Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 15 - The Trocadero (Shaftesbury Avenue)

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CHAPTER XV

THE TROCADERO (SHAFTESBURY AVENUE)

I DINED one day early last week at the Trocadero, a little specially—ordered tête-a-tête dinner over which the chef had taken much trouble—his Suprêmes de sole Trocadéro, and Poulet de prin­temps Rodisi are well worth remembering — and while I drank the Moet ‘84, cuvée 1714, and luxuriated in some brandy dating back to 1815, the solution of a problem that had puzzled me mildly came to me.
  
An old friend was sending his son, a boy at Harrow, up to London to see a dentist before going, back to school, and asked me if I would mind giving him something to eat, and taking him to a performance of some kind. I said “Yes,” of course; but I felt it was something of an undertaking. When I was at Harrow my ideas of luxury consisted of ices at Fuller’s and sausages and mashed potatoes carried home in a paper bag. I had no idea as to what Jones minor’s tastes might be; but if he was anything like what I was then he would prefer plenty of good food combined with music and gorgeousness [-109-] and excitement to the most delicate mousse ever made, eaten in philosophic calm. The Trocadero was the place; if he was not impressed by the dinner, by the magnificence of the rooms, by the beautiful staircase, by the music, then I did not know my Harrow boy.
  
Jones minor arrived at my club at five minutes to the half-past seven, and I saw at once that he was not a young gentleman to be easily impressed. He had on a faultless black short jacket and trousers, a white waistcoat, and a tuberose in his buttonhole. I asked him if he knew the Trocadero, and he said that he had not dined there; but plenty of boys in his house had, and had said that it was jolly good.
  
When we came to the entrance of the Trocadero, an entrance that always impresses me by its palatial splendour, I pointed out to him the veined marble of the walls and the magnificent frieze in which Messrs. Moira and Jenkins, two of the cleverest of our young artists, have struck out a new line of decoration; and when I had paused a while to let him take it in I told him that the chef de reception had been a gallant Australian Lancer. Then I asked him what he thought of it, and he said he thought it was jolly good.
  
Mr Alfred Salmon, in chief command, and the good-looking maitre d’hôtel, both saw us to our table, and a plump waiter whom I remember of old at the Savoy was there with the various menu cards in his hand. The table had been heaped with roses in our honour, and I felt that all this attention must impress Jones minor; but he unfolded his napkin with the calm of [-110-] unconcern, and I regretted that I had not arranged to have the band play “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” and have a triumphal arch erected in his honour.
  
I had intended to give him the five-shilling table-d’hôte meal; but in face of this calm superi­ority I abandoned that, skipped the 7s. 6d.  table-d’hôte as well, and ordered the half-guinea one. I had thought that three-and-sixpennyworth of wine should be ample for a growing boy, but having rushed into reckless extravagance over the food I thought I would let him try seven­and-sixpennyworth of wine. I personally ordered a pint of 277, which is an excellent wine. I told Jones minor that the doctor told me not to mix my wines, and he said something about having to be careful when one got old that I did not think sounded at all nice.
  
While we paused, waiting for the hors-d’oeuvre, I drew his attention to all the gorgeousness of the grand restaurant, the cream and gold, the hand-painted ceiling-panels, on which the Cupids sport, the brocades and silks of the wall panels, the, broad band of gold of the gallery running round the room, the crimson and gold draperies, the glimpse of the blue and white and gold of the salon seen through the dark framing of the portières ; I bade him note the morocco leather chairs with gold initials on the back, and the same initials on the collars of the servants. It is a blaze of gorgeousness that recalls to me some dream of the Arabian Nights; but Jones minor said somewhat coldly that he thought it jolly good.
  
[-111-] We drank our potage vert-pré out of silver plates, but this had no more effect on Jones minor than if they had been earthenware. I drew his attention to the excellent band up above, in their gilded cage. I pointed out to him amidst the crowd of diners two ex-Lord Mayors, an A.D.C. to Royalty, the most popular low comedian of the day, a member of the last Cabinet, our foremost dramatic critic and his wife, and one of our leading lawyers. Jones minor had no objection to their presence, but nothing more. The only interest he showed was in a table at which an Irish M.P. was entertaining his family, among them two Eton boys, and towards them his attitude was haughty but hostile.
  
So I tried to thaw him while we ate our whitebait, which was capitally cooked, by telling him tales of the criminal existence I led when I was a boy at Harrow. I told him how I put my foot in the door of Mr. Bull’s class-room when it was being closed at early morning school time. I told him how I took up alternate halves of one exercise of rule of three through one whole term to “Old Teek.” I told him how I and another bad boy lay for two hours in a bed of nettles on Kingsbury racecourse, because we thought a man watching the races with his back to us was Mr. Middlemist. And I asked him if Dr. Welldon had habitually worn a piece of light blue ribbon at Lord’s.
  
This for a moment thawed Jones minor into humanity. The story about Dr. Welldon was jolly rot, and before the boy froze up again I [-112-] learned that Bowen’s had licked some other house in the final of the Torpid football matches, and that Eaton Faning had composed a jolly good song about the Queen.
  
The filets mignons, from his face, Jones minor seemed to like; but he restrained all his emotions with Spartan severity. He did not contradict me when I said that the petites bouchées à la St­Hubert were good ; but he ate three sorbets, and looked as if he could tackle three more, which showed me that the real spirit of the Harrow boy was there somewhere under the glacial surface, if I could only get at it.
  
Mr. Lyons, piercing of eye, his head-covering worn a little through by the worries of the magnitude of his many undertakings, with little side whiskers and a little moustache, passed by, and I introduced the boy to him, and afterwards explained the number of strings pulled by this Napoleon of supply, and at the mention of a “grub shop in every other street” Jones minor eyes brightened.
  
When Jones minor had made a clean sweep of the plate of petits fours, and had drained the last drops of his glass of Chartreuse, I thought I might venture to ask him how he liked his dinner, as a whole. This was what he had conscientiously eaten through:-

Hors-d’oeuvre variés.
Consommé Monte Carlo. Potage vert-pré.
Petites Soles à la Florentine. Blanchailles au citron.
Filets mignons à la Rachel.
Petites bouchées a la St-Hubert.
Sorbet.
[-113-] Poularde de Surrey à la broche.
Salade saison.
Asperges nouvelles. Sauce mousseux.
Charlotte Russe.
Soufflé glacé Pompadour.
Petits fours. Dessert.

He had drunk a glass of Amontillado, a glass of ‘89 Liebfraumilch, two glasses of Deutz and Gelderman, a glass of dessert claret, and a glass of liqueur, and when pressed for a critical opinion, said that he thought that it was jolly good.

Impressed into using a new adjective Jones minor should be somehow. So, with Mr. Isidore Salmon as escort, I took him over the big house from top to bottom. He shook the chef’s hand with the serenity of a prince in the kitchen at the top of the house, and showed some interest in the wonderful roasting arrangements worked by electricity and the clever method of register­ing orders. He gazed at the mighty stores of meat and vegetables, peeped into the cosy private dining-rooms, had the beauties of the noble Empire ball-room explained to him, and finally, in the grill-room, amid the surroundings of Cippolini marble and old copper, the excellent string band played a gavotte, at my request, as being likely to take his fancy.
  
Then I asked Jones minor what he thought of it all, and he said that he thought it jolly good.
  
I paid my bill: Two dinners, £1:1s.; table­d’hôte wine, 7s. 6d.; half  277, 7s.; liqueur, 2s. 6d.; total, £1: 18s.; and asked Jones minor where he would like to go and be amused. He [-114-] said he had heard that the Empire was jolly good.
    10th May.
  
*** I bearded Mr. J. Lyons in his den one fine spring day and told him that “Dinners and Diners" was going to appear in book form. He showed no visible sign of emotion. Next I asked him if he would tell me what the plats were that the Trocadero kitchen prided itself on, and if he would give me the recette of suprême de sole Trocadéro of which I had a pleasant memory. He, kindly said that I should have a list of the dishes, and not one but two recettes if I wanted them. My remark was Thank you.”
  
Caviar glacé, huîtres a la Orientale, potage Rodisi, soles à la Clover, côtelettes de saumon a la Nantua, chapon de Bresse à la Trocadéro, poularde à  la Montique, selle d’agneau à  la Lyon a’or, salade d’Orsay, asperges nouvelles Milanaises form a little list from which an admirable dinner could be designed.
  
These are the recettes of  suprême de sole Trocadéro and Saddle of Lamb à la Pera

Suprêmes de sole Trocadéro

Take two fillets of soles and stuff them with fish forced meat, put one slice of smoked salmon on the top of each, roll them together, then take a small sauté pan well buttered, and place the fillets in it, with salt, pepper, half a wineglassful of white wine, and the juice of half a lemon, cover it and let it simmer for from eighteen to twenty minutes. Dress them on a silver dish, and cover one fillet with real Dutch sauce mixed with some of the fish gravy, the second fillet you cover with real lobster [-115-] sauce. Place one slice of truffles on each fillet and serve very hot.

Saddle of Lamb à la Pera

Take one saddle of lamb, and place it in an earthenware roasting-dish and cook for about three­quarters of an hour. Prepare carrots, turnips, and potatoes in fancy shape, and half cook them, place them in bouquets round the saddle and put it back in the oven for twenty minutes. Prepare some stuffed aubergines in rows on the top of the saddle, the peas and French beans between each. To be served with a strong sherry sauce.