Noel Cunningham

Noel Cunningham

There’s usually someone at evening tea who enjoys a good big glass of milk, but according to Donegal celebrity Noel Cunningham, leaving the carton on the table is an “awful practice” that is “beyond vulgar”.

Having a milk carton to hand, Noel says, is a habit that is best left in the past. He has revealed that he hates the sight of cartons so much that he has given milk jugs to some of his own family members.

Should you be thinking about doing something fancy with your dinner table setting this Christmas, Noel has some expert advice to share from his many years as the General Manager of top-class Donegal Hotel, Harvey’s Point.

“In our fast food, disposable, everyday existence we need gentle reminders that standards matter. We need to remember that nothing is as beautiful as a delightful table set with care and looking wonderful,” Noel says.

“The awful practice of putting the carton of milk on the table to me is beyond vulgar and this example sums up for me the way standards that were unthinkable in the past are now acceptable. To make my point I have gifted several of my own family a milk jug and a canteen of cutlery.”

Noel has launched this crusade to return to ‘more gracious dining’ after designing his own bespoke Christmas table at Newbridge Silverware and the Museum of Style Icons.

Noel Cunningham

Noel Cunningham

Our Christmas table settings, according to Noel, should be a thing of beauty and art. Some of us might need guidance on the very basics, while having a matching set of plates for all the family could be as glamorous as it gets. If we follow Noel’s guide, however, we will be plucking foliage from the roadside and scrambling around to find granny’s linen and old antiques.

“Stick to the rules of table setting – from the outside starter knife and fork, soup spoon, for the main course joint knife and fork, sweet spoon and fork along the top, etc. The placement of the cutlery will be a talking point during dinner for sure.

“Add family heirlooms that never see the light of day, for example that lovely art deco lady that has reclined in the utility room for twenty years. Add gifts that can be opened at table. Use a canteen of cutlery from Newbridge Silverware that was a wedding present all those years ago. Take out the best glasses that have been in a cupboard for years. Find your grandmother’s old damask tablecloth and matching linen serviettes and use that stunning dinner service that was never before used.”

“Holly and berries can add colour and are easily found on our highways and byways, and why ever not put those old Georgian candlesticks to good use? The list is endless and the simple message is to make the most of the table and the bits and bobs we all have in our homes that are never used!”

Noel is trying his best to “halt an irreversible slide in basic standards” here, and while it’s always nice to make a special effort for the big day and bring out the best tableware and cutlery, we can’t help but notice there’s no sign of Christmas crackers or paper hats in this guide!