Having done my ‘homework’ I ordered the Châteaubriand and settled back on the banquette to peruse the wine list. I knew very little about wine in those days apart from my initiation into the intricacies of German wine labels, so when the wine waiter came calling I ordered the Rudersheimer Rosengarten and the wine waiter said ‘good choice’; a kindly man under the circumstances because it was anything but.
Apart from an early attempt at the bottom of the menu to garner feedback, the other item of note is the amount of meat products on the menu and ‘lobster salad’, in Woolworths!
Menus from other posh eateries abound and none are posher than Buck House. A Queen’s menu from 1906 shows nine courses and again plenty of protein; naturally at this moment in time the menu is again in French. Magnums, quite rightly, of champagne for Derby Day: they must have had a tip.
The great ocean liners that dominated transatlantic travel and vied for national pride with elegance and speed for those first class passengers and made sure they never went without during their voyage.
Eight courses at the Captain’s table, I bet that went down well – I’ll get my coat…
All things are relative to the age but sometimes there are surprises on these menus in that what are considered delicacies today and have a price to match, were not so in days gone by. Oysters and foie gras were cheap and plentiful, as two examples; lobster as on the Woolworth’s menu was available almost everywhere as were ortolans; today you struggle to find decent whelks.
Today we are used to buying products that are cheaper than in the past because of modern big farming techniques and international trade, but not everything works that way. This wine list from a Cunard liner in 1927 shows the price for a bottle of Chateau Latour at 12/6; £1 then equates roughly to £44 today, making that bottle in today’s money around £27 and that is a restaurant price; today a bottle of Latour retail would set you back in the region (depending on vintage) of £400-600 a bottle. You really could drink yourself to death in style for very little money then.
And when did you last see a seafood menu like this one? – and while you are perusing the menu, do not play with the candelabres:
But today those whole plates of steak have disappeared, we are presented with artistically arranged plates of very little for very much. At least the Argentinians know how to cook and present a steak – all vegans look away now…
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