La Salle à Manger - 1908
Where the Dining Art Attains Perfection
A lady in foamy white and a prominent young politician.
The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow." said Disraeli in one of his brilliant moments, and few people today would think fit to challenge his dictum.
There is no need to pause or to consider. The truth of Disraeli's remark is made manifest to us in every department of life. Men and women bear silent witness to this in all their habits and customs.
In the world of thought, in the world of dress, in travel, in home life, in entertaining, in all social settings, what our grandfathers and grandmothers called luxuries have become necessities.
But, nowhere is the advance of delicacy, or perhaps one should call it the increased cultivation of a fastidious taste, more clearly evidenced than in the art of dining.
Fifty years ago, few writers would have dreamt of describing dining as an art. The words would have been considered as inimical in sense to one another.
Yet, only last week, one of the most popular of modern English novelists remarked to the present writer, in the New Gaiety Restaurant:
“I think that the art of dining has only reached perfection here during the present year.”
“Do you," I asked, “when you speak of ' here ' means the New Gaiety Restaurant or the country in general?"
“I mean the country in general as typified by the New Gaiety, which, I take it, is the last word in English Restaurants."
“You think that, really?"
“Yes, the New Gaiety marks a new phase in the history of dining," he answered, regarding a lady in foamy white and a prominent young politician.
"In what way?"
"It marks a phase where the restaurant owner realizes that we have become so civilized that we are not only content to eat our meals amidst luxurious surroundings, but demand that the dinner itself shall, in character and essence, be in harmony with the tone and color of the environment.
This idea, crudely expressed, is noticeable in the old-fashioned chop-house. There you get blunt rooms and a plain, blunt bill of fare, slabs of furniture and slabs of cooking.
But here you see, we have advanced past that ear. The spirit of dining has put on a garment of aerial texture. She is in all things synthetic. She may only be enjoyed amidst soft lights and glowing flowers, in a hall that speaks atmosphere of repose.”
It may be sincerely said that the New Gaiety Restaurant in the Strand answers to the description given by my friend of the ideal modern dining hall that shall, in its harmonic construction, stimulate in the diner perfect contentment of both mind and body.
All those who have been responsible for the construction and organization of the establishment base worked with the common object of producing a restaurant where the visitor may find the intellectual, physical, and aesthetical enjoyment.
No feature has been admitted that could offend or jar upon the most delicate susceptibilities. The mind is rested, the eye soothed, and the palate satisfied.
The Wren Style
The new decorations are in the Wren style of architecture, dainty, elegant, refined; with walls and ceiling in white, and the paneling, upholstery, and tapestry in red. The scheme of electric lighting is admirable, at once soft and radiant, brilliant yet soothing.
Entering for the first time this splendid and spacious apartment, one is struck by the arresting beauty of the scene (there are no partitions to mar the brilliant ensemble), to which the lovely gowns of the fair diners lend an additional charm.
Evening dress is optional. In these harmonious surroundings, with an army of attentive, experienced waiters moving noiselessly but swiftly to the bidding of the guests, table d’hôte dinners are served between 6 and 9.30 p.m. the prices being 5s, 7s 6d., and 10s 6d. respectively.
In addition, there is a varied and comprehensive choice of viands la carte. Every dish is specially cooked for each person. Table d’hôte luncheons are also served in this room at the price of 3s and after-theater suppers at 3s 6d.
Immediately below the restaurant is the grill-room. White is the prevailing color of the walls here, with a green unit gold frieze. The grill-room prices have been rectified and reduced, so that they are now on that moderate scale which has become associated with the name of Lyons.
On Sunday evenings, dinner concerts are one of the most characteristic features of this epicurean temple. The new Gaiety Restaurant to the modern civilized man and woman is no longer a luxury; it has become a necessity.
"La Salle A Manger: Where The Dining Art Attains Perfection," in The Bystander, Vol. XX, No. 258, Wednesday, 11 November 1908, p. 289.