London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by
Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 1 - Princes' Hall (Piccadilly)
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PRINCES’ HALL (PICCADILLY)
SHE is a charming little lady, and her husband, to tell the truth, spoils her
just a little. Most married dames would have been content, if they wished to
dine at a restaurant on the occasion of their birthday, with one dinner; but
Mrs. Daffodil—if I may so call her, from her favourite flower—insisted on
having a dinner out on Saturday, and another on Sunday, and another on Monday,
because, though her twenty-first birthday really fell on Saturday, she was going
to keep it on Monday, when a great party of her husband’s people were to meet
at the Savoy, and on Sunday her people were organising a feast at the Berkley;
but Mrs. Daffodil said that unless she dined out on the evening of her real
birthday she was sure she would have no luck during the coming year, and I was
told that I was to have the privilege of being the third at the little dinner
which was to be the veritable birthday dinner, and that, as a return for this
great favour, [-2-] I was to
order the dinner and choose the restaurant.
I was too wise to take the full
responsibility of anything so important, and in a council of three we ran down
the list of dining places. Of those we paused over in consideration, the Princes’
Hall was the nearest to Mrs. Daffodil’s flat, and the little lady remembered
that she had not dined there this year, and suddenly decided that it was the
very place for a birthday dinner and should she wear her new white dress, or
would the black dress with the handsome bit of lace suit her better? Her husband
looked a little helpless at the mention of dress, and I at a venture suggested
the black, for I remembered that the roof of the grand salon of the Princes’,
with its heavy mouldings, was white picked out with gold, while the great panels
of brick red, powdered with golden fleurs-de-lys and the palms filling-in the
corners, would show up a black dress just as well as a white one.
Black it was to be, and, this important
matter decided, I was sent off as an advance messenger in a hansom cab to order
the best table available and a dinner, not too elaborate and not too small,
which was to be ready by the time little Mrs. Daffodil had dressed and could
drive down to the restaurant in her brougham.
My hansom was a fleet one. A party of guests
at one of the tables by the windows, evidently bound for a theatre, had finished
their dinner and were just off and away as I arrived, and I pounced like a hawk
upon the table they left vacant. The first preliminaries were soon over,
[-3-] for the little dapper maitre d’hôtel,
whom I had known in previous days at the East Room of the Criterion, had the
table cleared at once, found some yellow flowers which, if they were not
daffodils, were very like them, and had big bouquets of them put upon the table.
Then came the important question of the dinner. Hors-d’oeuvre variés,
suggested the little maitre d’hôtel; but I moved as an amendment that
it should be caviar, for the caviar at the Princes is Benoist’s, and no man
imports better. “Turtle,” suggested the maitre d’hôtel, a little
doubtfully, after being defeated in his first venture, and as I passed the
suggestion with a nod potage tortue went down on the slip of paper. Mrs.
Daffodil had made a suggestion as to salmon which she withdrew as soon as made,
but I had remembered it, and saumon à la Grenobloise was scribbled down.
“Now,” said the maitre d’hôtel a little decisively, “since the
soup and the fish are brown, we must have a white entrée,” and as I
was not prepared at the moment with any practical suggestion, having thought of noisettes
de mouton and a woodcock as the rest of the solid part of the dinner, I
allowed the proposal to go by default, and fricassee de poulet à l'Ancienne
was ordered. “A tiny saddle of lamb?” was the next suggestion, and although
I regretted my prospective woodcock I let the matter go, for we had a bird
already in the menu. “Pommes nouvelles risolées. Salade de mâche, céleri,
betterave. Asperges anglaises,” reeled off my mentor, and I nodded at the
mention of the English asparagus; and then to show that I [-4-]
was going to have a word in the ordering of the dinner I
added macédoine de fruits a l’orientale and friandises without
requiring any prompting.
I waited in the bright, French-looking
entrance hall, with its mirrors and screens decorated with painted flowers, and
watched the people coming in and going out. A party of smart young men from the
Stock Exchange, most of whom I knew, on their way to a row of stalls they had
taken at the Gaiety, passed and chaffed me for my waiting; but the sound of the
band within in the great white railed-in musicians’ gallery was cheerful—and
an excellent band it is, each artist in it being a soloist of some celebrity—and
presently M. Fourault, the manager, who is the brother-in-law of M. Benoist,
came out and talked to me, saying that M. Azema, the chef was personally
superintending the cooking of the dinner, to which I replied that I was much
obliged that the great artist from the Café Anglais should have paid me the
compliment. Then M. Fourault launched forth into details of the service and the
building: how the dishes are brought direct to the guests by hand so as to avoid
the chance of draughts in lifts; of the beauty of the kitchen ; the arrangements
to keep in touch with and co-operate with the Royal Institute on the top floor,
and a variety of other topics. And as he talked Signor Bocchi’s band inside
was softly playing, and I was growing hungry waiting for little Mrs. Daffodil,
for I knew that it would not be her husband who caused the delay.
brougham drew up before the glass portico with its brass ornamentations, and
Mrs. Daffodil in the wonderful black dress was helped out. She would bring her
ermine cape in with her, she thought; and having arrived at the table smiled
graciously at seeing her name- flowers there. I explained that the table by the
door protected by the glass screens was my favourite one, and that I should have
taken it if possible, but that it had been engaged for days, and Mrs. Daffodil
was pleased to think the one we had obtained was quite as nice. Didn’t she
think the room, with its big panels, its few long mirrors, its clusters of
electric lights and electric candles on the tables, and its musicians’ gallery
over the entrance to the offices and kitchen, very handsome? I asked. And as she
helped herself to the caviar, each little ball as separate as if they had been
pellets of shot, she assented ; but to show that she was critical, thought there
ought to have been more palms. Then the little lady took up the questioning, and
wanted to know who everybody was who was dining. I was able to point out a
well-known artist taking a quiet meal with his wife, who at one time was an
ornament of the comedy-stage; a party of soldier officers up from Aldershot (and
I had a story of the gallantry of one of them, and how he should have won by
right a Victoria Cross); an ex-.Gaiety girl who was the heroine of a breach of
promise case, and who had at the table she occupied quite a crowd of gilded
youths; a youngster whose good looks have won him a very rich but not too young
wife—and there I [-6-] had to pause, for though
the room was full of well-dressed, smart-looking people, I knew no more of them
I was reproved for not knowing my London
better, and tried to turn the conversation by telling my host that I would
sooner share the burgundy with him than drink the champagne which Mrs. Daffodil
thought a necessary part of her birthday dinner, but at that moment, the soup
being brought, we all relapsed into serious criticism. The turtle soup was good
undoubtedly, as good as at any City dinner, with its jade- coloured semi-solid
floating in the darker liquor, and we praised that unreservedly, but I was told
that I was in a carping mood because I stated that I like my salmon as plainly
cooked as possible. As to the fricassée, I liked it immensely but Mrs.
Daffodil, because her shoe pinched, or for some other good reason, said that she
hated truffles. The lamb, the most delicate little selle d’agneau de lait,
with the potatoes and the dark green salad relieved by the crimson of the beet-
root, was admirable. English asparagus never can be anything but good, and
though my hostess insisted on my eating a cherry from among the friandises,
I left the sweets, as is my custom, alone.
And the bill. I asked my host to let me look
at it, and here it is :—three couverts, 3s. ; caviar, 3s.; tortue, 6s.; saumon,
6s.; fricassée de poulet, 7s.; selle d’agneau, 8s.; pommes risolées, 2s.;
salade, 1s. 6d.; asperges, 10s. 6d. ; macedoine de fruits, 4s. 6d.; one ‘67
(Burgundy), 12s.; ½140 (champagne), 7s. 6d., three cafes special,
[-7-] 1s. 6d.; three liqueurs fine champagne (1800), 6s.; total, £4:0:6.
*** This was a dinner ordered in a hurry and
without perhaps due consideration. Talking over it some days later on with Mons.
Fourault, I asked him to give me a suggestion as to what he considered a typical
Princes’ Hall dinner for a larger number, and I also asked him to be my
ambassador to M. Azema, the chef, for the recette of the poulet
à l’Ancienne, which I had liked so much.
This is the menu for a dinner of six
covers, a very admirable dinner of ceremony. As to its cost, I am not prepared
Le Signi du Volga.
Les petits coulibiacs à
La crème Ste-Marie.
Les suprêmes de truites à
Les poulardes à
la Georges Sand.
Le Baron de Pauillac aux primeurs.
Les bécasses au champagne.
La salade Impériale.
Les asperges d’Argenteuil Ste-Mousseleine.
Le soufflé chaud succès.
La glace Leda.
Une corbeille de friandises.
Les canapés Diane.
Mons. Azema thought the fricassée
Ancienne, the recette of which I had asked for, too simple a dish,
and instead sent me the recette for the poularde Georges Sand,
which is a very lordly dish. Here it is as Mons, Azema wrote it, and a
translation for [-8-] any
good people who, like myself, are puzzled sometimes by the terms employed in la
Recette de la poularde G. Sand
Lever les membres d’une belle poularde très blanche bien
régulièrement. Faire la tomber à blond, avec un oignon émincé, une bonne
pointe de paprika, et deux verres de vin blanc, environ quarante-cinq minutes.
Retirer la poularde et passer le fonds à l’étamine, le monter avec un bon
beurre d’écrevisse, et garnir avec queues d’écrevisse, belles truffes, en
olives, et croûtons de feuilletage. Servir très chaud.
Dismember a large white fowl very carefully. Stew it in white stock, with a
chopped onion, a good pinch of paprika, and two glasses of white wine, for about
forty-five minutes. Take out the fowl, and pass the stock through the tammy.
Flavour with a good cray-fish butter, and garnish with tails of cray-fish, large
truffles, olives, and croutons of French puff-paste (feuilletage). Serve very