Even when restaurants are open as normal, few of us are able to splash out on haute cuisine every weekend but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fine dining at home, though.

The presentation can make or break any dinner – while most of us are tempted to pile our freshly cooked food onto a plate, taking a bit of time to think through the composition can go a long way.


“It’s the old adage: you eat with your eyes,” says Michelin star chef Aktar Islam of Opheem in Birmingham. “It’s got to look appealing – that adds to the actual experience. If it looks good, your brain is already telling you it’s going to taste good. It also shows a great level of care that’s gone into every process.”


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Of course, beautifully plating a badly-cooked and under-seasoned meal isn’t going to cut it. “The fundamentals start with proper cooking – you’ve got to be able to cook all your components properly,” explains Islam.

He calls fine dining a “different kettle of fish” to normal restaurants, saying: “Every plate we send out at our restaurant can have up to 12, 13 chefs working on it. It’s very difficult, with all the different components and processes you have to go through. And there’s two, maybe three chefs putting it together. So I think it’s very difficult to realistically emulate fine dining at home.”

Enjoy a fine-dining at home experience

However, if you do want to elevate your plating to something a bit fancier, there are a few things to keep in mind…

Attention to detail


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“Fine dining is all about attention to detail with every process,” says Islam – so don’t expect to whip anything up in 30 minutes.

“As mundane as it may sound, we will get a sack of carrots and then pick out every one that looks exactly the same. And then from that, we will take little segment slices from each carrot to see which one tastes right, because you get a difference in sugar content. So it is a very long-winded process.”

At home, you can practise your knife skills and make sure everything is chopped perfectly. “We spend a lot of time making sure when we dice a shallot, every piece is exactly the same size,” explains Islam.

Use good plates


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“We invest a lot of money on crockery – it’s very important,” admits Islam. “Classic white plates are always a winner – spend some money on good quality crockery.”

If you don’t want to splash out on an entirely new dinner set, make sure what you’re using at home is all uniform and preferably white.

Check your proportions


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‘Fine dining’ evokes images of dainty plates and miniature servings. Although Islam does say you should make sure “the proportion on the plate is right” and you’re not over-serving, this doesn’t mean you have to forgo heartier meals entirely.

The chef’s top tip is to “plate the dish up and then serve all the other bits on the side, so it’s not wasted – people still get to eat it, but the initial meal that’s served to them on the plate looks beautiful”.

Be prepared


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Fine dining tends to be finicky, with multiple elements on one plate. Islam’s advice is: “Don’t overcomplicate things at home – it could look great, but if it’s cold when you’re eating, it’s pointless.”

He recommends having your process “mapped out, so you know what elements go where. What we always do is get the proteins cooked first and set to the side while it’s resting – because everything, even a piece of fish, needs resting – you get the other components together, and the last thing you put together is the sauce, so it’s piping hot.”

Make your sauces shine


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A glossy, shiny dressing can make any dish look gorgeous.

“We pass all our sauces [through a sieve] and then we reduce,” explains Islam. “We tend to leave things quite liquid – we get rid of all the solids, then we reduce it down slowly without over-boiling, so it doesn’t get cloudy and has that lovely shine to it. That’s very important to do.”

Think about garnishes


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Some dishes, like soups, are trickier to make look beautiful. Islam’s pro tip – other than serving it in a “really nice bowl” – is “to garnish with a nice oil and add some fresh herbs over the top”.

He also recommends serving it with a dainty, individual portion of bread, rather than a big hunk of your favourite loaf.

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Last update on 2021-05-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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