Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Top London Foodie Destinations in 1788

Ever wondered when and where the modern restaurant review got started?

In 18th century London, there weren't really restaurants, but eating establishments of all shapes and sizes –– taverns, coffee-houses, inns and cookshops –– abounded.  And while you couldn't exactly stop in all of these places and order a la carte, the fare offered could be incredibly sophisticated, and many taverns became renowned for their talented cooks.

In fact, in the same way that Spago launched the celebrity of Wolfgang Puck in the early 1980s, or French Laundry is today intertwined with the celebrity of Thomas Keller, the cook was integral to a tavern's culinary reputation.   English cooks even wrote cookery books, which always mentioned the well-known tavern where they were employed.

Check out the bottom: Collingwood and Woollams used their jobs at the
Crown and Anchor Tavern as advertising gimicks
Yet the modern restaurant review that attempts to be objective and useful to patrons, the kind that we read in newspapers and blogs today, was quite a different beast.  In 1788, however, I found such a review in the monthly New London Magazine.  And not only did the magazine run it once, but these reviews were featured for not one, not two, but three consecutive months!

Here they are ... plotted on a modern day map:

Obviously I'm not terrible surprised by the inclusion of Wood's and Dolly's: the places I've run across in 18th century literature.  But I'm surprised that so many less expensive and less assuming places are included.  Who knew that home-made barley broth could be a chic Enlightenment treat?

Stay tuned, loyal readers, for there will be more in July.