Guide: Fine Dining Etiquette

Whether a seasoned diner, or a curious first timer, one mustn’t be intimidated by the purported rigidity of fine dining...


From exhilarating menus and ambitious ingredients to ordinary ones reimagined in avant-garde concepts, there is nothing quite like fine dining. Sommeliers are often on standby to recommend wine pairings, and while you consider the depth and complexity of each course, you might find yourself embarking on a culinary journey like no other.

Given its perceived formality, the idea of fine dining may intimidate, especially since a certain gracefulness seems expected of its guest. You carefully contemplate the many pieces of cutlery, hoping to select the accurate piece for your course. When confronted with a complicated napkin fashioned after a swan, you wonder if you should wait for the server to lay it out for you.

With every excellent affair, fine dining calls for faultless decorum, a fine set of rules and certainly, your best behaviour, but one must not be intimidated as the rules are simple:

Dress to Kill


To go with its rather formal atmosphere, a dress code is typically implemented in fine dining establishments. That’s a hard pass on jeans, which are heavily discouraged – even if it’s Louis Vuitton. There are certain requirements for every dress code, namely, Casual, Business Casual, Casual Elegant, Formal, Jacket Required, Cocktail, or Black Tie. Although, if you went to Chef Graham Elliot's namesake restaurant, the chef insists that you "come as you are", explaining his desire to provide for a dining experience rather than to critic his guests' wardrobe. Chef Elliot's philosophy may highlight the slow and but sure decline of overly stringent dress codes, but take the wise words of Oscar Wilde: “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”

You may also like: Dress Codes Defined: What to Wear for Every Event

Take a Seat

No matter the location, the host of the dinner takes the first seat. There might be cards on the table to indicate the seating arrangement; if not, it is simply mentioned at the door. You may wait for the host, who will be seated at the head of the table, to seat you if neither happens. Sitting upright is encouraged, with elbows never on the table.

Forks, Knives and Dainty Mouthfuls


Typically, if not always, a collection of forks lie on your left side, whilst knives and spoons fill your right. These are usually set for right-handed people, and a rule of thumb is to simply work your way in from the outside. In other words, use the furthest cutlery for your first course, and then slowly work your way in for the next ones. Still in doubt? Look at your host for clues. Cutlery, if placed back down between each dainty mouthful, should be on the plate and not the table.

You may also like: An Extravagant Enjoyment of Multi Senses

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