SOMETIMES, when eating out, I feel my heart sink even before I’ve tasted the food.

It’s when it arrives on a piece of slate.

Why any restaurant would want to serve food on such a thing puzzles me. Its flat surface means that unless you have razor-sharp reactions to block it with your cutlery, food often skids off on to the table.

You find yourself using your knife and fork to herd your food towards the centre, but with no lip you’re fighting a losing battle.

I find it hard to understand why restaurants use them. Yet so many do that builders are running short of roof slates. Quarries in China - main suppliers for the UK construction industry - are increasingly using slate to make tableware, for a more lucrative market.

Has the world gone mad? Plates have served us well for centuries as a tried-and tested vessel for serving meals. Who came up with the crazy idea to go back to Neolithic times and dump meat and two veg or rhubarb crumble on a piece of rock?

I am not alone in my opinion. A YouGov survey asked 2,030 people to rate various means of presenting food. The circular plate met the approval of 99 per cent.

There’s a Twitter campaign, We Want Plates, which rails against the use of impractical and downright weird items used by restaurants to serve food. Posts on the site include plenty of slates - even one accompanying baked beans - as well as a frying pan, a paperback book, a Croc shoe and a miniature milking stool used to serve a Yorkshire pudding. A ridiculously impractical pint glass is pictured, containing sausage and mash.

Using alternatives to plates is nothing new. In the late 1970s, I worked weekends with a friend, in a country pub near my home. We were responsible for the bar meals, the most popular being chicken in a basket. When I think back, it was pretty disgusting - a greasy piece of chicken and a portion of chips placed on top of a crimson-coloured napkin, in a small wicker basket.

It’s a good job there were no ‘scores on the doors’ for hygiene in those days as our efforts would have struggled to get even one. Bits of napkin, saturated in juices, stuck to the bottom of the chicken and grease seeped between the weave of the wicker. It was revolting, yet diners couldn’t get enough of it.

We also served ploughman’s lunch on scruffy wooden bread boards. We scrubbed them afterwards but they always looked grubby and harboured crumbs in the cracks.

Amazingly, these are still seen as trendy and many people don’t mind eating off surfaces like this. In the YouGov poll, carried out in 2017, an astonishing 69 per cent said they liked eating from a slate and 64 per cent said it was acceptable to eat from a wooden board.

One thing I dislike is chips served in little wire baskets. They add to the washing-up and must be horrendous to clean, so why do it? The answer is simple - on a plate, a pathetically small handful of chips would look like a pathetically small handful of chips, whereas squashed together in the basket, the serving doesn’t look quite so stingy.

We don’t eat out much, so when we do, it’s nice to feel satisfied by a meal, and that includes the tableware. I am not and never will be impressed by salad niçoise served on an iPad or a pizza arriving on a skateboard. As for slates - they are for roofs, not for the table. It’s obviously psychological, but whatever you are eating, it tastes altogether better from a round, white ceramic plate.