A GUIDE TO LAYING THE TABLE
Fortunately, the trend for unfussy table settings requires just a few well-chosen items. You will always need plates: Debrett’s says the diameter of a dinner plate should be 10in (25cm) and side plates, 6in (15cm) but we’re not going to judge. Best avoid square plates, unless you’re a contestant on Masterchef. Cork or slate tablemats sit nicely on a wooden table, as do linen napkins. Unless you only eat sandwiches, you’ll always need cutlery, so invest in some good quality ones, and steer clear of fashionable options like gold, copper or black if you want long-term satisfaction.
OPTIONAL BUT TEMPTING
A tureen with a ladle is a theatrical way to dish up soup, while a decanter adds swank (and disguises cheap wine). Side plates aren’t essential but are a handy place to lay a chunk of bread. The trend for ‘chargers’ beneath dinner plates, however, is one piece of crockery too far, in our opinion.
NO LONGER REQUIRED
Tablecloths, once laid at every meal, now only come out on special occasions – it is easier to wipe a table with a damp cloth than to launder a piece of material, after all. (Runners are not to be sniffed at when entertaining, though.) Cruet sets have been abandoned in favour of grinders and pinch pots. And whither the fish knife, that puzzlingly shaped utensil, now only seen in charity shops?