Victorian London - Food and Drink - Restaurants - The Rainbow

RAINBOW TAVERN, No. 15, FLEET STREET. A well-conducted and well-frequented tavern (famous for its stout), and originally established as a coffee-house, as early as 1657.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

The [coffee-]house has long been a tavern : all the old rooms have been swept away, and a large and lofty dining-room erected in their place.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

July 13, 1897:—I lunched at the Rainbow, a type of City restaurant which is passing away. A large dark room, sombrely furnished in mahogany, and gaslighted, even in the sunshine of a hot July day. In the centre a table at which a stout carver in white cap, coat and apron, carves the saddle of mutton and the sirloin of beef—dishes which are never varied, and of which the customers seem never to tire. Here come lawyers and other hommes d’affaires of middle-age to whom luncheon is - a serious meal, not to be ordered without minute instructions to the obsequious waiter. ‘Do you call this underdone?’ a portly customer asks sharply. ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Well, I don’t. Take it back.’ ‘Yes, sir.’ Here one drinks either stout from a tankard, or some sound wine; but if one orders wine, one gives the waiter directions as to the temperature. It is de rigueur. The door leading into the dining-room is labelled ‘coffee-room’ and there is a significant notice ‘Ladies dining-room upstairs.’ Ladies are not willingly admitted to the ground floor, and those women, if any, who dared to pass that door labelled ‘coffee-room’ would be requested to leave, or at least pointed at as unwomanly. This is one of the last strong­holds of the conservative male. Yet here we males respect ourselves; we have a regard for the decencies. ‘Gentlemen are requested not to smoke pipes in this establishment.’

Arnold Bennett, Journals July 13, 1897