Into the mix for a delicious dinner party

When it comes to selecting fine dinnerware for our table, we Brits tend to be matchy-matchy. But, says expert Simon Willis, combining different designs can be beautifully effective


Charlotta Gold, by Noritake. Dinner plate, £25. All dinnerware on these pages is available at Havens.

Buying tableware is a special and personal process. We all love dining off fine plates and serving from elegant bowls, and there really is nothing right or wrong about what you use, or how you decide to lay your table. Over 35 years of working with fine dinnerware has taught me that sometimes things that you think just won’t work together look fabulous when they are put together on the table. Have some fun and give your guests a visual as well as a culinary treat.

In the UK, we are generally much more conservative with our choices, and our mixing, than our cousins across the pond. We like to keep to the same pattern and not mix in accents but don’t be afraid to experiment. A simple dinner plate like Noritake’s Legacy Splendour, a rare combination of gold and platinum, is a wonderful canvas to dress up with an accent salad plate of any sort. The options from Royal Crown Derby make a fabulous statement. Many ranges have accents plate already designed to go with them, such as Noritake Glendonald, but you can mix it up with designs from other patterns if you like. An eclectic range of coffee or teacups makes for an interesting end to your evening, and a talking point for your guest as they can all be very different and each can have a story from your travels.

One bit of advice I always give to brides getting married was to buy twice as many eight-inch plates as any other as you will always find they are used for more than one course and you need to have plenty. The smallest plate is not essential unless you like to have something for bread, you can manage without that. The choice of soup bowls is very much up to personal preference; a rimmed soup is elegant and the classic choice, but a soup bowl is a versatile option when you are building your collection.

Serving items can make all the difference but again don’t be afraid to mix different patterns together to add interest and colour. Covered dishes are wonderful but they do take up more space in your cupboards than a versatile stackable open dish. A sauce boat and stand are useful for far more than just sauce so always include it in your selection. Small dishes are always handy for any course, and for a few delicious sweets with your hot beverage.

Tableware is to be enjoyed as a key part of the dining experience. Make it as exciting as the food that you are serving; it will only elevate the experience and the enjoyment of the occasion for your family and friends.

Simon Willis is group managing director of Goviers of Sidmouth and Havens of Westcliff

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