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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
    Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

    Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

    Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

    Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

    Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

    England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

    In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)