Restaurant etiquette: The new rules of modern dining decorum

Speaking with your mouth full, eating off your knife. No longer are these the bêtes noires of the diner with decorum...

We've come a long way from the scene in Great Expectations in which posh Herbert Pocket advises new-kid-in-town Pip Pirrip about his table manners: don't eat potatoes off the end of your knife, don't fill your face to bursting point with food before chewing it… Life has moved on from the days our mothers insisted we drank soup from the side of the spoon, rested our cutlery on the plate not the table, and refrained from slurping the spaghetti.

Table manners, supposedly the sign of a gentleman, were in reality an expression of the middle class's terror of being thought "common". Today we get upset by other things: techno-irritants, boorish behaviour, casual snobbery, odd new orthodoxies of staff-client interaction. In what should be an atmosphere of relaxation and nourishment, the air can sometimes be thick with tension.

Let us attempt to relieve it then, with 10 modern commandments, for diners and restaurateurs alike to follow…

The diner

1. Thou Shalt Not Have an iPhone Before Thee

When did it become acceptable to have your mobile on the table all the way through dinner? The gesture says: "If this rings, I won't necessarily answer it – I'll just look to see who's calling. It'll remind me I have an important life." It certainly reminds your co-diner that he or she will never have your full attention.

2. Thou Shalt Neither Tweet Nor Instagram Thy Food

Yes, the pork belly/frog's leg combo looks like a Kandinsky, and deserves a photo – but do you really want people to think you've never eaten out before? And though you think you're food-blogging to a multitude of fans, you're not. You're just talking to yourself, via your keyboard, about how much you're enjoying a starter.

3. Thou Shalt Not Have E-Fags Before Us

Some restaurants now allow diners to puff the new generation of electronic cigarettes in the dining-room. You must resist the temptation and go outside with the other suckers. Otherwise, diners at neighbouring tables may a) consider you a nincompoop, and b) offer to fart in your face.

4. Thou Shalt Not Do a Stupid Squiggle in the Air

Once, to ask for the bill, you snapped your fingers and yelled, "Garçon! LaddEESHee-on!" Now you sketch a rudimentary signature in the air with a languidly imperious hand. Waiters are liable to ask if you're having a fit. Just call one over and say, "We'd like the bill please."

5. Thy Kids Shall Not Play 'Call of Duty 7' At Lunch Your tousle-haired offspring should be a charming, decorative part of the family meal out. They won't be if they spend the whole time buried in mini-games consoles, oblivious to all around them. Ban machines. Encourage them to compete in an Impersonate Gregg Wallace competition.

The restaurant

1. Thou Shalt Not offer Only One Dish

Steak-only restaurants are just about OK. Schnitzel restaurants serving three different meat schnitzels, we don't mind. But we're bored by the five places in Soho serving only ramen noodle soup. And we don't like the sound of the risotto-only joint. What next? The Paella Palace? The Calves' Liver Cave?

2. Thou Shalt Allow People To Book a Flipping Table

Incredible to relate, but we who were planning to spend lots of money on a meal in your establishment don't appreciate being sent to the Pig & Whistle because you have a no-bookings policy and no tables free; then summoned back if and when the management folk remember who we are.

3. Thou Shalt Not Establish a Time Limit on Our Carousings

Please do not say, "We could let you have a table around 7.30 – but you'd have to be out by 9." You see, if we're enjoying ourselves at your lovely eating-house, we may feel like sticking around. And did it not occur to you that the longer we stay, the more we're likely to spend?

4. Thou Shalt Not Utter Fatuous and annoying Remarks

"Has anyone explained the concept to you?" "These dishes are basically small plates for sharing…" "You could order four starters as the basis of a tasting menu…" and especially, "I'll be back in a few minutes for your comments…"

5. Thou Shalt Not Claim to Have a Bottle of the 2009 Nuits-St-Georges If Thou Hast Only the 2013

You don't have to be an oenophile bore to feel annoyed when the carte de vins promises a nicely aged wine but the cellar yields only the most recent version. We appreciate that wines come and go – but you could try to update the list every year or so.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test