Service à la française
Dinner in the 18th century was served à la française, with all the dishes placed on the table and diners helping themselves and each other (Fig 8). Dishes, plates and cutlery were changed as the courses progressed and, at the grandest houses, where everything was eaten or served from and with silver, huge quantities of plate were required.
Complex table plans were produced to help with the management of the meal; in 1726, a Swiss visitor to London, César de Saussure, described the scene: ‘Their tables are abundantly and magnificently spread… the linen is very white, the plate shines brightly, the knives and forks are changed surprisingly often, that is to say, every time a plate is removed.
‘When everyone is done eating, the table is cleared, the cloth even being removed, and a bottle of wine with a glass for each guest is placed on the table.’