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Buffet dining: from the Swedish smorgasbord to upstanding luncheons

Choosing a bespoke meal from amazing tables groaning with all types of cuisine is foodie heaven in the form of a buffet. But where on earth did this culinary tradition come from?

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Unknown to most, the idea of having a buffet style meal has origins in Scandinavian culture. In the 16th century, the Swedish smörgåsbord and Finnish brännvinsbord were small buffet side tables where schnapps and hor d’oeuvres were served prior to a seated meal. Although buffet meals are associated with less formal dining nowadays, these buffet arrangements were indulged in by members of the merchant and upper classes.

Over the centuries, the smörgåsbord and similar Scandinavian concepts moved from being occasions for appetisers only, to a dining option for the main meal itself. In Scandinavia, it became an increasingly chic way to dine and serve food; a feeling which has continued to this day.

The word ‘buffet’ became adopted in the English-speaking world for this type of meal. It originated from the French sideboard furniture the meal was typically served from, which were known as ‘buffets’. Eventually, ‘buffet’ came to mean the culinary serving format itself, rather than the piece of furniture.

Visit Leftbank, our buffet restaurant, book Online today

Interestingly, in 18th century England and France, the idea of a self-service breakfast became appealing to the high classes. They felt it offered more privacy than being waited on hand and foot.

In the early 1900s, buffet luncheons became popular, where guests ate standing up. As such, housekeeping books from the era tell hosts they must only serve food that can be eaten with a fork or spoon at such occasions, as the need for knives would have made eating impossible.

In Depression-era America, buffets became popular, with a focus on quantity rather than quality. Even in the homes of the wealthy, it enabled hostesses to feed a large number of people with show-stopping buffet tables, but without the need for too many serving staff.

Today, buffet style dining encapsulates many of the ideals from its origins, balanced with modern day tastes. The aspects of buffet dining most important to people nowadays include relaxed dining, high quality food that comes beautifully presented, and excellent variety. At the Leftbank Restaurant at The Runnymede on Thames, our buffet dining provides enough choice for all tastes and fancies. It’s all about eating at your own pace and enjoying the quality our chefs are known for. There’s plenty of table seating too; no need for knife-less meals here!

Some of our favourite dishes at the Leftbank Restaurant include an ever-changing array of chilled starters and mains from our theatre kitchen, including sizzling marinated rotisserie chicken, the low ‘n’ slow roast joint of the day and wood fired fresh fish. We also serve seasonal vegetarian dishes, stone baked rustic bread and pasta cooked with fresh sauces to order. The beauty of buffet dining is that there’s always more to eat, so for those who have space to spare, meals finish off with a choice of decadent desserts and cheeses.

Visit Leftbank, our buffet restaurant, book Online today or call Restaurant Reservations on: 01784 220999

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