With just days until the Jubilee bank holiday, the nation is getting ready to celebrate 70 years of its favourite monarch with weekend-long party. Gearing up for your very own at-home celebrations? British etiquette expert William Hanson has teamed up with Dickinson & Morris to share his top tips on serving up the perfect Platinum Jubilee buffet.
British Etiquette Expert William Hanson on Hosting the Perfect Platinum Jubilee Celebration
Hosts should arrange the buffet in a logical order to help reduce tedious traffic jams and prevent guests from waiting to help themselves to that second offering of chilli con carne.
The entry of a buffet is marked by plates, but do not put the cutlery or napkins next to the plates. Instead, these two items mark the end of the buffet. It’s very hard to serve yourself while juggling a fork and knife underneath and diners don’t need their eating weapons until their plates are fully laden.
Speaking of which, resist the temptation to pile up your plate – like they’ve just ended rationing. A buffet is a marathon, not a sprint. You are more than welcome to return to the buffet once your plate is clear.
Never take more than you will eat. While dining etiquette for sit-down meals may allow you to leave a small portion of food, for self-service affairs it’s quite poor form to break off more than you can chew, depriving others of whatever is left. Share the love and share the food.
If space allows, hosts should consider having a separate table for drinks, positioned away from the main display of food. This will help avoid congestion and help move people into other parts of the room, rather than one, heavily-populated area.
Buffets should have a range of food items available, catering for as many guests’ dietary requirements as possible. As with any other party, hosts should enquire about allergies and intolerances, and guests should also be sure to share their foody foibles well in advance with their hosts. Diners only have themselves to blame, and may go hungry, if they arrive and announce they’re a surprise vegan.
Unless there are enough seats and table space for everyone, the food offered on a buffet should be carefully designed to be easy to eat. For example, there’s no point serving unshelled prawns, which require the attention of both hands, if guests have to stand to eat. Instead, present easier to eat items that only need a fork, or one hand: a delicate lasagne, for example, or some moreish pork pies are perfect choices for a buffet.
Sauces, dressings and garnishes should be placed beside the dish they accompany – mayonnaise next to the salad, a sharp mustard next to the pork pies, or a slightly sweet chutney, a good brown sauce, maybe even a pickled onion on the side too, and so on. Providing a teaspoon for each type of dressing is a must to avoid cross-contamination. No one enjoys houmous with hints of horseradish.
For those in charge of replenishing a buffet, try to keep all dishes looking appetising. When a quiche Lorraine gets to two-thirds eaten it starts to look very sorry for itself. Decant what’s left of Lorraine onto a smaller plate and rearrange to make it more appealing to whoever comes along next.
At grander buffets, a still-observed rule of etiquette is that tablecloths must gently kiss the floor, rather than hang halfway down the table.
Images courtesy of Dickinson & Morris (c) Margot Jakobson