"So I took up knife and fork and bade the waiter do his duty."
September 27, 2014 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis was engaged in 1897 as the restaurant reviewer of the Pall Mall Gazette, and his reviews of London restaurants are collected in Dinners and Diners: Where and How to Dine in London, available online from The Dictionary of Victorian London. Newnham-Davis was a bon vivant, amateur of the theatrical world, and man of parts, and his reviews were equal parts reminiscence of the conversation with his pseudonymous companions and recollections and reviews of his opulent and lengthy Victorian dinners.

Diverting and characteristic evenings of Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis: Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis also co-authored The Gourmet's Guide to Europe (available from Project Gutenberg) with John Algernon Bastard, who had earlier divorced his wife in the scandalous case of Bastard v. Bastard
posted by strangely stunted trees (20 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
How did you know it's my birthday?
posted by The Whelk at 4:02 PM on September 27, 2014

Although I didn't, it did occur to me in a general sort of way that this would be up your alley.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:25 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my god this is fantastic. Thank you!
posted by MetropolisOfMentalLife at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2014

Are any of these restaurants still in business?
posted by apricot at 5:11 PM on September 27, 2014

I bet the pease and beans "soup" was really cholent; and the "kugel" within it was what I would call a kishke.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2014

I love this. The piece about the pop-up French place reminds me of the best restaurant I ate at in Gent.

It was in the back of a wine shop, and amounted to a very charming Franco-Polish lady grilling steaks and chops over a wood-fired hearth in what was essentially someone's living room. The food was excellent, the company congenial, and the atmosphere somewhat evocative of Paris in the '

Needless to say, everything about the place (including the cat) would be illegal in most cities in North America.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:18 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. I love that the meal described in the kosher restaurant - kugel, matzoh ball soup, brisket, cholent - is pretty much what I ate on Thursday. (Okay, we had Cajun brisket, but still). Also, surprisingly little racism, even coded, in the description. Cool all around.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:15 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, surprisingly little racism, even coded, in the description.

Seriously. I hear "turn of the century British gentleman goes to Jewish restaurant", I would generally think to myself "how many synonyms for 'usury' am I about to read?" but that was a delight.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:57 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, for reference re: prices, this site suggests that a shilling in 1900 would be worth 4-40 pounds today (depending on how you measured it).
posted by Itaxpica at 9:09 PM on September 27, 2014

By my reckoning 9 of these are still in business.
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:36 PM on September 27, 2014

I cannot even begin to convey how much I am looking forward to reading all the things.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:42 PM on September 27, 2014

Actually it is 10, if we include Parliament

Cheshire Cheese*
The Blue Posts*
The Savoy
The Criterion
The House of Commons (!)
The Star and Garter*
The Freemason's Tavern*

Asterisks indicate pubs

Kettners is now a wonderfully odd upmarket pizza and cocktail place which is well worth a visit for the amazing clientele.
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:49 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

these are so ..bloggy less about food, more about these little slice of life pictures of turn of the century London. He's so descriptive but economical, the one with the lady and the notebook is a short story, that feels really intimate in the way the internet does now. I feel like I totally know him, jaunting off to meet American Ladies before the ballet, knowing everyone and being under deadline and always worried if the soup is hot. Like the Earl's Court thing "I had to eat ALONE how AWFUL" turned into this little description of a cafe at sundown and it should've been indulgent and bad but it WASN'T.
posted by The Whelk at 10:53 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I mean, I'm gorging on these and I love how hes both kind of a snob and a really good host. He not only gets his country hunting old guest a meal without any French on the menu but he also describes his twice-tied cravat and fox tooth pin in a way that makes him comical but humane and sympathetic.
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 PM on September 27, 2014

Also, really interesting, his depictions of Americans, or most commonly - rich American women in England all full of guile and fanciful sayings and a mix of naive and forceful. Considering how many english aristocrats where fortune hunting at the time it's ....interesting.
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 PM on September 27, 2014

According to the Oxford Dic, "Solomon Gundy" is a corruption of salmagundi - the origin of that word is "obscure", but it was originally something like "salmigondis" and came to us from France.

From what I can make out, the English version of salmagundi was originally a coarse pâté composed of meat and/or fish (particularly herring) and/or fowl, seasoned with things like onion, oil, and vinegar or lemon juice. The Jamaican and Nova Scotian versions of Solomon Gundy are herring-based, as was the one served in the kosher restaurant. The similarity in names makes me think that the terms are indeed related: the expensive version was made with meat and retained its correct name, while the cheap version was made with herring (the food of the poor) and had a jocular title.

Given the connection with salt herring, I strongly suspect that the name "salmagundi" is etymologically connected with the idea of a salted food ("sale", in Italian), in the same way as salami originally meant "a salty sausage".
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:20 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's one of MANY, he's always dining with lovely American ladies of means
posted by The Whelk at 11:52 PM on September 27, 2014

In an irrever­ent moment I was reminded of the Chinese torture of the Ling Chi, in which the executioner slashes at his victim without hitting a vital part in the first fifty cuts, as I watched Joseph calmly, solemnly, with absolute exactitude, cutting a duck to pieces with a long, thin knife
posted by yoHighness at 7:52 AM on September 28, 2014

> Given the connection with salt herring, I strongly suspect that the name "salmagundi" is etymologically connected with the idea of a salted food

Good guess! The Trésor de la langue française informatisé has:
Étymol. et Hist. 1. 1627 salmigondis « ragoût » (Salmigondis de l'aloyau ds Variétés hist. et littér., éd. E. Fournier, t. 1, p. 363); 2. 1618 fig. (BRUSCAMBILLE, Fantaisies, 2e harangue, Lyon, 12). Issu par substitution du suff. -is*, à -in* de salmiguondin « ragoût » (RABELAIS, Quart Livre, éd. R. Marichal, chap. 59, p. 239; cf. Salmigondin comme n. propre dès 1532 RABELAIS, Pantagruel, éd. V. L. Saulnier, p. 174, 1. 132, chap. XXII: la chastellenie de Salmigondin, et dès la 2e moit. XVe s. Salmigondre n. du 2e soldat dans la Passion de Semur, éd. P. T. Durbin, ligne 8372), dér. de salemine « plat de poissons » ca 1393 (Ménagier de Paris, éd. G. E. Brereton et J. M. Ferrier II, IV, p. 180, 5; cf. aussi salaminee « id. », p. 181, 32) dér. à l'aide de deux suff. coll. -ain* < lat. -amen (bien que nous n'ayons pas d'attest. de ce dér.) et -ine* et d'un élém. -gondin prob. issu après substitution du c- en g- de condir « assaisonner, aromatiser » ca 1265 (BRUNET LATIN, Livre du Trésor, éd. Fr. J. Carmody, II, 63, § 9, p. 239, ligne 58, v. FEW t. 11, p. 84b, note 19). Cf. le lat. médiév. salsamentum « sauce, condiment » ca 1200 ds LATHAM, sallamentum « id. » 1212 ds DU CANGE souvent associé à condimenta « condiment »: condimenta necessaria et salsamenta 1231 ibid., et de salamentis et condimentis condescentibus dans un ms. de St Victor de Marseille, ibid.
tl;dr: It goes back to a derivative of Latin sal 'salt' plus a variation of condir 'to season' (cf. condiment) and a couple of suffixes.

Also, great post!
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was always taken with the job title of "Drinks Editor" (an actual journalism post, I believe still in use, at The Grocer), but I think that "Recorder of Dinners" may be finer yet.
posted by Devonian at 5:59 PM on September 28, 2014

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