Reform Club Menu, 9th May 1846

Reform Club Menu, 9th May 1846

Scan of menu from Alexis Soyer’s book “The Gastronomic Regenerator” found at

As part of a food history course we have had with Professor Alberto Capatti, food historian and dean of the University of Gastronomic Sciences we were given an assignment to analyse a menu.  In Colin Spencer’s “British Food, An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History” I found a menu from the Reform Club in 1846, a time when Alexis Soyer, the most famous chef of the time was employed there.  Following are some information about the menu and an analysis of the food on offer…

The Reform Club

The Reform Club was created by the proponents and supporters of the Great Reform Bill of 1832. This was legislation to replace the previous system of parliamentary election which did not give uniform representation across the population and tended to be open to abuse and corruption. The club was proposed by Lord Durham as a Liberal Club to counter the Tory politician’s Carlton Club. Sir William Molesworth took up the challenge of organising it’s creation with a meeting in 1836. The club was to be like the Athenaeum, with fine dining being an important aspect.

The club opened in May 1836 with around a thousand members, 250 of which were members of parliament. In 1837 the Club appointed as chef de cuisine Alexis Soyer, a French chef who had been working in England since 1831 and had come to prominence working for Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and other nobility. The club’s committee had commissioned an expensive new clubhouse from the architect Charles Barry which was completed in 1841. Alexis Soyer worked closely with Barry on the design of the kitchens which employed many recent technical innovations such as cooking with gas, water cooled refrigerators and ovens with adjustable temperature controls. The kitchens became famous and were opened for visits.

Alexis Soyer became the most famous chef of the time and commanded a salary of £1,000 per year. He left the Reform Club in 1850 and became especially interested in improving the diet of the poor and soldiers in the army. He invented a portable stove for army use which was used extensively for many years. He also authored 8 books.

The Menu

The menu chosen is for 10 people dining at the club and can be found in his book “The Gastronomic Regenerator: A Simplified and Entirely New System of Cookery” published in 1847. From his description, it was a very important meal that he personally lavished great attention on. This is his description, including extensive details about some of the ingredients and their sources…


I BEG to present to my Readers a copy of the Bill-of-fare of the most recherche dinner I ever dressed, which the liberality and epicurean taste of the gentleman who gave it, to a select party of connoiseurs, enabled me to procure ; he wishing me to get him a first-rate dinner, and spare no expense in procuring the most novel, luxurious, and rare edibles to be obtained at this extravagant season of the year ; I, therefore, much to his satisfaction, placed before him and his guests the following : (see p. 609 [menu shown above]).

I had also proposed the following dish to the party, which was accepted, but which I was unable to obtain from Paris on account of a change in the weather preventing their arrival, the articles being two dozen of ortolans ; having already procured twelve of the largest and finest truffles I could obtain, it was my intention to have dug a hole in each, into which I should have placed one of the birds, and covered each with a piece of lamb’s or calf’s caul, then to have braised them half an hour in good stock made from fowl and veal, with half a pint of Lachryma Christi added ; then to have drained them upon a cloth, placed a border of poached forcemeat upon the dish, built the truffles in pyramid, made a puree with the truffle dug from the interior, using the stock reduced to a demi-glace and poured over, roasted the twelve remaining ortolans before a sharp fire, with which I should have garnished the whole round, and served very hot.

[NOTE. The tradespeople received their orders a week previous to the dinner. The finest mullets I ever saw, as well as the Severn salmon, were obtained at Grove’s, in Bond Street ; the remainder of the fish was from Jay’s, Hungerford Market. At seven o’clock the -live Severn salmon was brought to me, it having just arrived direct from Gloucester, and was boiled immediately, being just ten minutes before the dinner was placed upon the table, and was eaten in its greatest possible perfection. The finest of the poultry came from Bailey’s, Davis Street, Grosvenor Square, and Townsend’s, Charles Street, Haymarket. The foies gras and some very fine fresh French truffles came from Morel’s ; the hors-d’-oeuvres, from Edges and Butler’s, Regent Street. The saddleback of lamb came from Newland’s, Air Street, Piccadilly, the Welsh mutton from Slater’s, and the young green peas and a very expensive dessert came from Solomon’s, Covent Garden. My being so minute in mentioning the name of the above tradespeople is not to advertise their fame in their different specialities, as that I believe they have already acquired, but merely to prove the trouble a real gourmet will take to furnish his table, Mr. S. having called many times upon several of them himself, previous to this party taking place, to ascertain what his dinner was to be composed of. The most expensive dishes were the mullets, the salmon, poulardes a la Kelson, and, above all, the crawfish which, when dressed, cost upwards of seven guineas.]

No information is given about wines accompanying the food.

Menu Analysis

The menu starts with two soups…

Potage à la Comte de Paris.

A stock is made from veal, beef, calf’s feet, artichokes and apples. A soup is made with this and chicken and macaroni.

The Gastronomic Regenerator, Alexis Soyer, 1847

Potage à la purée d’Asperges.

Pureed asparagus soup

Two fish dishes…

Saumon de Severne à la Mazarin.

Salmon from the river Severn. “à la Mazarin” the fish is cooked in white wine and court bouillon. When cooked the liquid is reduced with the same quantity of velouté sauce thickened with egg yolks and cream and some lobster butter. The dish is decorated with pike quenelles, truffles and fried breaded oysters from which the heart has been removed.

The Epicurean, Charles Ranhofer, 1894

Rougets gratinés à la Montesquieu.

Red mullet fillets are seasoned, dipped in melted butter, rolled in chopped onions and parsley, cooked in butter and then lemon juice is added.

Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier, 1914

Two Relevés…

Le Chapon farci de Foie gras à la Nelson.

Capon stuffed with foie gras à la Nelson. I could not find a reference to this dish exactly but if it is similar to mutton cutlets à la Nelson, the capon would be dipped in beaten egg and have one side covered in chopped ham, the other side with truffles, then breadcrumbs on both sides and fried quickly.

The Epicurean, Charles Ranhofer, 1894

Saddleback d’Agneau de Maison à la Sévigné.

Saddleback of lamb à la Sévigné. I found a recipe for a different part of lamb “à la Sévigné” – The meat is cooked in stock and then put into round moulds. Some forcemeat is also poached and moulded. The dish is constructed and decorated with truffles and mushrooms and covered with supreme sauce.

The Epicurean, Charles Ranhofer, 1894

Four Hors-d’œuvres “à la Française”…

Les Olives farcies.

Large Spanish olives with the stones removed and stuffed with anchovy butter, salmon, sardines etc.

Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier, 1914

Salade d’Anchois historiée

I didn’t find a reference to Anchovy salad “historiée” but for an anchovy salad, the anchovies were filleted and kept under oil until needed. They were arranged on a plate and garnished with herbs, vinegar, good oil, hard boiled egg and lemon.

The Epicurean, Charles Ranhofer, 1894

Thon mariné à la Italienne.

Marinated tuna “à la Italienne”. “à la Italienne” signifies that the fish was either dressed with Italian sauce (based on a duxelles of mushrooms, ham and chopped herbs) or garnished with artichoke hearts or macaroni.

Larousse Gastronomique

Sardines à l’Huile de Noisette.

Sardines with hazelnut oil. Le Répertoire de la Cuisine mentions Thon à l’Huile which was simply as the fish came under oil. So this maybe preserved sardines with the adition of hazelnut oil.

Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier, 1914

Four Entrees…

Sauté de Filets de Volaille à l’Ambassadrice.

Chicken filets, poached, dressed and coated with Suprême sauce, garnished with lamb sweetbreads studded with truffles and cooked without colouring, alternated with asparagus heads.

Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier, 1914

Petites Croustades de Beurre aux Laitances de Maquereaux.

Small croustades made with butter filled with mackerel milts.

Cotelettes de Mouton Galloise à la Réforme.

Welsh lamb cutlets dipped in beaten egg and then coated with a mixture of bread crumbs and finely chopped cooked ham. The cutlets are then fried and put on a plate in a circle with “Reform chips” placed in the centre. Reform chips are very thin strips of boiled carrot, black truffles, cooked ham or bacon, hard boiled egg white, and the outer part of Indian mountain green gherkins. “Reform sauce” is then poured over the cutlets. This is poivrade sauce, made with chopped ham or bacon, carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns. These are browned in some butter before adding vinegar, mushroom catsup and some anchovy. This is reduced and then brown sauce, some stock and a glass of sherry is added. After cooking, the grease is removed and the solids strained out. To this poivrade sauce, a glass of port, some sherry, some anchovy sauce and some red currant jelly is added.

The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant, Charles Elme Francatelli, 1863

Turban de Ris de Veau purée de Concombres.

A circular arrangement of veal sweetbreads with a puree of cucumbers.

Larousse Gastronomique

Two Roasts…

Les Dotrelles aux Feuilles de Vignes.

Dotterels (a shore bird) roasted with vine leaves.

Le Buisson d’Ecrevisse Pagodatique, au Vin de Champagne à la Sampayo.

Small crayfish with champagne sauce served in a Pagodatique, which was a specially constructed multiple compartment serving dish that Soyer had commissioned.

The Gastronomic Regenerator, Alexis Soyer, 1847

Various accompaniments and sweets…

La Gelée de Datzic aux fruits Printaniers.

Jelly made with eau de dantzig with spring fruits

Larousse Gastronomique

Les petits Pois nouveaux à l’Anglo-Français.

Small new peas boiled with the addition of lettuce and onions.

Les grosses Truffes à l’essence de Madère.

Large truffles with Madeira essence

Les grosses Asperges verdes, sauce à la Crème.

Large green asparagus with béchamel sauce with added cream.

Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier, 1914

Risolettes à la Pompadour

Fried pastries coated in Choron sauce then surrounded by Perigueux sauce and artichoke hearts stuffed with lightly browned noisette potatoes.

Larousse Gastronomique

Les Croquantes d’Amandes pralinées aux Abricots.

Pastry with almond praline with apricots.

Le Miroton de Homard aux Œufs de Pluviers.

Sliced lobster cooked with onions with plover eggs.

Larousse Gastronomique

La Crème mousseuse au Curaçao.

Cream mousse with Curaçao

Two Relevés…

La Hûres de Sanglier demi-glacée, garnie de Champignons en surprise.

Wild boar heads, half coated in syrup garnished with mushrooms.

Les Diabolotins au fromage de Windsor.

Small rounds of sliced bread (sometimes first coated with reduced béchamel sauce) sprinkled with grated Windsor cheese and browned in the oven.

Larousse Gastronomique


5 Responses

  1. can anyone tell me where to find ortolans,how are they kept,how are they prepared(killed)prior to cooking.why are they illegal?

  2. yo, en un tiempo la unica carne que comiamos hera del hotelano aqui le llamamos tordo o zorzal mi padre iba a cazar y comiamos los hortelanos pues la otra carne no podiamos comprarla hoy estan prohibida alguna forma de cazarlos se matan muchos con escopeta pero no son tan buenos pues los perdigones los machaca mucho en mi tierra cocinan con aceite de oliva y cebolla, lionesa, tambien estofasos con ajos

  3. According to a recent biography of Soyer they were force-fed for weeks after capture and then drowned in Armagnac

  4. You share interesting things here. I think that your page can go
    viral easily, but you must give it initial boost and i
    know how to do it, just type in google for – mundillo traffic increase go

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: