Setting the scene for dinner


Ever tried booking a table on Valentine's Day these days?  The restaurants are packed, the staff are stressy and the chef is over worked.  Save your money and do it at home instead. Turn your kitchen into your own private dining with just a few simple tips. 

Firstly, go through the cleaning tips that we went through last month.  They're important.

Sweep and mop or vacuum around the dining table and chairs.  Remove the whole lot if you have to.

  • Now, let's start with your dining table and chairs. Clear absolutely everything off them.  Everything.  Wipe the surface, and then the legs with a damp cloth and disinfectant spray. Next you need a clean, square table cloth of neutral colour.  White or red would be good.  Lay it out so that the central cross crease is in the dead centre of the table.  It's not OCD, it's aesthetic.
  •  For the cutlery,  you need half a bowl of boiling hot water and some paper towels or a clean tea towel. Take all the cutlery you intend to use and dip it in the boiling water, up to the neck.  Then polish it with some vigour to remove grease and water marks.  Hold the neck between your thumb and forefinger and do the same with the handle.  Repeat the process for every single piece of cutlery you use.   Lay out the cutlery with the base of the handle at the edge of the table.
  • Now take your salt and pepper and polish them too.  Yes, really, they pick all kinds of grease and yuck.


  • Using the same towel, polish four side plates on top, around the edge and underneath.  Place the plates to the left of where the diners sit, and two in the centre, side by side. Place the salt and pepper on one of the central plates.
  • Change the water in the bowl for fresh, boiling hot water. Take two clean, non-chipped, matching wine glasses.  Take one paper towel or piece of kitchen roll.  Now, hold the glass by the neck with your thumb and forefinger and hold the bulb upside down over the water.  It will quickly mist up with steam.  If it does not, then your water is not hot enough.  When it is nice and misted, carefully wipe it out clean.  Repeat the same step with the base.

 Finally, candles.  If you insist on the big candelabra  thing, then make very sure that the candles fit into the holes.  If not, microwave your candles for twenty seconds and try again. I would recommend a fresh, wide based cream candle.  They just work better.

 I would love to show you how to fold napkins, but, embarrassingly, I don't actually possess any! Have a look on YouTube and search for napkin folding.  There are plenty of tutorials.

 Last things, make sure it is not too hot or to cold in there.  And music is very important.  Nothing too loud or too fast.  Chill out anthems work best in my opinion.

 Beyond that it is all down to you.  Just leave the washing up for the morning eh?

 Happy Valentines day!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.