It’s a common saying that you ‘eat with your eyes,’ – and no restaurateur would question the importance of crockery when it comes to presentation. Like any trends though, constantly-changing fashions surrounding dining mean that the aesthetic standard changes over time.
Tables of the early ‘noughties’, for example, were defined by a hard-line minimalism. Plates were black or white, square or rectangular. Slate boards were in, and restaurants invested in designer tableware, with sets like Villeroy & Boch typifying the age of pre-recession extravagance.
Recent years have seen a relaxation in restaurant decor though. There’s a far greater informality – lots of establishments have done away with tablecloths, elaborate place settings have been stripped back, and seats at the bar have become just as coveted as the prime spots inside the restaurant.
This age of informality could, perhaps be behind the weird micro trend which was the subject of much ridicule this year. A bizarre form of eclecticism and serving-gimmicks, which saw chips brought to the table in plant pots, bread served in flat caps and one restaurant even serve its signature breakfast on a shovel. A Twitter campaign – #WeWantPlates – communicated the horror at this novelty crockery, and the backlash has prompted a new age of mindfulness.
Current British crockery trends are defined by care and craft. It’s not unusual for restaurants to commission local potters or ceramicists to design a bespoke range. East London designer Owen Wall, for example, collaborated with The Clove Club founder Isaac McHale to make a set of textured, cream-glazed plates, and Billy Lloyd has similarly made unique pieces for various different companies, such as the stunning bone china teapot for tea specialists, Lalani & Co.
It’s a phase which is, perhaps, driven by dining becoming more multi-sensory. The emphasis of texture and even acoustics of cutlery against the china are becoming ever-more important. The trend also fits within a broader move toward personalisation and localism. It’s not just reflected in native ingredients, but also the harnessing of local skills such as pottery. It certainly makes for an interesting and more beautiful table setting … and I’d prefer bread to be served off a hand-glazed plate than out of a flat cap any day.
Photo credits: Owen Wall - Plate Clove Club