The food fashion that’s driving me up the roof, sorry, wall

Slate, but no plate... one of the increasingly bizarre ways our food is served in restaurants these

Slate, but no plate... one of the increasingly bizarre ways our food is served in restaurants these days. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Opinion: David Clayton is baffled by the culinary fashion for serving food in ever-more bizarre ways.

I sat in a restaurant the other night pondering the menu over a large glass of dry white. I was away working so this was pure sustenance after a long day's work rather than an eating-out occasion with my wife.

On working trips away, I forego any sort of lunch, gorging myself on a hotel breakfast. 'It's paid for!' I say to myself, as a justification. You wouldn't have a Danish pastry after a 'Full English,' after a bowl of cornflakes at home, would you? Then, and I'm ashamed to admit it, have a take-away muffin on top! Anyway, despite all that and after a full-on day, training broadcasters, I was well hungry by 7.30pm.

I quite fancied fish and chips, as you do every now and then, so I settled for Deep Fried Haddock Goujons with Chunky Chips and a tartare sauce. I always regard a goujon as a fish finger for grown-ups.

In a perfectly acceptable time it arrived – in a mini wooden crate lined with something pretending to be printed newspaper. Wedged in beside the hand-cut chips was one of those metal scoops you usually see in proper fish and chip shops to serve the chips. I wasn't sure whether the chef had forgotten and left it in there, or whether it was stage dressing the dish.

It was absolutely no use to me as the chips were, in a sense, already scooped up and served to me. Tucked in the corner of the wooden crate was a small Kilner jar containing the tartare sauce and proudly pointing upwards were the six goujons, frustratingly too large to poke into my little jar of sauce. Then the waitress announced with all the world-weariness of someone who'd said it hundreds of times, 'I'll just go and get your cutlery bucket!'

Along came a mini version of a full-sized galvanised one – stuffed with bottles of red and brown sauce, and down the bottom, revealed after a search, were the salt and pepper pots. So, I set about my food, feeling slightly self-conscious eating from a mini wooden crate with my fingers. It was difficult to wield the knife and fork at any useful angle.

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This is all very well, I thought, but what's happened to the roof tile? I was getting used to that. I've lost count of the times I've been served a course or two on a square black tile. Granted, it shows off the artistic nature of the dish but I've felt for the waiting staff who somehow need to lift it from the table with little to get hold of. I once sympathised with a waitress who deftly slid the tile off the edge of the table slowly with her one free hand (the other was already coping with another roof tile) and then at just the point of equilibrium as it teetered, she grabbed it. I almost applauded.

Then there's the wooden plank, favoured in some faux-rustic restaurants, but I can't be the only one wondering how they fare in an industrial strength restaurant dishwasher. If that's not how they wash them, surely those meat juices seep in too far for it to be hygienic?

I'm not alone questioning the sanity of eccentric serving options. Go look for the 'We Want Plates' website, Facebook page and Twitter account. They're curating photo after photo of eccentric serving options, from mini-supermarket trolleys stuffed with chips, to a cooked breakfast served on a shovel. Someone's even popped a fry-up in a round metal dog bowl!

If the food is excellent I suppose we shouldn't care and just chuckle that they've gone the extra mile for our dining experience, but I do miss a plate!

I know you'll want to know. How were my goujons? Crate!