Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Monday, January 15, 2007

Listorama: Company for Elizabeth David when dining at Annabels

Taken from the FT on the weekend just gone; an extract of notes that Elizabeth David gave to Mark Birley on the food menus of his club Annabel's. It's a fantastic piece of writing, of course, and also illustrates the way in which taste at the top of the English/international jetset has not changed that much in forty years.

But what really catches the eye is the following passage:

"Now we get to the Plats du Jour and general impressions of existing menus.

Here there is confusion and incoherence. Rothschild, Versailles, Edwardian-style grandeur, Maxim’s Belle Epoque manner plus Raymond Oliver’s style pompier have gone into this pot along with currently smart fads and fancies. Picking from a handful of sample menus I find the following company:

Duc de Chartres, royal prince;

Rothschild;

Caruso;

Henri IV;

A cardinal, anonymous;

Waleska, an Emperor’s mistress;

Arnold Bennett;

A marshal, anonymous;

Marie-Térèse, an empress;

Romanoff, an Imperial house;

Colbert, an admiral

Plus some nebulous Dianes, Suzettes, Vefour and Chateaubriant (the “t” is wrong, whatever any pedant may say. It’s like insisting on calling lobster américaine armoricaine) plus some place names such as Albufera, Clamart, Nantua, which have meaning only for those who spend their lives reading Escoffier and the Larousse Gastronomique. (Monte Carlo and Vichy do, I suppose, mean something.)

While I don’t know how much these exalted names mean to Annabel’s customers, either as personages or as associated with particular dishes of a rather grandiose nature (exceptions are Arnold Bennett and Colbert), the overall impression created by the menus is one of somewhat formidably ambitious and expensive cooking."


Which, one might have thought, was precisely the point.

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