How To Set a Table for Fine Dining

In this blog, we give you the essential information on how to set a table for fine dining.

Mastering the art of setting a table for fine dining can make a lot of difference to your lunch or dinner gathering.

You might wonder, “Why all the fuss about where to place plates and forks? Won’t the food taste good regardless?”

Setting the table properly makes the occasion graceful. It tells your guests that you’re delighted to host them. Plus, a beautifully set table makes the food even more appetising.

You can easily find the guidelines for fine dining table setting on the internet. But we present them in an easy-to-understand manner and also have some bonus content. 

Essential Tableware for Fine Dining Setting

Let’s start with the tableware basics.

  • Dinnerware: Dinnerware means plates, bowls, and dishes for serving food. You can choose between porcelain and bone china for a formal setting. 
  • Glassware: We recommend crystal glassware for formal dining.
  • Flatware: Flatware means forks, knives, and spoons. They all have different purposes, like cutting steak or stirring coffee.
  • Linens: Tablecloths, napkins, and place mats are common in upscale dining establishments and make your table look elegant. They also help protect the table surface and make dining seem comfortable. Pick linens that match your theme and colours.

Different Types of Plates

There are three kinds of plates for a formal meal: 

  1. Serving/Dinner Plate: For the main course.
  2. Bread Plate: For rolls or bread.
  3. Saucer: For hot drinks like tea or coffee.

Different Types of Cutlery 

There are seven types of plates in a formal setting: 

  1. Salad Fork: For salads.
  2. Dinner Fork: For the main course.
  3. Butter Knife: For spreading butter.
  4. Dessert Spoon/Knife: For sweet treats.
  5. Dinner Knife: For cutting meats or vegetables.
  6. Salad Knife: For cutting salads.
  7. Soup Spoon: For soups.
  8. Teaspoon: For stirring tea or coffee.
An infographic showing proper fine dining setting

Fine Dining Table Setting Etiquette

Proper table setting fine dining etiquette sets the stage for a refined dining experience. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Lay an ironed tablecloth on the table. 
  1. Place a charger plate in front of the diner’s seat. Place the dinner plate (for the main course) above it.
    The charger plate serves two purposes: adding elegance to the table setting and providing a decorative backdrop for the main course.
    You may wonder if It’s possible to do away with the charger plate and serve the meal directly on the table. We say, “No”. A charger plate enhances the presentation and elevates the dining experience for formal occasions.
  1. Place the dessert spoon towards the top of the dinner plate. Align it horizontally such that its handle is towards the right.

  1. Place the following items on the left side of the charger plate:
  • Bread plate: Slightly on the top. Set a butter knife on top of this plate. Its blade must face down, and the handle must be towards the right.
  • Forks: About an inch from the charger plate. The salad fork comes first on the outside, then the dinner fork.
  1. To the right of the charger plate, place the knives — The dinner knife comes first from inside, about an inch from the charger plate. It’s followed by the salad knife, soup spoon, and teaspoon on the outside.
  1. Put a water glass above the knives, precisely the dinner knife.
  1. Keep the wine glasses above the glass for water. The white wine glass is slightly to the bottom right, and the red wine glass is to the top right. If there will be a toast, place a champagne glass furthest to the right.
  1. Place a cup and saucer above the spoon meant for the soup. Orient it to the right of the spoon.
  1. Place the folded napkins to the left, beside the forks. You can use napkin rings to give that touch of elegance.

Table Setting Tips

  1. Ensure there’s enough space between each person at the table. Keep at least 24 inches between diners, so they feel comfortable and not squished.
  1. Remember that a bread plate is smaller than a salad or dessert plate, which is smaller than a dinner plate. The charger plate is naturally the largest.
  1. Align the base of any vertical silverware with the bottom rim of your plate. This setting makes the table look tidy.
  1. Place knives with the blade facing inward to make it easier for guests to reach for them.
  1. Use the distance between your knife and plate as a reference to space out everything else on your table. This arrangement helps maintain symmetry and balance.
  1. Use your dinner knife as a guide for placing your glasses.
  1. Evenly space all flatware. You need not use measuring tape. Use your judgement. Align their bottoms with that of the serving plate.
  1. Avoid placing a napkin underneath the forks. It might make noise when you pick up the forks, which can be annoying.
  1. Adding personal touches to your table setting can make it truly special. You can consider fresh flowers, custom place cards, or themed table decorations.
A table with correct fine dining setting etiquette

How to Ace Your Formal Table-Setting Skills?

While guides like ours give good advice on how to set a table for fine dining , nothing beats seeing a table setting in person. 

We suggest dining often at some of the best fine dining restaurants. Of course, we’re not saying you dine at expensive restaurants just for this purpose. 

The overall benefit is bigger. You savour exquisite cuisine. You also see first hand how everything is arranged with care and great attention. 

Table setting would gradually become second nature to you. After all, wouldn’t you like to receive compliments for being as skilled at table-setting as the pros? 

Fine Dining Bali

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