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
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable