Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Plates are so last century

Go in any pub or restaurant nowadays that has the slightest aspiration to be fashionable, and the odds are that you will have your meal served, not on a plate, but on a roofing slate, a chopping board, a baking tray or even just a plank of wood. Your chips may be stacked on their end in a mug, salad under an upturned wine glass and vegetables in a flowerpot.

Some of the worst examples are shown on this page, including bread in slippers, chips in a miniature shopping trolley and steak on a meat cleaver. The picture on the right shows fish on a rectangular piece of wood, with chips in a little stainless steel bucket and mushy peas in a latté glass.

Not too long ago, people were complaining about square plates replacing round ones, but this is taking things to a whole new level. There are obvious practical objections, in that an entirely flat surface does nothing to stop food sliding or dripping off the edge, and you have to wonder how thoroughly chunks of wood are washed, especially those with cracks in them. Some types of containers may make it physically difficult to actually eat the food from them.

But ultimately this is just a rather pathetic attempt to come across as funky, artisanal and cutting-edge. Anything, no matter how absurd, is better than a boring old round plate. Come on, we all know the food’s just popped out of a microwave and they’re not actually slaughtering pigs round the back. There’s even a Twitter account @WeWantPlates to highlight some of its more laughable excesses.

However, Wetherspoons are bucking the trend – not so long ago they replaced plain square plates with very retro-looking round ones with blue and white patterns. It might be a good idea for more pubs to follow suit and stop opening themselves up to ridicule.


  1. You only really find this with places with pretentions. It's like chain family restaurants full of old fake timber beams, or pubs with bookshelves with books by the yard.

  2. Back in the Sixties " Chicken in the basket" was thought rather sophisticated. At the time I didn't think about the hygiene problems of washing up the baskets. I bet they caused some nasty tummy upsets

  3. “Chicken in the basket"; now you're talking, although in my experience this iconic Sixties dish lasted well into the 1970's.

    I dined out on this dish, many a time, treating girlfriends of the day to what I thought was the height of sophistication. They obviously had genuinely more sophisticated tastes, as my romantic overtures never usually got me very far!

  4. @Stigler - it's now spread to the mainstream dining pubs run by family brewers. Far beyond hipsterland

    @Ed - the fact the basket tended to be lined with a paper napkin would reduce the chance of contamination compared with a chopping board where the juices dripped directly on to it

    @Paul - in fact the last time I remember having something in a basket (although this was scampi) was in a Kent pub somewhere near Knole in the early 80s

  5. well Ive not encountered the chopping board or bit of slate as a plate, flowerpot/bucket of chips in a mainstream family brewer pub myself yet,but I can virtually guarantee it any pub that has had a "craft" label or "craft" pretensions attached to it. I ordered a scotch egg recently in one such pub, expecting just a teaplate + the egg + tub of mustard, and it arrived on a piece of slate, with the egg cut into quarters and arranged so they all aligned at 45 degrees, with a bit of rocket lettuce and vinegret, at which point I wish Id just ask for a packet of crisps.

    in anycase the real question should be where on earth did Tim find so many of those plates with the same crazy design on, every Wetherspoons has them now.

  6. These things are certainly in use in Holt's Platform 5 which opened the other week after a major refurb.

    And I'm sure I've been served something on a chopping board in a Brunning & Price pub years ago.

    Resistance is futile!

    (Btw I think the Spoons plates are a bit naff - they would be better with plain white ones)

  7. A cynic might point out that food psychologists suggest that a busy pattern on a plate makes the loaded plate look more full, enabling some deft portion control.

    One of my locals serves homemade potted crab in the kilner jar with chunky toast with a bowl of coleslaw and one of those mini frying baskets with their proper chips, all on a big trencher. It's far easier to manage it all than a plate.

    That said, I saw something on t'interweb the other day about some hipster joint flogging food served in... a flat cap. Twats.

  8. They'll be serving food on beards next!

  9. Love that Wetherspoons plate! That's my kind of plate!

    Last time I had chicken-in-a-basket was in the late 1990s.

  10. I understand this is bad but currently have no appreciation of the scale of the crime.

    Is it worse to get a ploughmans on a roof tile or with a pork pie on a plate?

  11. This is why I read this blog, top notch plate analysis.

  12. @py - beats 101 variations on the theme of "what is craft beer?"

  13. Where next, a post on folding up crisp packets?

  14. @py - maybe this could be the subject of my next post ;-)

  15. I love the Wetherspoons Calico dinnerware! Costs a bomb; perhaps I should nick a few dinnerplates if I should ever go there?


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