Let us spend one more evening together before I leave London for Rome. I have been asked by Madame La Princesse Trois Etoiles to dine at Claridge’s, and as she wants a man to make up her dinner party of fourteen, she has asked me to bring somebody very charming and accomphshed and amusing with me. Could I do better than ask you? No false compliments. Parole d’honneur.
You liked the cooking? No doubt you did. Have not you, as all of the rest of us have done, made pilgrimages to Paris purely and simply to dine at Paillard’s? Of course, you have; and here in London you have all the best of Paillard’s cookery, for Mons. Nignon, the chef de cuisine, ruled formerly at Paillard’s.
The bisque was as soft as a dairy maid’s kiss, and the poularde d'Albufera was as different from the barn-door bird cooked by the plain cook as an alderman is from a tramp. The Bécassines, too, were delightful. When you order a dinner at Claridge’s, never forget that the ices with a hard shell outside, and inside a melting delight of various fused flavours, are one of the specialities of the house.
To-morrow, if we can arrange it, I will ask Mons. Mengay to take us through the kitchen, a great white-tiled series of rooms in the basement, to introduce us to Mons. Nignon, to explain to us the system by which the orders of the dinners for the table d'hôte and the restaurant are kept separate, and to show us the freezing rooms and the new arrangements that are being made for the storage of the fish and birds.
Apropos of the table d'hôte, I will ask the Manager of the restaurant to let us see what is being served at table d'hôte in the twin banqueting hall to this, on the other side of the glass screen.
Here is the menu: --
But Monseigneur is rising from the table, and we must follow.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It would be unkind to ask you to make a journey to Rome with me simply for the enjoyment of the rest and peace that comes to a battered traveller after a dinner at the Grand Hotel there. You will, perhaps, take my word for what I tell you. One calls a halt in Paris, of course, if one is going from England to Rome, and there the Savoy has a half-way house in the Marivaux. You know of old the little restaurant in the street at the side of the Opera Comique, with its bronze and gold and delicate pink and green ornamentation, and its tropical plants in the double windows. Mons. Joseph still remains director there, and his rule is felt even when he is not present, and the cookery there is equal in all ways to that of the Savoy. Tired and weary one arrives in Rome after the journey through the Alps, to which are added the culinary crudities of the Italian railway station buffets; or after the nerve-shaking journey from Naples.
The dust and the grime of the journey have vanished, and in clean linen and dinner jacket one saunters into the great glass-roofed winter garden, where the broad-leaved palms form masses of quiet colour, and wonders placidly what there will be to eat at the table d'hôte dinner, for to order dinner in the restaurant would be an exertion. Good it will be as a matter of course, for the table d'hôte dinner at the Grand is the best I have ever eaten in Italy, and I think I may say on the Continent.
Seated at one of the little tables in the dining room, which, with its marble pillars, its pictures let into the walls, its glittering decorations, is a noble room, one takes up the menu to see what Mons. Louis, the chef, in consultation with Mons. Pfyffer, the Manager, has constructed.
This is a typical menu: --
Sitting afterwards under the palms, drinking one’s coffee, with the soft music of the band in one's ears, one can understand why, in most of the religions of the world, a preparatory course of purgatory is thought necessary for the proper enjoyment of paradise.
If you are staying in Rome and wish to entertain your friends at dinner, there is no better place than in the restaurant of the Grand, with its lace-like decorations and dainty paintings and panels, or in the handsome red room next door to the restaurant. The cosmopolitan society of Rome knows this, as witness a few of the names of recent dinner-givers: The King of Siam, La Duchesse de Belmont, Mr. Higginson, Comte Vitali, Mrs. Potter Palmer, Le Marquis Medici, Mr. Vanderbilt, Madame Anderson.
The menu of the dinner given at the Grand by the King of Siam, in honour of the Duke of Genoa, will be of interest, so I subjoin it: --
Homes of the Passing Show, ‘‘Two Restaurants for Kings’’" London’s Claridge and Rome’s Grand. By Colonel Newnham Davis, 1900.