When an asiatic pheasant is spotted at Gymkhana, the critically lauded Mayfair restaurant, you might raise an eyebrow. When the precise same pheasant shows up at Chiltern Firehouse, the A-listers’ hangout of choice, as well as the British Museum’s new Court Restaurant, you would have to say, that is one directional bird. It’s telling us that “heritage” crockery has made a spectacular comeback.
The pheasant in question is part of the elegant pale blue 1827 design produced by Burleigh, the resurgent brand that operates from Middleport, near Stoke-on-Trent.
By Burleigh: the Asiatic Pheasant range, left, is being spotted in some of London’s most fashionable restaurants. It is priced from £9 for a mug to £46.50, at John Lewis (johnlewis.com); their Blue Regal Peacock range, right, from £15 for a 10-inch dinner plate ( );
Meanwhile, east London bistros such as The Bonneville serve up veal T-bone on Spode-style Blue & White, and the ranges of Portmeirion and Hartley Green have been spotted everywhere on television, from the BBC’s Sherlock to the Great British Bake Off. Even model Miranda Kerr has put her name to a collection for Royal Albert, proving that classic crockery can mix in every sphere of society.
Not so long ago, designs such as Spode’s Blue Italian, or Blue Felicity, from Burleigh, would have been seen as passé, something your nan might have used. However, brands with history are catching the eye of the Pinterest and Instagram generation, who appreciate how intricate designs look through a sepia filter and want to share them with the world.
Kitchen & tableware revival: Portmeirion’s Botanic Garden range, left; Spode Blue Room china, right
“There’s so much choice but so much of it feels unreal — so people are looking for a genuine and unchanging product that they can trust,” says BBC Antiques Roadshow expert, Steven Moore, who is an ambassador for Middleport Pottery, where Burleigh and Hartley Green are manufactured.
The trend is backed up by reports from the high street. Sales of Burleigh ranges at John Lewis have been up 150 per cent on last year. In the last four years, Burleigh has doubled its staff from 40 to 80 and even they can’t keep up with demand. You might say the company has “done a Burberry” — but Portmeirion also reports that it is producing twice as many pieces of pottery a week than it was five years ago. It is seeing huge growth in its heritage patterns, especially the Botanic Garden range, which brings in £25 million annually.
The taxidermy look: Spode Delamere Rural china
Spode Delamere Rural china is proving perfect for those who like the taxidermy look, while the Agapanthus range is a modern monochrome re-interpretation by Portmeirion of a Botanic Garden motif. These traditional designs work in contemporary interiors, whether it’s a minimalist white kitchen, a room with Shaker-style wooden cabinets or a Manhattan-style loft.
The brands are also adapting their ranges to suit modern lifestyles, developing more pasta and rice bowls, while no sooner had Denby and Portmeirion cooled production of cake stands, the Great British Bake Off phenomenon hit us, so they have been revived to much success.