When she wasn't encouraging us to squirt copious amounts of food colouring into every dish we were creating, Fanny Cradock was keen that we spent our time travelling around, soaking up as much culture as we could, and of course eating copious amounts of perfectly normally coloured food. Fanny wished of course that we did it in a very particular style - hers. I'm about to head off to London for a well deserved jaunt, and wondered how well her guide book of 1953 would hold up and help me to plan a suitably colourful trip?
Fanny says her 'unique' book will ensure that I have a happy and satisfying visit to the capital city, which is just what I am after. The book serves up, apparently, history as a 'fruity background' to the main mission of aiding me to lunch and dine in London's many fine restaurants. Naturally Fanny and Johnnie are the only people suitably qualified to help me on this quest, combining their 'gastronomic knowledge, literary skill and insight' (not to mention modesty) into the average person's problems of what dishes and wines to order. The average person. That's me.
Bon Viveur in London, compiled from various Daily Telegraph columns and articles from Fanny and Johnnie promises to give me the names of many restaurants, the prices of their dishes, detailed reports of the house specialities and even recipes which used at 'some' restaurants which I can introduce at home. So with a clarion call of 'Je ferai de mon possible' we are to be convinced that Fanny will indeed do her very best for us... Within limits. London of 1950 had changed beyond recognition from it's heyday of the late Victorian-Edwardian era as a 'gastronomes paradise'. Fanny notes that as a result of the two wars, much of the promised colour and fruity charm has been shed.
In 1953, Fanny is stepping into a restaurant on our behalf and seeing it with quite different eyes from the times when she allegedly went for 'private and personal enjoyment'. Now it's all about us, the average people. Fanny notes her task is akin to the painting of the Forth Bridge - endless - in that chefs move about, restaurateurs change and management switch. Reading through the guide there are so many altered places that I wish I could visit - the 'luxury class' of the Five Hundred Club in Albemarle Street, or perhaps an open sandwich lunch in the Débutantes Bar in the Brief Encounter on Brompton Road. Oh I forgot, I'm average, not high class.
I'll be staying on the South Bank. Fanny doesn't have recommendations for 'South'. Fanny recommends I eat at Whistlers Room Restaurant in the Tate Britain Gallery on Millbank. It's just across the river. Guess what, it's still there! I wonder if the unpretentious Mrs Adams is still feeding the hungry on 'good plain foodstuffs' - this is not a place for indulgent gastronomes - but Fanny recommends the soup. Will it still be hot and genuinely palatable? Will Kitty the star waitress still be adding a touch of extra character to the place with her watchful service? Will Chef Jasper still make his usual tour of the tables to enquire if all is well? Even for me, an everyday, average, lacking in colour person? Let's find out...