The Ins and Outs of Eating at a Fine Dining Restaurant

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Fine dining is certainly an unforgettable experience if you do it right. But, there's no doubt it can be a little intimidating, which is why we've put this guide together for you.

Making a reservation

Check the restaurant website for rules on making reservations as they can vary. Some restaurants will happily take a booking from you a year in advance, while others can have complicated booking systems. Allow plenty of time to book yourself a table at a popular dining establishment.

Top tip: follow the restaurant's social media accounts for any updates and reminders they may share about table bookings.

Make an online reservation at OTTO Sydney or OTTO Brisbane, where you can use your Good Food Gift Card. Often, OTTO offers booking specials for upcoming public holidays or events.

What to wear

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Many restaurants allow you to wear whatever you like, but a good idea is to dress smart. It really depends on the style of restaurant. But, there are some unspoken rules when it comes to dress at fine dining restaurants. Remember, you would never wear a pair of torn jeans to Bennelong or Quay. In saying this, it's important that you feel comfortable so you can enjoy the occasion and have a lovely time.

Top tip: check the dress code at the restaurant beforehand. This could save you from looking underdressed.

Rockpool Bar & Grill with locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth observes a smart dress code. The Rockpool menu is simple and uncomplicated, with influences from steakhouses in North America. The dining experience is relaxed, yet the service is enthusiastic.

Ordering food

A "prix fixe menu" is often offered at many fine dining restaurants, and is the perfect way to sample the chef's recommendations. You'll be given a range of courses that give you a taste of seasonal flavours. It also takes the pressure off having to choose. You should generally have the option of going à la carte, which means you can select the dishes which you would like from the menu.

Some fine dining spots offer both options. So, it's important to discuss with your guests on what they would prefer. It may get a little awkward if you order from the prix fixe menu, and others order from à la carte.

Top tip: order outside of your comfort zone. You won't know how good a dish is if you don't try it. If you're hesitant, prepare yourself by looking at the restaurant's menu beforehand.

Take a look at the menus of Sake Restaurant & Bar. The Restaurant has locations at Double Bay and The Rocks in Sydney, Hamer Hall and Flinders Lane in Melbourne, and in Brisbane's CBD. Sake Restaurant & Bar is known for their unique blends of Japanese flavours, and an extensive wine list and cocktail menu. You'll be sure to branch out and try something new.

Ordering wine

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Ordering wine at a top restaurant can be daunting, especially if the wine list is extensive, like the wine menu at Aubergine. In this instance, it's important to research the wines beforehand. This way, you can get a feel for the types of wines which you will be faced with, and which one you may prefer to order.

Top tip: BYO wine. Many restaurants allow you to bring a bottle, however will charge a corkage fee. A benefit of bringing your own wine is you know you'll enjoy it and you won't have to stress about spending time searching for the perfect wine online.

Regardless of whether you're going to order from the wine list or BYO, here's a guide to sound smarter when talking about wine.

How to behave

Don't forget basic table manners when you're fine dining. A reminder to never click or call out to gain a waiter's attention, rather patiently wait until they come to you. Also, don't tuck your napkin into your shirt, place the napkin on your knees.

Top tip: don't pull your phone out during dinner. It's viewed as rude – you're there to enjoy time with your guests, not stare at a screen.

The main thing to remember with fine dining is to not disturb other guests. If you absolutely must take a photo of your instagrammable food or cocktail, turn the sound off your phone and try not to have flash on.

Browse the best fine dining restaurants in Sydney to see which location would best suit you, the occasion, and your guests.

We hope that you now feel a little more prepared before your fine dining experience. Why not make the occasion more special by giving the gift of a Good Food Gift Card? Browse our participating restaurants today, and find out why people prefer gift cards over other presents.

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Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.