If you want to deliver the ‘wow factor’, don’t overlook your tables
Pure South Dining’s restaurant manager James Bone talks about tabletop trends.
As a plate carrying veteran of 22 years, I have had my fair share of setting tables. Whilst the design, style and arrangement have changed dramatically over this time, the ethos remains the same – the table should represent the attention to detail, mood and overall experience the venue is trying to purvey to current and future guests.
Thankfully a lot has changed over the past two decades. I remember laying double cloths, pink over black in a suburban restaurant then moving onto damask a few years down the track. Tables were the burden of the commis waiter with double settings, double cloths, double wine glasses and a vase that stood all too high, running the risk of ruining a setting with one small, all-too-common accidental knock. But times have changed and the old proverb “less is more” has become the standard in three hat diners right through to suburban bistros.
Modern day restaurant tables serve both function and form. A table should be set with a sense of mild advertisement for the incoming diner. A table cloth might sell a sense of occasion whilst raw timber promotes a feeling of smart casual. The glassware, napkin and cutlery all subtly sell a message that restaurant owners would like their customers to appreciate.
Tablecloths are no longer considered a requirement at fine diners.
The restaurant table is the customer’s personal space within a sometimes hectic and dynamic public arena. Not only does the table offer a piece of real estate but also a place of solace in which guests can be assured that their chosen company for night will be kept comfortable, stimulated and content throughout the course of their meal.
Melbourne diners are not only spoilt for choice when it comes to menu offerings but also in regards to table settings and design. Plates, boards, stones, test tubes and ridiculously expensive steak knives have all become part of the wow factor experienced at many of today’s restaurants. Local ‘gourmet’ burger joints now send out their giant sliders on hand-crafted wooden boards with accompanying chips in small wicker baskets. Matte black earthenware has made appearances in many of Melbourne’s hatted establishments as well as different shaped plates utilising a cacophony of textures and material. Perhaps the band Things of Stone and Wood was so named by a few kitchen porters who were juggling bench space for the influx of new shapes and designs?
Consider using plates of different shape, size and colour.
Great kitchen operators and chefs are constantly on the look-out for new vessels upon which to place their fare, whether it be tree bark, steel service dishes, glassware with lids (to fill with smoke) or plain white china with a twist. Personally, I have spent many hours between services skimming catalogues, magazines and trialling samples in pursuit of the perfect dish to house the perfect dish.
The aforementioned wow factor isn’t the result of food alone, but also the complete experience on offer and a key influencer of this experience is the table setting. While many restaurant owners may be reluctant to open the chequebook for something that's sure to be broken within the next six weeks, it’s essential that the design of restaurants (and their tables) evolve with the menu. After all, it is the repeat customers that we cherish the most and whilst they crave a familiar environment they also appreciate subtle changes and a well thought-out, well executed injection of energy into the space.
Melbourne’s Pure South Dining is a fine dining restaurant dedicated to the artisan produce of Tasmania, located on the Southgate promenade.