Meet Monica Dhawan. This beautiful mum of two and COO of Dutt Menon Dunmorr loves to have dear friends and family over for dinner. While it is convenient to order in easy to heat and eat fast food, there’s something about taking that one early hour off work, buying flowers to match your tableware, designing a menu that caters to your food mood of the day – Continental or Indian today – and creating an ambience that invites conversation, discussions, mirth and sought after requiescence after a long day. And Monica does exactly that. Walk into her sprawling condo in Gurgaon, and you’re welcomed by one drop-dead handsome dog, Pasha, and a dining table fit for a royal meal. And though the setting may look elaborate, Monica tells us that it’s always about the details – a bit of color coordination, and a dollop of thoughtfulness – that go into putting together a stunning table.

Whether it’s a sit down dinner for 8, or a buffet spread for a larger gathering; if you’ve been confused about the basics of setting a table, are unsure of how to organize a menu, and need a hint or two on how to put it all together, good news – you’re not alone, we’re giving you company. And even better news? Monica’s giving us tips and tricks from her Little Black Book on the perfect way to host and enjoy a soiree.

Let the Delhi dinners begin. Bon Appetit!



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Table-top What Can You Bring to the Table | Table Setting 101
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serving-bowls What Can You Bring to the Table | Table Setting 101

Notes in Monica’s Little Black Book |

The Setting

For sit down dinners, make sure you arrange the cutlery according to your cuisine.

– Knives and forks for continental food, spoons and forks for Indian food.

– Dessert spoon on the top {as shown in the picture}.

– No dessert fork, unless you are serving a continental dessert like a pie or cake.

– If you’re serving wine with dinner, place the wine glass next to the water glass, at the right side of plate, as shown in the picture above.


The Decorations

– Always make sure you don’t have big centre flower or candle arrangements for sit down dinners; they block the view of guests across the table.

– Have place settings in mind for your guests – especially if different groups of friends are meeting for the first time. The thumb rule is male female sit alternately, and no couples sit next to each other.

– What helps is arranging the food on the sideboard, so everyone can help themselves before sitting down to eat. Serving dinner at the table crowds the table, and guests end up passing food back and forth for a lot of the evening. It takes away from the pleasure of enjoying your meal and conversation.

– Make the decor interesting! When I’m serving Indian food, I put spices in transparent jars; like pepper corn, cinnamon sticks, elaichi etc. and lay them in the centre of the table. The aroma they illicit is divine!


The Menu

– For a continental spread, I usually serve pesto pasta or prawn carbonara, cous cous salad, a rosemary roast, cauliflower in white sauce, tagine or any dish with gravy and a leafy salad.

– Keep the serverware interesting; whether it’s an intricately carved pasta bowl, or ceramic ware with interesting designs and textures, it’s these elements that make for a well planned setting.

– Always always make sure the serving spoons fit the dish being served. Tongs for pasta/spaghetti, carving knife and two-pronged fork for roasts, and a salad serving set for leafy greens.



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“For sit downs especially, I like to serve coffee and dessert on this cart. The cups are from Good Earth; and to go along with a late night shot of espresso or tea, I serve this carrot cake with a light frosting.”



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Buffet spreads warrant a bit of indulgence – not only in the food, but also in the way the table is laid out. So don’t be afraid to get creative! Use a beautiful flower setting, gorgeous vases and tea-light candles to create a mood.

Notes in Monica’s Little Black Book |

The Setting

– Make sure the cutlery matches, or is in a contrast that makes sense. There should be something that connects it all; whether it’s an ivory base, or a gold rim.

– I often put the forks and spoons out in a fan, as displayed. It makes it easier for people to pick up their weapon of choice.

– Don’t forget the napkins with the plates. And if you’re serving gravy based dishes, keep bowls handy.

The Decorations

– In a buffet you can have a dramatic or large centre arrangement.

– Add a beautiful silver or brass polished candelabra, aromatic flowers… An alternative to what you see here is filling the center of the table with jasmine flowers and placing a coloured tea-light holder over the flora-scape.

– In this setting, I’ve ensured that the colours of the table mats and runner are contrasting. I used fuschia and white mats to go with a deep burgundy and gold-thread embroided runner.

– Do remember, at the end of it all, it is all about the food. Don’t let the set-up overwhelm your guests.

The Menu

– For a Kashmiri buffet, I serve the following – Chicken yakhni, Gushtaba {mutton}, saag with paneer, dum aloo, daal, raita, plain boiled rice {goes well with the chicken and gushtaba} and laccha rotis. Dessert – phirni in individual kullars {earthy, small, round containers}.
– A regular buffet would typically have chicken biryani, mutton chops, palak paneer, kerala aloo, daal, raita, rotis, rice. Dessert – daal halwa and rasgullas; so you have one hot dessert and a cold one.

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What can I pour you, my darling? Decoding the Glasses

Starting from the back | Champagne Flute, White Wine Glass, Red Wine Glass, Martini Glass, Brandy Glass, Glass for Vodka & Gin based drinks, Whiskey Glass.


Little Black Book for Tableware essentials |

Good Earth; for the most colourful, kitschy cutlery and crockery.

Where | Branches at Khan Market, Saket District Centre and Select Citywalk

Oma; for bowls and dishes in a pastel palette with interesting textures.

Where | Branches at Khan Market, Select Citywalk and Emporio

Both Oma & Good Earth have tealight holders in an array of colours. 

Fabindia; for earthen finish plates and cups, and table mats.

Where | Branches across Delhi

Anokhi; for napkins in exotic block prints.

Where | Branches across Delhi

Wine+Drinking glasses; from local stores. Editors Note – try Osaba in Vasant Vihar. They have a pretty massive range, fit for different budgets.

Where | 56, Vasant Lok Market, Basant Lok, Vasant Vihar


Photography Credits | Rushil Khokhar & Suchita S.


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