Chef Thierry Mounon and his wife Mrs Tina Trang Pham have created the perfect setting in which to enjoy wonderful French food and practice your fine dining etiquette. There is no reason to get stressed about eating in top restaurants. The rules are mostly a case of just good manners, along with a few other things to keep in mind. To create the best impression with your guests or business colleagues there is a clear list of do’s and don’ts.
1. Dress Code
If your dinner is a business lunch then the conventions of the office still apply. If you are meeting guests for the first time or if they are from a different country it is always best for gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie. A more casual style may be acceptable if you know the company more personally but it is always best to play it safe. Women should wear either a business suit or, if a social event, a dress and shoes rather than sandals. The easy way is to enquire in advance as to the dress code. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed, gentlemen can always discard their ties later.
2. Cutlery Confusion
So many people get flustered when deciding which cutlery to use. As a general rule one works from the outside in. If you require different choices when ordering something specific, the waiter will change your place setting. If in doubt, simply watch the other guests and look relaxed. The fork is never used like a spoon, the tines are always pointed at the plate and the knife used to push food onto the back of the fork. Soup is eaten by starting with the spoon in the middle of the bowl and moving it away from you. Then lift the spoon to your mouth and drink. Don’t put the spoon in your mouth and no slurping! If your drop any item of cutlery, leave it, the waiter will replace it.
It is never acceptable to shout for service and the absolute no no is clicking one’s fingers, this is not just bad etiquette but plain rudeness. To gain your waiter’s attention simply hold up your right hand with the index finger raised. Waiters at La Villa are trained to keep a constant vigil for this signal.
4. Returning Incorrectly Cooked Food
This is never an easy situation in which to find oneself but it can be made a lot less awkward by simply telling your fellow diners to carry on without you. Then politely inform your waiter as to the problem and try to look relaxed. Nobody is perfect and mistakes can happen in the finest of restaurants.
5. Don’t be a “Wine Expert”
Nothing looks more pretentious than someone pretending to be a sommelier. Order your wine and when it comes either take the small taste offered or simply politely inform the waiter that they may just pour it.
6. You’re Toast
If someone offers a toast in your honour then remain seated and try not to look embarrassed. When toasting someone else you should stand and raise your glass in their direction. Wine glasses are not chinked, but merely raised politely towards your company. In order to gain the attention of your fellow diners to propose a toast, merely clear your throat, do not tap the side of your glass with cutlery, as this may damage expensive glassware.
7. No Phones Please
There is never any excuse for using your phone during a formal dinner. Turn the ringer off, place the phone in your pocket or handbag and leave it there. If you are expecting an urgent call, then upon feeling the vibrate, you can always excuse yourself and go to the washrooms.
8. Excuse me?
If you do have to leave the table, politely ask you be excused and place your table napkin on your seat; this informs the waiter that you will be returning.
9. I’m All Done
When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork on the plate together in either the twenty past ten position or often in England the half past 12 position. Your napkin should be placed to the left of your plate. Never place cutlery in a cross, it makes life harder for La Villa’s hard-working waiters. Likewise don’t place your napkin on the dirty plate.
10. Mind Your Manners
The basic norms of good manners should apply at all times. Sit up straight and don’t place your arms or elbows on the table. When taking a sip of wine or any other drink, look into the glass and not over it. Bread should be buttered on the side plate and not in mid air. Use your napkin regularly to wipe your mouth and fingers. Food should be cut one piece at a time, then eaten before cutting the next piece. Conversation should be muted so as to not annoy other diner.
There you have it. Stick by these simple rules and your guests will be impressed. It is always nice to be well thought of and the ability to fit in comfortably in any surroundings is an advantage. Fine dining etiquette is no more than that. La Villa is the perfect venue for brushing up on your skills. It is a very high class establishment, but has the relaxed kind of ambience that if you do make mistakes you will not be made to feel embarrassed.