Carve the meat in one direction, not like a carpenter
>> Never place your elbows on the table
>> Chew with your mouth closed
>> Never hunch over your plating, while eating. Bring the food to your mouth and not vice versa
>> Make a conscious effort not to clank your glassware. They are not musical instruments
>> Chop your food and eat, but don’t make too many pieces like a child
>> Eat the breads off the bread/side plate
>> If a seed or strand is struck between your teeth, cover your mouth and use your fork/ knife to remove it.  Spit it  out gently into your mouth and put on the rim of your plate
>> When you finish a dish, lay your fork and knife in the 12 and 6 o’clock position on the plate

Where to buy
>> Kishco cutlery  
>> www.noritake.com  
>> www.pepperfry.com

Faux pas to avoid

>> If you drop something, use your fork and knife to lift it and put it on the rim of your plate. If it drops on the floor, get the attention of the waiter/server and they will do it for you
>> Never whistle, snap your fingers or clap to call the waiter
>> Carve the meat in one direction, not like a carpenter
>> Never place your elbows on the table
>> Chew with your mouth closed
>> Never hunch over your plating, while eating. Bring the food to your mouth and not vice versa
>> Make a conscious effort not to clank your glassware. They are not musical instruments
>> Chop your food and eat, but don’t make too many pieces like a child
>> Eat the breads off the bread/side plate
>> If a seed or strand is struck between your teeth, cover your mouth and use your fork/ knife to remove it.  Spit it  out gently into your mouth and put on the rim of your plate
>> When you finish a dish, lay your fork and knife in the 12 and 6 o’clock position on the plate

Where to buy
>> Kishco cutlery  
>> www.noritake.com  
>> www.pepperfry.com

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