Laying the table

Whether it is a formal dinner or a much more casual occasion, the basic rules do not vary when laying the table. Give each person as much elbow room as the table permits. Leave an even amount of space between places. Knives and spoons go on the right, forks on the left. Formally, it is correct always to lay side plates – even if they are not going to be used – with the napkins simply folded on them.

The range of a cutlery arsenal will depend on the formality of the occasion, but the layout should always be the same – fork to the left, knives and spoons to the right. Work from the outside inwards, course by course, finishing with pudding implements. Pudding spoons and forks may sit above the place setting on less formal occasions, or may be brought out when the main course has been cleared.

Always eat puddings with a spoon and fork (both should always be laid); the spoon should be a dessert spoon. Ice cream may be eaten with a teaspoon, or a long teaspoon if served in a tall glass. Sorbet, served between courses, is eaten with a teaspoon
If you are confronted with a plateful that is not to your taste, try to soldier on to avoid hurt feelings. Always compliment the cook.