It always seems to me that every good restaurant has some special characteristic of its own, that there is in the harmony of each some dominant note. The peace that comes to the man who has dined well at the Grand Hotel at Rome, and sits, after dinner, under the palms in the great winter garden, scores a white mark on the memory of the most blasé traveller; there is a comfortable richness in the Savoy Restaurant which is all its own, and over the great arched room of Claridge's there glows the nimbus of the old name "The Home of Kings," and there is an indefinable feeling in the place, the appreciation that one is on the threshold of a palace.
Now to business. Mons. Joseph, I know, will discourage us in ordering hors d'a'uvre; but though it may be a Philistine taste, I like beginning my dinner with them. Now, if I have my way, we shall have sole à la Reichemberg for our fish, which has oysters with it, so instead of oysters, let us begin with caviare. The soup we had better leave to Mons. Joseph's sound judgment: and so we come to the fish. Take the card and read some of the "creations": Sole de Breieuil, Sole à la Reichemberg, Filets de soles Aimée Martial, Sole D' Yvonne, Pommes de Terre Otero -- a delightful dish in which oysters play a principal rôle -- Pommes de Terre de Georgette, Sole Dragomiroff, Pilaf aux Moules, Homard à la Cardinal, Homard Lord Randolph Churchill, Queue de Homard Archiduchesse, Homard d' Yvette, Dame de Saumon Marcel Prévost, Filets de Macquereau Marianne -- those are Mons. Joseph's list of fish creations.
You think we had better leave the selection to Mons. Joseph? Of course you are right; but I hope we shall have Sole à la Reichemberg. Canard à la Presse certainly, for it is a special treat to see Joseph with his long thin knives cutting the bird to pieces scientifically. That with perhaps a vegetable dish and a bombe is quite a large enough dinner for two to eat.
If we were a large party it might make all the difference; the Savoy caters as sumptuously for big dinners and banquets as any restaurant in the world, as no one knows better than I do, for I was a guest at the world-renowned rouge et noir dinner, and the miracle in green and white which was the return repast; and the row of private dining-rooms looking on to the Thames are the most delightful in Europe.
We need not trouble to ask the price of the dinner. I have never been overcharged at the Savoy. To get the best material served in the best way amidst the best surroundings one must pay a fair price. One cannot buy diamonds set in gold for the same price as paste and silver; but I can vouch for the reasonableness of the bill. Now we will order our champagne and go home to dress for dinner.
We have been lucky enough to have secured a table, not too near, nor too far from the band, for Boldi plays divinely and should be listened to, and yet if we are talking, our conversation should not be interrupted by the music, and we can see all the celebrities who have come to dine. There are titled personages galore, British and foreign; there are artists, statesmen, stockbrokers, millionaires, opera-singers, actresses -- the "smartest" and most varied gathering of diners in the world. Look, too, at the luxurious comfort of your surroundings, the gold of the ceiling, the warm colour of the wall wainscoted with mahogany panelling, the flowers, the shaded lights, the delicate glass and fine napery, the quick and silent attendance; but do not look too long, for our iced caviare has given place to soup, the foundation of which is the famous bouillon, the secret of which I will tell you some day, and the Maître d'hôtel is watching us with anxious eyes lest we should let it cool.
Your dinner is finished. What did you think of it? Excellent? So I thought. The devilled wings and legs of the duck came as a contrast after the slices of the breast, and their rich sauce, did they not? Your bill, as I told you it would be, is a fair one, and now as the diners are thinning out, we will ask Mons. Joseph, if he has time, to let us walk through the kitchens, and introduce us to Mons. Thouraud, the chef.
This, the first kitchen, walled with white tiles, is where the roasting and boiling is done for the restaurant (the table d'hôte dining-room has a separate kitchen) and the army of white-coated, white-capped cooks work under Maître Thouraud, with the discipline of a regiment. Every man has his special work to do, and absolute cleanliness and regularity are the mots d'ordre. On a lower floor we come to the ornamental work of cookery, the pastrycooks' bakery, the making of sugar baskets and flowers, the carving of the ice to make the sculptured socles for bombes and biscuits, and the cool storage places for the fish and the birds and the great joints.
That, I think, is enough to show you for one evening. Adieu, Monsieur Joseph. Adieu, Maître Thouraud.
Homes of the Passing Show, "," by Colonel Newnham Davis, 1900.