At the turn of the last century, a butler’s pantry was seen as an essential feature for just about any home with a formal dining room. While it faded out of fashion in the mid 20th Century, the concept of the butler’s pantry is now enjoying a vigorous renaissance.
A modern-day butler’s pantry has evolved into a place where you can stage food for service, as well as giving you a place to store high-value dinnerware. It’s a great way to serve a multi-course dinner with everything close at hand, without necessarily setting everything up in front of your dinner guests.
There are a few key components to help keep a butler’s pantry well-organized.
Butler’s Pantry Storage
A fine china hutch and a butler’s pantry go together hand in hand. Not only does it give you a place to display your favorite dinnerware, but it also keeps them from being accidentally chipped or damaged.
Of course, a butler’s pantry needs to store more than just fine china and high-end dinner plates. A system of drawers gives you a place to neatly tuck away silverware and other service items. Cupboards can be used to keep more mundane items as serving platters tucked neatly away when you aren’t using them. Then you can pull them out when it’s time to bring appetizers and desserts out to the main dining room.
Pull Out Cutting Boards & Cutlery
There are a lot of dishes that need to be cut or broken down, that you don’t necessarily want to do tableside. Large pull-out cutting boards and a well-stocked knife block give you some working space to slide down a roast or a crown rack while keeping the mess out of the formal dining room. If anything, the knife block can also double as storage for your guest’s steak knives.
Wine Racks, Liquor Cabinets & Drinkware
A butler’s pantry is also a great place to assemble cocktails and other aperitifs. Many people with a butler’s pantry will keep the bulk of their fine wines and spirits in a separate storage area like a wine cellar or basement storage area. Then they keep a few choice bottles for service in a small wine rack in the butler’s pantry.
Glasses and drinkware for things like mixing martinis can be tasteful. Stored in lighted cabinets or overhead racks. This keeps them close at hand, while also adding to the ambiance of the butler’s pantry.
If you are going to be serving high-end wine by the glass, you might want to also invest in a wine preservation system. This is a special device that can be handheld or installed onto a cabinet. You place the chosen bottle of wine in place, and a small needle injects through the cork. It then extracts the selected volume of wine, while replacing it with stable argon. This is a great way to serve single glasses of wine or scotch based on the individual’s taste, without having to worry about wasting whatever remains of the high-value bottle.
Some countertop models store one or two bottles tastefully out of sight. You can then dispense the glasses with the press of a button. Many of these models have cooling and other temperature control systems that let you pour red and white wines at the ideal temperature for service.
A Handwashing Sink Or Wash Basin
Whether you are plating individual meals or slicing a prime rib roast, chances are you’re going to need to wash your hands. Especially if you are switching courses from say the appetizers to the entrée or a savory entrée to sweet desserts.
Ideally, you want to have a small sink with hand soap close at hand. Though not every home can accommodate the plumbing this requires. In a scenario like this, a place to keep a simple portable wash bin will get by in a pinch.
Tastefully Disguised Waste Bins
It’s a basic fact of meal service that you are going to need a place to dispose of things like soiled napkins, butcher’s twine, a broken glass, and steak bones. Of course, you don’t want ugly garbage can sitting in the corner. Installing a simple wastebasket inside a lower cupboard door gives you a convenient place to dispose of things tastefully.
A Rolling Service Cart
If you go to a traditional fine dining restaurant, you will usually see some type of rolling cart of a folding stool for tableside service. Not only does it add a little flair to each course, but it also makes it easier to bring more than two plates to the dining table at one time. A rolling service cart can also be used to store basic items like cutlery, crème Brule torches, and seasonings.
A Miniature Refrigerator or Wine Chiller
Being able to keep bottles of white wine, seltzer, and other beverages cool, as well as close at hand makes basic beverage service much easier. A minifridge also lets you keep things like chilled gazpacho, condiments, whipping cream, and other dessert items cool, without having to run back and forth to the kitchen.
Under Cabinet Lighting
Countertops are critical prep and staging areas. It’s also not the sort of place where you want to be dealing with the shadows cast by overhead lights. Even if you don’t have available wiring in place, LED lights tend to have so little electric demand that they can be battery powered. The small light fixtures can then be installed via a magnetic clip or simple heavy-duty Velcro strips.
Apron & Jacket Hooks
There is a fair amount of art and science that goes into serving a meal yourself while also attending the meal with your guests. The last thing you want is to make a mess of your best dinner jacket or sit at the table making conversation with an apron on. Keeping a few simple hooks near the door to the dining room gives you a place to hang up aprons and dinner jackets so that you are properly dressed as needed.