IT WAS in a gastro-pub near our former office in Edinburgh’s Old Town where I first noticed the trend. They served “handmade” burgers on wooden boards, accompanied by a side of chips in one of those little galvanised steel buckets you get at Ikea to put pots of herbs in.
At around the same time, a cutsey pub I often went to started serving cocktails in vintage teapots. So far, so innovative. Or rather, these days, so ordinary.
Because, in my naive innocence, I thought it was quite cool. But that was a good eight or so years ago when the concept of eschewing white plates in favour of everyday objects seemed like a quirky novelty rather than the new normal. Goodness, those of us who had something as outlandish as a square platter in our kitchen thought we were the bees knees in those days.
It went on. Burger joints found more and more ways of serving chips in strange vessels. Indeed, the chips got less and less like chips and more and more like big rectangles of potatoes designed in a bid to make them more conducive to standing upright.
But all good things have to come to an end.
Earlier this year, industry bible Restaurant magazine went a bit Mystic Meg when it predicted the downfall of quirky serving dishes, claiming that restaurants would “bin the novelty tableware” and insisting that the good old white porcelain plate would enjoy a resurgence.
Indeed, some health and safety geeks, along with the more serious type of chef, raised concerns that some of these receptacles – particularly the more wickery ones – may, whisper it, just MAY, not be suitable for dishwasher use.
Or even to being dipped in a sink full of soapy suds. And therefore may leave food unfit for human consumption. Yuck.
“Nonsense!” said everyone. “How would we eat our chips if they weren’t give to us in some sort of receptacle not originally designed for food consumption? What crazy talk.”
But it seems that even since that fated prediction, the entire foodie world has continued to go slowly insane. The trend to serve food on anything other than, well, plates, has exploded. The movement has expanded to include bricks, roof slates, miniature wheelie bins and even shovels. SHOVELS?
Yes. Turns out there is a company in County Durham which sells a whole range of French-made shovels online specifically for restaurant purposes. £23 each, in case you’re interested.
The Twitter account @Wewantplates, set up just a few weeks ago by self-proclaimed social media guru Ross McGinnes in a crusade against “serving food on bits of wood and roof tiles, jam-jar drinks and chips in mugs”, highlights some of the more ridiculous food serving methods.
Recent posts include chutney purportedly served by one restaurant in a tiny wheelbarrow – while another offered up a slice of chocolate brownie popped on to the table on a sheet of fake newspaper.
Elsewhere, recent posts include a serviette filled with croquettes, presented inside a black canvas shoe at a resort in Las Vegas; while in San Francisco, popcorn was shown off inside a wooden Dutch clog – lined with the ubiquitous fake newspaper, natch.
On the footwear theme, another hungry restaurant-goer published a picture of his soup starter – thankfully in a plastic container – but balanced precariously inside a red stiletto.
Possibly a contender for the strangest presentation choice came when a disbelieving diner posted a photograph of a baked camembert served in its own box on a mousetrap – accompanied by a half toasted baguette laid on top of the snappy bit.
The culinary world has gone nuts, pure and simple. Food isn’t food anymore, it is art. I blame the Bake Off and its increasingly elaborate Showstopper challenges. It is fine if you’re dining at a top Michelin starred restaurant, where the artistry of the dish is an integral part.
Not quite so necessary when you’re grabbing an after-work burger and pint. Especially if it’s presented on a grubby, non-washable bit of a dolls’s house infested with the legacy of a hundred historic burgers. #Wewant-plates.
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