New research has revealed that we’re a nation of historical foodies with almost 50 per cent of Brits wishing they could take a step back in time to experience historical dining by eating at a restaurant that is over 100 years old. To celebrate the findings, Bookatable by Michelin has collaborated with some of the London’s oldest restaurants to recreate historical menus and demonstrate how dining has evolved, from Victorian banquets to gourmet Gatsby dishes. This journey back in time is a celebration of Feast on London, Bookatable’s inaugural month long festival highlighting the city’s culinary heritage.
DISHES FIT FOR A KING (1929) – GILLRAY’S STEAK HOUSE AND BAR
In a recent survey, Bookatable found that Brits considered The Royal Family to be one of the most important elements of British heritage. With this in mind, Gillray’s recreated a menu fit for Kings and Queens of the past.
Gillray’s is a restaurant and bar that reflects the political history of County Hall; the battleground of several political parties. Opened by King George V in 1929, Executive Head Chef, Jamie Welch, has created a menu consisting of King George’s favourite dishes, from boiled ham to Bakewell Tarts.
Rebecca Earle, Food Historian at Warwick University commented: ‘Gillray’s historical menu is indicative of war time Britain when George V reigned. Highlighting the use of rationing during the war, the veal cutlets that make up the main course would have consisted of minced vegetables and small bits of meat. During this period, cooks would often insert a bone into the meat to create the impression that people were eating an actual cutlet when in fact this was simply a meat and vegetable ball. It is fitting that the menu is completed with a classic Bakewell Tart, as this tart was eaten to celebrate the coronation of King George V.’
1920S FLAPPER – HOMAGE RESTAURANT AT THE WALDORF
The famous Waldorf Hilton opened its doors in 1908 with a vision to follow the American tradition of offering more than just a room, but also a place for passer-byes to stop for dinner, afternoon tea or a refreshing drink. Recent research from Bookatable revealed that nearly one in five people (18%) would choose to travel back in time to the roaring 20s. As a nod to this, The Waldorf designed dishes that were inspired by the 1920s revelry.
Rebecca Earle, commented: ‘Chicken a la Rose was a popular choice in the 1920s, and was even served to President Coolidge at a Presidential dinner in 1924. The floral infused dish quickly became a firm favourite both in the UK and across the pond. The Waldorf Pudding is a nod to The Titanic, as the dessert thought to be one of the last foods that passengers enjoyed before the ship sank. As it happened, the enquiry into the causes of the disaster was held at The Waldorf Astoria in New York.’
HISTORICAL TRENDSETTERS (1889) – SAVOY GRILL
Opened in 1889 with exposure to old Hollywood and centuries of history, the Savoy Grill restaurant has seen some of the world’s most famous faces pass through its doors from Marilyn Monroe to Winston Churchill. Housed in London’s first luxury hotel, The Savoy, the restaurant was quick to impress, being headed up by ‘Britain’s first master chef’ Auguste Escoffier.
Rebecca Earle commented: “Born in 1846, Escoffier helped infuse a French twist into English cuisine. For Escoffier, simplicity was key. His motto was ‘Above all, keep it simple’. The Savoy Grill’s menu also includes one of Auguste Escoffier’s signature desserts, the Bombe Nero, a gourmet dessert made from sponge, caramel, ice cream and chocolate truffles coated in meringue, baked in the oven and served with a cup of flaming rum on top.’
Josephine Ellis, Head of Communications for Bookatable Europe commented, ‘As a nation, we have always been fascinated by food, be it the lavish banquets of King Henry VIII or the debutante balls of Jane Austen. The reproduction of these original menus pays homage to how dining has changed over time. While all of the menus are distinct in flavour, what unites them is how eating out can bring people together and this is no different today than it was hundreds of years ago.’
When questioned on how much consumers felt that they knew about the history of British food, one in ten surveyed felt that they had no historical food knowledge. Yet when put to the test, consumers have more of an appetite for food history than first appears. Over one in five Brits were aware that the Scotch egg was invented in the 1800s, while a quarter of people correctly identified beef as the main ingredient in a Lancashire hotpot.
Feast on London takes place between 1st – 30th April, with the festival aiming to showcase the diverse range of dining options in Britain, educating consumers about the gastro capital, while also encouraging them to get out more. A wide variety of dishes, old and new, including the original Escoffier Menu at The Savoy will be available during the festival.
Other age old restaurants taking part in Feast on London include:
The Grill at The Dorchester (est 1931)
Afternoon Tea at The Park Room (est 1929)
Ormer Mayfair (Historic hotel is awash with the glamour and artistry of the 1920s)
Roast (Found at Britain’s oldest food market)