Monday, 27 June 2011

Bacchanalian lunch at Blacks with MsMarmitelover's 18th century menu

An 18th century lunch in pictures. I cooked (with the aid of Robin, head chef) and hosted this lunch at Blacks club, 67 Dean Street, Soho. I spent time with Dr Andrea Tanner, the archivist of Fortnum and Mason, in researching this meal. At the time, a commode would be in the eating room, with a screen. Guests would relieve themselves during the meal. Foreigners complained of the English habit of vomiting mid-meal to make room for more food.
Celery soup Madame de Pompadour with truffle oil, 18th century Viagra. A light soup was considered chic.
Broad bean and Gloucester cheese fritters. Young men would fry fritters on the fireplace of their living quarters.
Stargazy pie, vermicelli (very popular) with garden peas. 
Almond blancmanges made from antique moulds
Pineapple mould: pineapples were so expensive they would be rented for the duration of a meal to impress guests.
Candied peel was sold in bundles wrapped with raffia on the streets
Charles Fortnum lived at Blacks in 1848. Probably a cousin. All the Fortnums were called Charles. Potted cheese and walnut crackers courtesy of Fortnum and Mason, with my confit pineapple. I made confit fruits for the first time for this meal, a process of bathing the fruit in sugar and corn syrup over a few days. 
Croquembouche with orange flower water creme patissier
John the waiter
MsMarmite's hose and shoes

 Dessert board with confit fruits, brandy syllabub, ratafias, candied peel wrapped in rafia. Fortnum and Mason also provided dragees. Almonds were very important in the 18th century.
 Rose water and lavender sugar meringue flowers. Meringues would have been small due to the immense expense (a week's wages for a loaf of sugar). The poor used honey.
 Strawberries with black pepper
 Salted taffy very popular during the 18th century, wrapped in wax paper. I will make more pulled toffee and give the recipe when I have perfected it.
Thanks to Jori, Thomas, Guiseppe, Lucy, Daisy, Robin and Torri.
Pictures by Siennapops Rodgers


  1. Looks absolutely wonderful! Love the idea of the fritters and the strawberries with black pepper! xxx

  2. What an amazing lunch. The story of the rented pineapple reminds me of Vietnam. At the pilgrimage town of Chau Doc people rent a pig. If you are rich, you bring a pig to the temple as an offering, then take it home and eat it.

    However most people can't afford a whole pig so they rent one and return it after the ceremony.

  3. Lovely post and an even more splendid occasion by the looks of it; Blacks is one of those places I'd love to go into. Mainly as a result of Georgette Heyer's regency novels, actually. Congrats to the photographer - is it a genetic gift?

  4. What an extravaganza. The stargazy pie looks amazing, like fish leaping from a stormy sea. Any other pictures of stargazy pie that I have seen look rather sad & reproachful, staring out with accusing eyes. I would definately eat yours.

  5. Amazing. Wish I was there! When is the next one?

  6. Amazing looking lunch - love the blancmanges and mini meringues. I am so renting tropical fruit to decorate my next party.


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