Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 39 - The Coburg (Carlos Place)

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THERE were some portions of my aunt Tabitha’s letter from the North which were distinctly satisfactory. She was kind enough to say that both she and my cousin Judith, the most delight­fully demure little lady possible, had enjoyed their short stay in London, and had appreciated the oratorio, the museums, and the picture galleries I had escorted them to. She anim­adverted on the strange conduct of my cousin John, who went to call on the old lady after being up all night at a Covent Garden ball, where I detected him clothed as a monk, with a false nose and spectacles. She sent me half a dozen works of the fiercest fire-and-brimstone type, asking me to forward them to him—which I shall be delighted to do, and also sent a bundle of miscellaneous tracts for the servants of the Northumberland Avenue Hotel, at which hostel she stayed, and some specially selected ones for some of the guests staying at the hotel—these, I fear, may be mislaid. The principal item of news in her letter, however, was that Simon Treadwell,[-280-] her solicitor, was coming to London on business for her, and that she wished him to consult me as to certain investments she intended to make.
There was a decidedly comforting sound in this, and I was only too ready to do all honour to Mr. Treadwell. I had memories of him as a very grave gentleman, clean-shaved, with a wealth of long white hair, and with gold-rimmed pince-nez attached to a broad black ribbon. He came of Quaker stock, and though I wished to entertain him, for it is so much easier to talk business over the dinner-table than anywhere else, I felt perplexed as to where to ask him to dine with me. The bustle and the music of the fashionable restaurants would not be in keeping with the staidness of this grave old gentleman.
The Coburg occurred to me. The name in itself commands respect, and there is dignity in the appearance of the red brick Elizabethan building that shows a curved front to Carlos Place. From previous experience I knew that I might expect good cooking, and that we should dine with unhurried calm in the panelled dining- room. So in writing to my aunt Tabitha to say that I should be delighted to meet Mr. Treadwell again, I suggested that he should dine with me at the Coburg, and named the date and time.
Mr. Simon Treadwell, my aunt wrote, would be delighted to dine on the date named. Think­ing of our after-dinner entertainment, I looked out in my morning paper the most classical concert I could find advertised for that date, and took tickets for it. Then I went to the Coburg, [-281-] and in consultation with the manager ordered a dinner which I thought should suit my guest, accepting the item of petite marmite with resignation:-

Petite marmite.
Filets de soles Waleska.
Tournedos Niçoise.
Pommes Anna.
Perdreau Périgourdine.
Salade Victoria.
Bombe Patricienne.

On the appointed evening I waited in the lounge which leads off from the entrance-hall, rather wondering as to whether my stock of conversation would last out a dinner with the very grave person I had to entertain. The lounge is a very comfortable room, painted oak- colour, with warm red curtains and a warm red carpet. From it one looks through a white arch into the white panelled hall, with its dead gold roof and the oak staircase, which, through its white arch, with a plentiful supply of palms to break the straight lines, would appeal to any artist’s eye.
    I heard my name spoken in the hall, and went out to receive my venerable guest. I was astonished, however, to find a young gentleman, black of hair, clean-shaven, with an eyeglass, and in the most modern cut of dress clothes. I am afraid that my face showed my astonishment, for my guest said, “I am Mr. Simon Treadwell, junior. Did you expect to see my father ?
   [-282-] I wondered how the classical concert would suit my new acquaintance, as I piloted him down the white-panelled passage, where a little fountain in a recess lets fall a tinkling stream of water, and into the dining-room. We were quiet, as I expected to be. The room, with its panelling of deep red wood, with a frieze of tapestry, its pillared overmantel, its recess curtained in, its soft red carpet, its high-backed chairs of dark- green leather with a golden C on them, its clusters of electric globes filling the room with a soft, luminous glow, is all in keeping with a certain sensation of stateliness, and the perfect silence of the service, a very good point, adds to this feeling.
The diners at the other tables were, I should say, all guests staying at the hotel. I had not the curiosity to ask who they were, but I should have expected to be told that their names were all to be found in “Debrett.”
Mr. Treadwell was taking stock of me, as I was doing of him, and when the caviar in its bowl of ice and the petite marmite, strong and hot, had been served, he told me of the very simple business as to which he had been instructed to ask my advice, and that matter satisfactorily dis­posed of we, with the sole LValeska, which, with its accompanying slices of truffle, is always a favourite dish of mine, fell on to general subjects, and I tentatively asked Mr. Treadwell whether lie had a taste for classical music.
“Not so much for classical music as for a good song,” said Mr. Treadwell, urbanely; and after a short pause he mentioned that he had heard [-283-] that Arthur Roberts was very amusing. I mentally tore up the tickets for the classical concert.
With the tournedos Mr. Treadwell told me that he had wired down to the Palace for two seats for the next night in order to hear Marie Lloyd’s new songs, and asked my advice as to where he had better dine a deux, and whether Romano’s, or Princes’, or the Savoy was the most chic place to take a lady to supper at. I filled up Mr. Treadwell’s glass from the nicely chilled bottle of Perier Jouet, and he almost winked at me as he told me of my cousin John’s delinquencies: how, after he, John, had hypocritically warned my aunt Tabitha that I took a delight in theatrical performances and attempted to raise the ready smile in journalism, he had been so indiscreet as to appear before my aunt on an occasion when he had evidently come home with the milk. Mr. Treadwell went so far as to call him a “garden jackass” ; and, my heart warming to the young solicitor, I told him of the Covent Garden ball and how I had discovered my cousin there, and of the tracts that had been sent to me by my aunt to give him.
With the partridge, excellently cooked, I gave Mr. Treadwell my opinions as to the merits of the various pantomimes, and asked him to lunch with me next day, and to go and see a matinée at a music-hall. After the ice came coffee and old brandy, and Mr. Treadwell said that he would like to smoke a cigar.
The other diners had all finished their dinners, and we were the only occupiers of the big room, [-284-] in luxurious quiet. Mr. Treadwell lay back in his chair and pulled at his cigar with the air of a man enjoying life.
I paid my bill: two dinners, £1:1s. ; one bottle ‘83, 15s. ; two coffees, 1s. ; two fine champagne, 3s.; cigar, 6d.; total, £2 : 0 : 6. This done, I asked Mr. Treadwell where he would like to go and finish the evening; and he, waking from a day-dream, said, "Anywhere where they have a ballet."
    “Heads the Empire, tails the Alhambra,” I said as I tossed the coin, and it fell heads.
I wish I had not been so hasty in buying those classical concert tickets.
10th January.