9 best dinner plate sets: From everyday crockery to party tableware

Update your dinner set to make sure you’re always eating in style

Rachel Ogden
Thursday 21 May 2020 13:15
<p>It’s worth investing time in choosing the right plates and bowls for you</p>

It’s worth investing time in choosing the right plates and bowls for you

You don’t have to be a keen entertainer or tablescaper to enjoy the simple pleasure that comes from a smart plate set. As something that’s used on a daily basis, it’s worth investing time in choosing the right plates and bowls for you.

However, it’s easy to be distracted by a pretty pattern and end up with dinnerware that doesn’t go the distance. Crockery that’s too big to fit in cupboards, chips easily, or can’t be popped in the dishwasher can easily take the shine off a new dinner service.

There are hundreds of plate and bowl sets available, which can often make buying more difficult. Fortunately, we’ve sorted through a stack of options on your behalf, assessing sets for their practicality, durability, value for money and design.

Pieces have been measured (to see if they can accommodate an average meal while still fitting in a standard-sized dishwasher), weighed and washed to see how they fare with everyday use.

To help you make the decision about which set might be right for you, our edit includes everything from affordable high street buys to classic porcelain and design-led dishes almost too gorgeous to cover up with food. Let the feast begin…

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Mason Cash classic collection grey 12 piece dinner set

You may know Mason Cash best for its cane mixing bowls, but it also offers a range of stunning stoneware for your table. This classic grey set is an excellent example – smooth to the touch, not too heavy and like all Mason Cash’s dinnerware, safe for the microwave, dishwasher and freezer. Thanks to its simplicity, it’s versatile enough for everyday use, yet could be easily mixed and matched with other colours (including cream, pale green and pink) when entertaining.

The set comprises four dinner plates, side plates and bowls, making it great value for the price. At around 26.6cm across, the dinner plate is an average size – not too big that it didn’t fit in our dishwasher and not too small for a proper feed, and weighs around 704g. The side plate is on the larger side at around 20.3cm making it especially handy for bread at dinner or grazing during the day. At 5.5cm deep inside, the 16cm bowl can accommodate a 400g can of soup without issue. Perhaps our only bugbear is that the surface is incredibly smooth – put a bowl on a plate and it’ll slide around, meaning they’re best stacked separately in a drawer.

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion arbor 12-piece dinner set in dove grey

It’s been 15 years since Sophie Conran first started collaborating with Portmeirion and what better way to mark it than with a simple yet unmistakably elegant dinnerware design? The arbor collection celebrates nature with both colour and its irregularly shaped edges, meaning that the plates and bowls in this set have more of an organic, artisan feel alongside a high-gloss finish. Its 12 pieces consist of four dinner plates, salad plates and all-purpose bowls – all safe for use in the dishwasher, freezer, microwave and oven up to 200C and with a weighty, robust feel.

The dinner plate is larger than some at 28cm and quite heavy at 860g before it’s loaded with food. To fit it in our dishwasher, the drawer above had to be raised. Similarly, the salad plate is bigger than a side plate would be – its 21.6cm size works well for small meals and tapas. Alongside these larger plates, the 15cm all-purpose bowl isn’t that wide, however, it’s fairly deep at just under 7cm inside. We were able to fill it with a can of soup without issue.

The 12-piece set is truly stunning, well-proportioned and beautifully made – however, as one of the pricier sets we reviewed, it’s more of an investment in stylish dining.

Denby modus ombre 4 piece dinner plate set

If you prefer your crockery to whisper its design details rather than shout, the ombre plates from Denby’s modus collection are for you. The styling is subtle yet decadent with a tonal grey glaze that feels warm and inviting and makes anything placed on it, however haphazardly, look instantly delicious. Meats and cheeses, piles of sauce-soaked pasta, even a crisp sandwich suddenly become more presentable. The set of four is safe in the dishwasher, freezer, microwave and oven and is therefore practical, however you like to cook.

Size-wise, the plates are a bit above average at 27.5cm and while they fitted in our dishwasher, there wasn’t much clearance between them and the arm above. The base is raised, adding to the depth of the plate, 3cm, yet the centre is fairly shallow. It’s also worth noting that each plate weighs a hefty 986g, so carrying a heavy meal to the table could be a two-handed task. While more of an investment than some, the price feels reasonable for hand-crafted plates made in Derbyshire from locally sourced clay, and with a 10-year guarantee on top.

Pols Potten seeds dinner plate, set of 4

When a matching dinner service feels too formal, this coordinating design-led set is just the thing for your table. Each porcelain plate comes in a different colour – pink, yellow, orange or blue – with a sunflower seed-inspired pattern that gives them a stylish yet relaxed vibe. What also sets these plates apart is their tactile matte glaze, which, because they’re hand-painted, is textured – run your fingers across the surface and you can feel each individual “seed”. This does mean they require more care than some, however: while they are dishwasher-safe, hand-washing is advised, and over time, metal cutlery can leave traces on the surface. They are safe for the microwave though.

In terms of size, the plates are fairly average at 26cm – big enough for dinner and not too tall for our dishwasher. They’re not too heavy at 638g each and the porcelain doesn’t feel scarily delicate. And for an eye-catching designer set, the price isn’t as steep as you might imagine. The only thing to bear in mind is that they may wear faster than those with a more durable finish, leaving the evidence of dinner parties and intimate suppers behind.

Royal Doulton coral dinner plate, set of 2

You might be surprised to find out that Royal Doulton has created a tableware collection especially for small households and compact living, and here it is. The “signature 1815” range – commemorating the year John Doulton founded the world-famous pottery – is thoroughly modern and features hand-dipped colour block glazes with an artisan feel.

This set of dinner plates demonstrates everything that’s great about the collection. They are large 28cm traditional porcelain plates with a contemporary pink and coral-hued section of colour finished with ridges and an 1815 stamp on the underside. And, as they’re a set of two, they’re ideal for mixing and matching with other pieces from the range to create a set that suits your lifestyle.

The plates are chip-resistant and safe for the microwave and dishwasher – although fitting them in ours required the drawer above to be raised. They’re not too weighty at 776g, but the generous size and deep lip can make them feel unwieldy when carrying food to the table. For plates that are durable, beautifully designed and something of an everyday luxury, the cost seems pretty reasonable.

Burleigh blue calico 12 piece place setting

Burleigh has spent 170 years making crockery, with its processes remaining largely unchanged since its founding. Many of its patterns have similarly historical roots, such as this blue calico tableware, inspired by 19th-century indigo fabrics. All of which comes together to create plates and bowls that have a sense of heritage about them as well as oodles of charm.

This 12-piece earthenware set comprises four dinner plates, side plates and pudding/soup bowls that are all safe in the microwave or dishwasher, but with the suggestion that low temperatures and liquid detergents are best. They’re not suitable for the oven or freezer, however.

In terms of size, the dinner plate is average at 26.5cm with a pronounced lip and distinct well in the centre. It fitted easily in our dishwasher as it wasn’t too deep and weighed 710g, so not too heavy. The side plate is a slightly smaller version at 21.5cm, making it a good size for salads, smaller meals and tapas. The rim of both is slightly rippled, adding to the handmade feel. We especially liked the pudding bowl: its generous size of around 20.5cm, with a depth of 4.7cm, lent itself well to a pile of pasta or rice, meaning there’s no need for two sizes of bowl in the cupboard. It’s a little pricey for crockery with less versatility than some, but if treated well, it should stay looking good for years to come.

Next Sadie 12 piece dinner set

Sadie is a set that’s definitely worth asking for dinner – its porcelain plates and bowls feature a floral textured pattern that’s both tactile and belies a pocket-friendly price tag. The set comprises four dinner plates, side plates and bowls – all safe for the dishwasher and microwave – and they are finished in a pretty pale pink that could easily be mixed and matched with white or grey dinnerware.

The dinner plates are slightly larger than average at 27cm, but still fit in our dishwasher. They’re quite shallow and the patterned lip takes up a fair amount of real estate, taking away the temptation to pile them with food. Fortunately, they’re not too heavy at 757g. The side plates are a smaller version – around 20.5cm – big enough for bread and snacks but a smidge too small for salad.

Where the set comes unstuck is with the bowls – they’re not especially wide at 13.7cm, meaning that decanting food into them can be messy. On the plus side, they’re 7cm deep, so there’s plenty of room for dessert, vertically. After a couple of uses, there were a few cutlery marks but these were minor. All in all, a good-value high street buy.

Matalan 12 piece Chicago square dinner set

There’s something about square porcelain plates that raises expectations of the dinner ahead and this crisp white set does nothing to dispel that notion. Its corners are rounded so it feels less like a starchy restaurant service, but you can still imagine tucking into seared salmon and noodles from these statement dinner plates. There are four of them in this set alongside four side plates and bowls, all safe for the dishwasher and microwave. They’re 27cm square with a fairly deep lip – fitting in our dishwasher without issue. However, the plates are fairly hefty – 1.18kg – so definitely a two-handed carry.

The side plates are the same style: 18.5cm wide, good for bread and small dishes but maybe not for a light lunch, while the design of the bowls makes them quite capacious. They’re about 15cm wide with a thick rim, and 5.4cm deep, meaning that soup was easy to pour in. The only thing to be aware of with this set is that the standard of each piece can be hit and miss. The surface of some of our plates wasn’t completely flat, for example, meaning that pieces rocked side-to-side when stacked as a setting. But if you’re using them solo, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Dunelm urban 12 piece charcoal dinner set

This sleek set is part of Dunelm’s “The Edited Life” collection of products that are designed to be more sustainable and natural. You may well ask how tableware does this. The answer lies in the durability of the Urban Charcoal dinner set. Its simple stoneware has been tested to hotel and restaurant standards to help keep it free of chips and scratches, meaning that you won’t be throwing pieces away and buying more anytime soon. The set comprises four dinner plates, side plates and bowls that are all safe for the dishwasher and microwave and have a reactive glaze that gives them a striking mottled appearance.

All are also generously proportioned, with large 28cm dinner plates, 22cm side plates – an ideal size for salads and small meals – and 16cm bowls. The bowls aren’t that deep at 3.9cm, but they’re a lovely shape that’s just right for everything from cereal to piles of fruit and yoghurt. The plates are fairly heavy – the dinner plate alone was 909g, while the side plate was 567g – but have a simple design with a high rim that’s sure to appeal to those who love sauce-soaked meals.

That said, fitting the dinner plates in the dishwasher required the drawer above to be raised, plus the high rim can sit close to an adjacent plate. This aside, the style and durability make this a value-for-money set.

Portofino Corelle 6-piece chip resistant dinnerware set

Light, thin and durable, Corelle dinnerware is ideal for family households where plates and bowls can find themselves tumbling to the floor. Even if the name isn’t familiar, Corelle’s glossy appearance may be. Originally launched in the 1970s, it’s made from Vitrelle, a layered laminated tempered glass that can withstand chips and cracks – so much so, the company promises to replace any piece that becomes damaged through normal use in the first three years. It’s also microwave, oven, freezer and dishwasher safe.

The 18-piece Italian-inspired Portofino set shows how the classic product can be brought up to date. It’s great value, comprising six 26cm (10.2 inches) dinner plates (weighing just 332g each), fairly small 17cm (6.7 inches) side plates and 14.5cm-wide (5.7 inches) bowls with an internal depth of 5cm (2 inches). Admittedly, there is still something unmistakably retro about it – the squat shape and curved rim of the bowls as well as the matte pattern on a glossy plate marks it out as dinnerware that’s different – but from a practical standpoint, it can’t be beaten. The dinner plates fitted easily in the dishwasher too. This set won’t appeal to everyone but for the busy and the butterfingers, it could be the crockery you’ve been looking for.

The verdict: Dinner plate sets

While every set we reviewed brought something to the table, we chose Mason Cash’s classic collection dinner set as our best buy as it’s good value, versatile and a real crowd-pleaser.

For those on a budget, Next’s pretty Sadie set is a great buy. If price is no object, we loved the luxurious look and feel of Sophie Conran for Portmeirion’s arbor set.

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