Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 8 - Verrey's (Regent Street)

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THE little curly-headed, light-haired page, who is the modern Mercury, in that he gives warning when one is rung up at the telephone in the club, came to me in the reading-room and told me that a lady at the Hotel Cecil wished to speak to me.
“Hullo! Are you there?” was answered by a “ Yes” in a lady’s voice, and in a few seconds I was informed that Myra Washington was in London, that she would like to see me, that she would be busy all the afternoon shopping, but that if I was not otherwise engaged I might take her out to dinner and to a show after­wards.
Mrs. Washington is a lady whom it is a liberal education to have the honour of being acquainted with, for she knows most people who are worth knowing in Europe, has been to most places worth seeing, and is in every way cosmopolitan. She is generally taken for a Russian, until she speaks, chiefly, I think, because of her hair, which is so light that it is [-52-] almost white, and because she smokes cigarettes at every possible moment. She is to be found in Paris, where she has a flat in one of the avenues branching from the Arc de Triomphe, and where she is kind enough, most years, to give me déjeuner on the morning of the Grand Prix. But her movements are always erratic. I first made her acquaintance at Suez, where I had the honour to be recorded on the tablets of her memory as having delivered her from some impertinent Arab hawkers, and she showed me what American hospitality is during the exhibi­tion at Chicago, in which city her husband, John P. Washington, is always making or losing fortunes in the wheat pit.
I was glad, therefore, to hear the pretty lady’s voice again, even though filtered through a telephone, and I proposed innumerable plans to her. She had come to London from Cannes to meet John, who was running over from America for a couple of days on business, and wanted to do as much as possible in the shortest time. She had been to the Gaiety after dining at the Savoy her first night in London, had lunched at Willis’s and seen a matinée at Daly’s, dined at the Princes’ Hall and spent the evening at the Palace on the second, and now I was to be re­sponsible for her evening’s amusement on the third evening.
Did she know Verrey’s? And as a reply I was asked whether I thought she knew her own name. Then would she dine with me at the restaurant in Regent Street, and I would have a box for her at the Empire afterwards ? and Mrs. [-53-] Washington said she would. “If I may, I will come and call for you at a little before eight,” I said promptly, and Mrs. Washington wanted to know whether there were bandits in Regent Street. Eventually, I was told that if I was cooling my feet in the entrance at 8 to a second I should have the felicity of helping her out of her cab.
To give Mrs. Washington a satisfactory dinner is not one of the easiest things in the world, for she understands the art of dining, and is, as well, a most excellent cook herself when she chooses ; so it was with a full sense of the responsibility I had incurred that I sought Mr. Krehl, the elder of the two brothers in whose hands Verrey’s now is, and found him in the café. He knew Mrs. Washington, of course, and hearing that it was she who was to be my guest, he called in his brother Albert, almost a twin in resemblance to him, who now devotes all his time to the management of the restaurant, and we held a solemn council of three. I am a very strong believer myself in small dinners, but it was difficult to make up a menu which would be sufficiently substantial, without appearing gluttonous, for two. I held out against the second entrée; but the sense of the house was distinctly against me, and the pouding Saxon was an addition that I did not approve of, but gave in, being outvoted. This was the dinner that we settled on before I started home to dress:

[-54-] Petite marmite.
OEufs à la Russe.
Soufflé de filets de sole à la Verrey.
Timbale Lucullus.
Noisettes d’agneau à la Princesse.
Petits pois à la Française.
Pommes Mirelle.
Aiguillettes de caneton à l’Orange.
Salade Vénétienne.
Pouding Saxon.
Salade de fruits.

Mrs. Washington, enveloped in a great furry white cloak, and with a lace covering to her head, was punctual to the second, and as we settled down to our table in the dining-room, with its silver arches to the roof; caught and reflected a hundred times by the mirrors, and its suave dark-green panels, which formed an excellent background to the cream-coloured miracle of a dress that Mrs. Washington was wearing, she told me a few of the events of the last few weeks. She had stayed in New York for the second Assembly, and had gone from New York to the Riviera, where Cannes had been her head­quarters, and I incidentally was given full par­ticulars as to doings of the ladies’ club there. Now, pausing for one night in Paris to see the new Palais Royal piece, which is a play, so Mrs. Washington says, that no respectable girl could take her grandmother to see, she had run over to England to meet John, and afterwards was going to leisurely travel to Seville, getting there in time for the Holy Week processions.
The soup, admirably hot, had been placed [-55-] before us by the waiter, in plain evening clothes, while Mrs. Washington talked and pulled off her long white gloves, and before using her spoon she took in the company dining at the many little square tables, lighted by wax red-shaded candles, in one comprehensive glance; smiled to the well-known journalist whose love for dogs forms a bond between him and the Messrs. Krehl, themselves powers in the dog world; thought that the ruddy-haired prima donna looked well and showed no signs of her recent illness; wanted to know if it was true that the celebrated musician, who was dining with his wife, was to be included in the next birthday list of honours; and nodded to a gentleman with long black whiskers, her banker in Paris, who was entertaining a party of a dozen.
The oeufs à la Russe, with their attendant vodkhi, met with Mrs. Washington’s approval: there were no flies on them, was her expression. We did not quite agree as to the soufflé, I daring to say that though the fish part of the dish was admirable I thought the soufflé covering might have been lighter, a statement which my guest at once countered, and, by her superior knowledge of culinary detail reduced me to silence, over­come but certainly not convinced. As to the timbale, with its savoury contents of quenelles, foie gras, cocks’-combs, and truffles, there could be no two opinions; it was excellent, and the same might be said of the noisettes, each with its accompanying fond d’artichaut, and the new peas with a leaf of mint boiled with them. Mrs. Washington would have preferred pommes soufflées [-56-] to pommes Mirelle, but I could hardly have known that when ordering dinner. The Venetian salad, a little tower of many-coloured vegetables, looking like poker chips, Mrs. Washington said, peas, beans, truffles, potatoes, beet-root, flavoured by a slice of saucisson and dressed with whipped white of eggs, was one of the triumphs of the dinner, and so was the salade de fruits. For Mrs. Washington to praise a fruit salad is a high honour, for she is one of the favoured people for whom François, late of the Grand Hotel, Monte Carlo and now of the Hotel Cecil, deigns to mix one with his own hands. The gourmets of Europe say that as a salad maker no man can approach François. I personally uphold the fruit salads that Frederic, of the Tour d’Argent, makes as being perfection, but Europe and America vote for François. I was told that the pouding Saxon was an unnecessary item, and I was rather glad, for I had shied at it when ordering dinner.
I reminded Mrs. Washington, who was sipping her Perrier Jouet lazily, that the Empire ballet begins comparatively early, and to be in time for it, which she insisted on, we had to hurry over our coffee (which is always admirable at Verrey’s) and liqueurs, and the cigarette, which is a necessary of life to the lady. Then, while Mrs. Washington drew on the long white gloves again, I paid the bill :—hors-d’oeuvre, 1s.; potage, 1s. 6d.; poisson, 3s.; entrées, 2s. 6d. and 3s.; pornmes, 6d. ; legumes, 1s. ; rôti, 10s. 6d. salade, 1s.; entremets, 3s.; café, 1s.; liqueur, 2s.; [-57-] cigarettes, 2d.; Perrier Jouet, 1889, 13s.; total, £2:4:2.
22nd March.

*** I asked Mr. Albert Krehl to give me an idea of any special dishes which Verrey’s is proud of, and pausing by the way to tell me how the house has always tried to wean its patrons from the cut from the joint at déjeuner time, and to induce them to eat small and light dinners, he said that entremet ices were one of the delights that Verrey’s prides itself on, dwelt lovingly on a description of an entrecôte Olga, and then reeled off oeufs à la Russe, omelette foies de volaille, sole Polignac, filets de sole à la Belle Otero, glace Trianon, sole à la Verrey, which has a flavouring of Parmesan, moules a la Marinière, poulet Parmentier en casserole.
If the Messrs. Krehl counsel small dinners in the salle, they do not always do so for the private rooms upstairs. This is the menu of a dinner at which H.R.H. the Prince of Wales was present

OEufs à la Kavigote
Bisque d’écrevisses. Consommé Okra.
Rougets à la Muscovite.
Selle de mouton de Galles.
Haricots panachés. Tomates au gratiri.
Pommes soufflées.
Timbale Lucullus.
Fonds d’artichauts. Crème pistache.
Salad Rachel.
Biscuit glacé à la Verrey.
Soufflé de laitances.

[-58-] Mr. Krehl gave me the recette of the timbales à la Lucullus. Here it is—


La garniture Lucullus se compose de: crétes de coq, rognons de coq, truffes en lames, quenelles de volaille truffées, champignons, foie gras dans une demi-glace bien reduite, un filet de madère, et un jus de truffes.

The Lucullus garnish is composed of cocks’ combs, cocks’ kidneys, truffles cut in slices, chicken quenelles, made with truffles, mushrooms, foie-gras well stewed down in a semi-liquid glaze,1 with just a suspicion of Madeira, and a gravy made from truffles.

1Or a glaze which has not been boiled down so as to make it a very stiff jelly.