Setting the scene with your superyacht dining table
Written by Yachting Pages
Last updated: 27/03/2020
Although there’s a lot of common sense involved in laying a dining table, there are also aspects to the process that are often overlooked or forgotten about completely - without a little foresight and forward planning.
The meals served on a superyacht are a large part of the experience, and whether the superyacht owner has joined the yacht unexpectedly, or inspiration is running dry for a month-long charter, a stewardess and her interior crew must pull out all the stops for interesting tableware settings at breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktail hour each and every day.
Yachting Pages spoke to Sophie Burn, PR and marketing manager at Harlequin London to offer tips for creating drama and beauty at the superyacht dinner table.
Setting the scene with your superyacht table
When setting the superyacht table for a family dinner or a special occasion, there's so much to think about, but so much fun to be had.
The ‘ordinary’ will never suffice aboard a superyacht, so start ‘setting the scene’ with the table cloth and necessary tableware needed for the courses before really setting the scene. Sophie explained, “Once all the essentials have found their place on the table, it’s fun to adorn and enhance it with beautiful accessories. It’s the whimsical finishing touches that will set your table apart and add personality.”
Although there is no ‘standard’ table setting on board a superyacht - it largely depends on what cuisine is being served and on guest preferences - traditional table settings can be adapted to suit any dining occasion.
No matter whether you are setting a table for a casual lunch on the deck, or an al-fresco dinner party in the dining room, monochrome is a look that never goes out of style.
Sophie said, “Try black and white tableware highlighted with gold metallics for a contemporary, striking look. The Greek Key motif design from Meissen comes in a range of different styles and designs, which allows you to create a dramatic, attention-grabbing look that is individual and sophisticated while remaining coherent.
Regardless of the table theme or dinnerware set selected, a superyacht guest will need: A dinner plate, a side plate, bowl, butter plate and charger plate – this is the plate that the dinner plate is placed on. The number of plates will of course vary depending on the amount of courses served and the type of cuisine served.
Sophie offered, “To create interest at the table, consider using a different set of dessert plates to ring in the changes, along with matching coffee cups. This will give the end of the meal a different look and feel, and ensure the evening ends on a high.”
Always ensure that guests have a range of glassware, relating to what is being served. A superyacht guest will need a water glass, champagne flute, red and/or white wine glass and tea or coffee cup for breakfast.
Sophie said, “Don’t feel that you need to stick to the same design or brand of glassware across the table: Create a mix and simply choose colours or similar details in order to tie them together.
“Alongside water glasses, decanters and water pitchers are important items on any dining table. With the many luxury variations of these available to choose from, they can also be used as a way to add to the decoration to the superyacht table.
“Bear in mind that champagne flutes do not have to match the wine glasses as these are generally used before dinner, so you can be as adventurous as you like here.”
Cutlery and silverware
Stunning silverware is a welcome addition to any superyacht table setting. Each guest will likely need an oyster, salad, fish, dinner and dessert fork; a fish, dinner and butter knife; and a soup and dessert spoon.
Alongside this, there will also be a wealth of serving utensils to be prepared for the serving station, along with spare plates and cutlery. A dining occasion may also require breadbaskets, serving bowls and platters, wine chillers and ice buckets.
The materials, design and textures of the table linen and napkins used can take a table from day to night, or from informal lunch to corporate dinner. Adding a piece of gauze or chiffon to your table arrangement and napkin bundle can change the whole look of the table.
A superyacht table will need a table cloth or table runner, a napkin and placements if it is a formal occasion. Table linen is essential, but merely folding the napkins gives a hurried, unfinished look. If you don’t have napkin rings, use ribbons cut to the same lengths in order to tie up the napkins. Secure with a neat bow. Alternatively, napkin origami can be used.
Every superyacht table should be symmetrical, and every place setting identical. Sophie said, “Don’t forget to add place-setting displays and name cards for each of your guests. Not only do these offer that personalised, welcoming touch, but they also provide another great opportunity to create drama when people first arrive and outlines a pre-planned seating arrangement for an enjoyable dining experience.”
Centrepieces and table displays
Centrepieces and table displays may include fresh floral displays, decorative vases or other beautiful items, including candelabras or themed items.
Sophie advised, “Be sure to keep centre pieces and floral displays either at a low level so that diners can see each other over them, or tall and thin so they can see through – always be conscious that your guests do want to see each other!
“If this is proving to be a problem with the layout, consider using individual floral displays instead – these can add just as much charm as a large floral display in the centre, and floating flowers can also be a nice touch.”
Candles and ambient lighting
Again, when choosing candles and soft lighting, pick either very low tea lights or very tall candlesticks, so that diners can see each other across the table.
When dining on the deck or outside, rather than using traditional, unprotected candlesticks, Sophie advised the use of hurricane shades. She shared, “The scale and colours of the En Cage from Saint-Louis look great and add that visual impact. Alternatively, you could consider using the hurricanes to protect floral displays from the breeze.”
Seasonal superyacht table themes
Consider the seasons when laying your superyacht table – with autumn, you can use warmer, darker colours in your china and glasses to give an autumnal feel. Many clients therefore purchase different tableware sets for each season.
Fool-proof tips for laying the table on board a superyacht
Presentation and quality are everything in this industry: They play an important key in all parts of the on-board experience. If possible, it is therefore best to use china and crystal, as this is so much more sophisticated and luxurious. The difference can be seen, tasted and felt.
On the flip side, realise that not everything on the table has to be expensive. Decorative items can be picked up easily (and cheaply) at local markets around the world, and lend a certain charm and local culture to the occasion.
When it comes to laying and styling a table, make sure there is plenty of room. Not only for individuals, but also for the plates, cutlery, glasses, serving bowls and condiment holders.
Leave plenty of room for wine coolers, which are crucial for keeping the champagne, white and rose wines chilled.
So that everyone can be served promptly, and so that serving pieces such as salad bowls and sauceboats are not too big or unwieldy, we always suggest that you have one serving piece per six persons when buying your dinner service.
Space on board is limited. Double up medium-size plates as these can be used for starter and dessert. The same applies to dessert knives and forks.
It’s ok to match, but when you get more confident with the task in hand - or when breakages and last-minute arrangements don’t allow - it’s also ok to mix and match with what’s on hand. Some of the best superyacht tables have come out of improvisation, after all. Where possible, use what is already available to you aboard. The yacht’s artwork and interior accessories can often be used as table props and decoration, with tableware and linen tied in with suitable colours and textures.
When you feel as though you are done, take a seat with your fellow crew. Take a break and ‘try out’ the table, seeing how the arrangement works in practice. Can you see, hear and move easily? Is there an annoying glare bouncing off the surfaces? Are you too close to a drafty doorway? Is the table wobbling?
There is no right and wrong when laying a superyacht table, but, if inspiration runs dry remember that the internet offers a wealth of inspiration, resources and forums offering access to the knowledge and creations of fellow stewardesses with ample experience. Pinterest and Instagram offer great visuals, and the answers to your urgent questions can often be found on Facebook groups and blogs such as Yacht Stewardess Tips, Work on a Yacht and The Stewardess Bible.