Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 37 - The Gordon Hotels (Northumberland Avenue)

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MY DEAR AUNT TABITHA—First, let me thank you for the tracts entitled “The Converted Clown” and “The Journalist Reclaimed”; they will have my attention. It was no doubt your nephew John’s conscience which impelled him to place my devotion to Shakespeare, and other dramatic authors of like calibre, and my efforts to improve humanity through the press, before you in the light he has done. When I have an opportunity of a personal interview with him I shall attempt to change his opinions. 
That I shall have the pleasure of seeing you in London soon after the New Year is indeed good news. My cousin Judith I shall have the honour and privilege of meeting for the first time. It must, indeed, be a pleasure for a young lady, the curriculum of her studies in Switzer­land at an end, to be returning via Paris; and your notion of meeting her in London, receiving her from her escort, conveying her to an hotel near the station of arrival, and affording her the [-267-] delight of witnessing such entertainments in London as may be edifying, is, I think, an admirable one.
There are, as you rightly suppose, hotels in the Northumberland Avenue, which is within a stone’s-throw of Charing Cross, and in answer to your request I will give you, to the best of my power, a short description of each. I am not aware of Miss Judith’s disposition, whether it be lively or of a serious complexion; but if I write to the utmost of my ability the character­istics of the three hotels—the Grand, the Victoria, and the Metropole—you should be the best judge as to which would most thoroughly suit your needs.
I regret that I cannot inform you as to whether the new-fashioned or the old-fashioned doctrines are favoured by the three managers. As to the distribution of tracts, I would very dutifully suggest that you should mark out the persons in the hotel whom you think should be so benefited, and allow me, after your departure, to see that the tracts reach a suitable destination.
The Grand Hotel, with which I will begin, as it lies nearest to Charing Cross, presents a curved face both to Trafalgar Square and Northumber­land Avenue, and from its windows a fine view can be seen of the pillar erected to the hero Nelson, whose deeds you have been good enough to admire while reprobating the frailties of his life. I inspected the sitting-rooms on the first floor, and saw some, notably a room decorated in white colour, with a fine view over the Square, [-268-] and well within hearing of the bells of the neighbouring church, which would suit you admirably. But Miss Judith might prefer the stir and gaiety of the public rooms to a private apartment, and the great dining-room with its white marble pillars with gold capitals, its mirrors set in a frame of deep-coloured velvets, its roof of stained glass, its many tables covered with white napery, is a most chaste yet withal cheerful apartment. A smaller dining-room in which alabaster pillars support the roof is also a delightful room. The hall, which has pillars of white and black marble, is handsome, and has absorbed what was once the reading-room. Should you desire to give a family dinner during your stay—for which I am not anxious, as I can hardly imagine how I could meet at present my cousin John with those feelings I should like to entertain towards him—there is a very delightful suite of rooms, known as the Walnut Rooms, where the head cook of the hotel—who previously cooked for the members of that politically misguided, but excellently appointed club, the Reform—has had the honour of serving meals to princes of the Royal blood. As for the company at the Grand, I should take it that it is chiefly of old country families, or the heads of great firms in the North.
Somewhat farther down the Avenue towards the river, and on the side opposite to the Grand, is the Victoria Hotel, and should Miss Judith be of a lively disposition, the coming and going of well-dressed and polite folk in this hotel would please her mightily.
Most of the road coaches—the continuance [-269-] of the mode of travelling by which does much to sustain the high perfection of that noble animal the horse—start from the Victoria Hotel, and it is a stirring scene at eleven in the morning to view the passengers depart. The hall is gorgeous with brown and yellow and green marbles, and many of the guests of the hotel sit there to watch the coming and going of the ladies of fashion and their cavaliers. Many Americans and Australians, liking the brightness of the place, give it their custom.
The long line of drawing-rooms is on the ground floor, and is profusely decorated with that tint known as old gold. But if Miss Judith is an amateur of music, the dining-room will please her most, for here, in a great and really splendid apartment, which has pillars of white and gold with fine foundations of brass, a band of stringed instruments plays most excellent music during the dinner, and many people of distinction come here — as indeed also to the other two hotels — from great distances in London to partake of the dinner of the table d’hôte. There is a very cosy little sanvtum for serious conversation on the first landing of the great staircase, and the private sitting-rooms on the first floor, decorated in a variety of styles, are very comfortable.
  The Métropole Hotel, which is built in the form of a triangle, one of the points of the angle touching the Thames Embankment, is the largest of the three hotels, accommodating as many as 800 guests. It is an hotel the solid comfort of which attracts many of those [-270-] fortunate people who have acquired large sums of money in business; and indeed it is no rare news to be told of some family who have made this hotel their home for years. The especially delightful nooks and corners, filled by lounges, with which this hotel abounds, have always pleased me much; and there is, on the ground- floor, a drawing-room with a most dignified decoration of painted silk panels, a very noble room, with a fine view over the Thames, where ladies who are pleased to do so make their own dishes of tea.
The great dining-room may be thought by some to be a whit gloomy; but the saloon, in which the dinners are served, to use a French term, à la carte, is a bright and withal handsome apartment, panelled to the ceiling with oak, and with tapestry spread on the walls. I fear that you do not approve of the game of billiards ; but there is a very delightful room for the pursuit of that game in this hotel, and an ante-room of much comfort, from whence ladies watch the strokes and cannons. The private rooms are most excellently appointed.
After your strictures as to excessive addiction to writing of; and partaking of; rich and delicate food—strictures prompted, I fear, by my cousin John—I feel some diffidence in writing of the dinners served at these hotels. Yet I must say that from experience I have found that at all three hotels the tables are well served ; the dinner of thetable d’hôte being in each case five shillings in price.
For an instance, at the Grand Hotel on the [-271-] day of my inquiry, among other delicacies, whitebait, and the curry of Madras, pheasants, and the toothsome pigeon were served; while at the Métropole dominos de foie gras would have tempted your appetite, and you would have ended a capital dinner with partridges and various sweets. This is how you would have fared at the Hotel Victoria:-

Canapés de caviar Moscovite.
Consommé Marquise. Crème Chantilly. 
Sole Montreuil.
Blanchailles à la Diable.
Zéphires de faisan Princesse.
Tournedos Ventadour.
Selle de mouton au laver.
Dindonneau Baltimore.
Haricots verts sautés au beurre.
Pommes fondantes.
Pluviers dorés bardés sur croûtes.
Salades panachées.
Mince pies.
Biscuits glacés vanille. Langue de chat. 

I need scarcely say, my dear aunt, how pleased I shall be to be of any service to you and my cousin Judith during your stay in the Metropolis, and remain, your very dutiful and obliged               NEPHEW.
30th December.