Written by Sarah Egan
As aptly coined by Michael J Fox, “The oldest form of theatre is the dinner table.” If the table is the stage, guests provide the plot and food plays the starring role. The aim is to create an atmosphere that leaves guests both deeply satisfied and longing for more.
Formal dining awakens the senses, indulges the tastebuds and is a feast for the eyes. Like a tiered cake, each exquisite layer of fine china, luxurious table linens, sparkling crystal and silverware, adds to the final effect.
There will always be a time and place for formal dinner settings on larger yachts but there is a strong movement towards a more relaxed dining experience that takes greater advantage of the surrounding ocean.
Choose tableware, drinkware and napery that reflect how you like to entertain on board. China, crystal and glass require special attention and careful storage. Not everyone has the interior crew required to nail silver service, so for more durable crockery options, use commercial, vitrified tableware and toughened glassware.
Our wonderful climate makes outdoor entertaining a luxury we can enjoy all year round, and there’s a growing trend for living spaces that blur the line from inside to out. So if cabinet space is at a premium, choose galley supplies that work for both your interior and exterior areas. With designs that look just like porcelain, stoneware or glass, there’s no longer any need to compromise on design for the sake of functionality.
Monogrammed and embroidered table linens are the hallmark of fine dining and designing custom linens that accentuate the dinnerware is pure joy. It can be as simple as embroidering the boat name on napkins. I do love the feel and durability of natural linen napkins, but of course the sheer practicality of high quality disposable serviettes is hard to beat. For a more eco-friendly option we use cotton napkins and placemats that come on a handy roll and can be washed multiple times or used just once. Contrasting patterns and colours will help bring your table to life, so don’t be afraid to mix it up. Add some napkin rings, tie them with a piece of braided rope, or simply fold and place between the dinner and side plate.
Centrepieces can be made of decorative items you may already have on board.
Apart from the standard floral arrangement, other natural elements can be surprising additions. Shells, foliage, even fruit and floating flowers in a vase or bowl work beautifully. If you’re short on table space, simply tuck a flower or a sprig of greenery into the napkin ring or place a shell on each plate. Use items of varied heights to add visual interest but be sure your centrepiece is low enough so as not to hinder conversation across the table.
Try letting the food be the central feature for an al fresco lunch on deck by using an extra-long cheese board, or a row of rectangular-shaped platters down the centre of the table. Fill with lots of cheeses, colourful antipasto and fruit, then fill any gaps with flowers and greenery.
Crew members aboard charter yachts and superyachts are adept in the fine art of exceeding their guests’ expectations by creating exquisite table settings. These seasoned professionals effortlessly pull off amazing theme nights at a moment’s notice. For the ultimate tablescape inspiration, take a peek at yacht stewardess, Mischa Pugatschew’s delicious table settings page @the_sassy_napkin on Instagram.
When the sun goes down, ambient lighting will step up the mood. Scatter battery-operated tealights, or group pillar candles for some magical light play. Have some strings of battery-operated copper wire lights on hand and some hurricane lamps to bathe dining areas in warm mood lighting.
Why not make a day of it? Grab the deck chairs, gather up some outdoor pillows, plates, glasses and the party bucket, load up the tender and set off for a dining experience on the beach.
The sand will brush off and the salt will wash away, but the memories of a great meal will last forever.