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Sick of slates and bored with boards

What started out as a fad shows no signs of disappearing.

Manchester is a brilliant place to live and the restaurant scene is booming. But what started out as a fad shows no signs of disappearing. Dennis Keighron-Foster talks boards and slates…

For those of my friends who read this, I must apologise for subjecting you to this rant about a particular item that I have moaned, protested and climbed on to my soapbox about many a time.

“Plates are for
eating from.
Boards are for
diving from.”

But the time has come to make public my feelings about this particular object.

I am, course, referring to the boards or slates that food is served on in so many places these days.

No longer can our fish and chips be served on a large white plate at our local pub. No more can our ribs nestle gently within the purpose-designed rim of a pottery platter.

Instead we give up our juices, flakes, sauces and egg yolk remnants to the board. Its cracks and its germ-infested crevices, its poorly wiped surface and its dishwasher damaged, splintered sides. A slate or board has no more capacity to hold its contents than a piece of extra value kitchen roll.

I feel for the servers who have to work with these monstrosities. The sheer weight of them. The unforgiving thickness of the board. The tauntingly thin flushness of the slate.

After my meal is finished, the detritus of my meal oozes through the deep gorges created by previous patrons’ steak knives onto the table.

Batter bits and the pointless few leaves of salad that were placed dangerously close to the downward routed edge of the board in the first place now sit on the table with the dripping condensation from my cold beverage.

The waitress struggles to pick up the board that is suctioned to the table as it sits in a puddle of beer that was created when the board was delivered via my pint.

After more than one attempt, she fails to get her fingers underneath the board so she does what every other server has to do. She slides the thing to the edge of the table, oblivious to what is to follow-the dribbles of beer, the batter, the trickled vinegar and the blood from my partner’s steak.

Now not only is the table messy, the floor is too. The whole place is left with the fatty, smelly memories of irritatingly served meals.

The board is not even complete now unless adorned with miniature frying baskets for fries or little buckets lined with grease proof paper or a separate mini dish for coleslaw and tartar source.

Or, more annoyingly than anything else, two little silver dishes, like the ones your mum gave you ice cream in back in the 80s, wastefully filled to the brim with enough moderately cracked black pepper and sea salt to season ten weeks worth of stews with. And you have to take a pinch out of them whilst wondering whether or not the restaurant cleaned them after the last person used them.

You can imagine my response when I dined at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and my starter was not only served on a board, but rested on two tins of tomatoes. I mean. I give up. It felt like I was trying to eat my dinner from the VDU platform of an Argos computer table. To this day, I still don’t know why.

Now, whenever I order food I always ask, “If anything I have just ordered comes on a board or a roof tile, please could I have it on a plate?”

Mostly, the response I get is “Yes! It’s so annoying isn’t it?”

“More than you’ll ever know.”

It’s not just boards. A whole new range of slates have been designed, fresh from the roof to the table but now with two protruding steel handles to make the waiter’s job easier and the pot washers’ dishwasher stacking like a game of Tetris.

I know that not all slate or boards are bad. Little sharey starters or nibbles look nice and are a good way of getting people to dig in. I’m not averse to a nice bit of olive wood if used correctly.

But the sad thing is that this once arty and innovative way of displaying high end food thought up by a real chef with real artistic vision has been badly adopted by chain pubs, small independents and countless American burger places whilst the top end restaurants have let the fad fade and made the inevitable move back to the plate.

It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone. The lovely people @WeWantPlates have made me feel like I am not overdramatising this problem.

Plates are for eating from. Boards are for diving from.

So come on Manchester, let’s stand together on the issue that really counts! It’s time to wipe the slate clean and declare, “We are bored with boards!”

Now that I have got this off my chest I can go back to wondering why the staff in small independent bars that don’t serve a lot of food or have many customers through the day spend all their time wetting napkins and then wrapping them around cutlery.

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