Tag Archives: London food

Just Desserts

Maids of Honour

A personal favourite of mine. Just opposite Kew Gardens is a rather quaint tea room selling these puff-pastry cakes containing a rich melange of almonds, cinnamon, butter and brandy named after a famous terrace in Richmond. This was built for the ladies-in-waiting to a former Princess of Wales, Caroline of Anspach, who lived at nearby Richmond Palace.

[S]ince the horse meat scandal CabbieBlog this month seems to have taken on a distinct foodie theme. So for our final March post we take an excursion into the Capital’s culinary connections.

Sandwiches

Those resourceful Romans are said to have stuck meat between two slices of bread to make a convenient way of eating on the move, presumably when conquering their European neighbours.

But the name sandwich is attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. His family insist that he invented its creation to allow him to work on Admiralty papers, but those less charitable suggest that it was more likely he was rather bus at White’s gaming tables.

The current Earl of Sandwich has resurrected his ancestor’s invention and given his name to a chain of upmarket sandwich shops.

Champagne

Don’t mention this to our Gallic cousins but in 1662 Christopher Merrett having moved from Oxford to London demonstrated at The Royal Society how to make champagne, a full 30 years before Dom Perignon started his famed tipple.

Peach Melba

The Savoy’s famous chef Auguste Escoffier was credited as creating this dessert for opera diva Dame Nellie Melba. The combination of peaches, raspberries, redcurrant jelly and vanilla ice-cream were combined to protect her precious vocal chords prior to her appearances at Covent Garden.

Chelsea Bun

On the corner of Pimlico Road and Lower Sloane Street before the antique dealers arrived selling Georgian furniture, there stood a famous bun house royally patronised by Georges II, III and IV. Note the genuine light fluffy article containing raisins is always square.

Dark Satanic Mill

Food producers adulterating our food is a recurring problem and the practice has gone on for centuries.

When the Albion Flour Mills opened the traditional millers – who feared the factory would drive their wind and water mills out of business – had for a long time been spreading rumours that flour from the factory was adulterated with all manner of unpleasant substances.

[S]ince bread was the main diet of the poor millers were often portrayed as the greedy cheating baddie. At times of high wheat prices bakers and millers would be the target of rioters, often accused along with farmers and landowners of hoarding to jack up prices. Bread riots could involve the whole community, though they were often led by women, rioters would often seize bread and force bakers to it at a price they thought fair.

The Albion Mill was the first significant factory built in London. It was situated east side of Blackfriars Road on the approach to Blackfriars Bridge close by the Thames. Inside this modern wonder of its day, vast steam engines powered mill wheels which ground the flour on a huge scale.

Before the fire grinding 10 bushels of wheat per hour, by 20 pairs of 150 horsepower millstones, the Mills were the industrial wonder of the time, quickly becoming a fashionable sight of the London scene, they were regarded as the most powerful machines in the world. The trendy middle and upper classes had liked to drive to Blackfriars in their coaches and gawp at the new industrial age being born.

But in 1791 the factory dramatically burned to the ground in very suspicious circumstances.

The Mills stood in Blackfriars, an area together with neighbouring Southwark long notorious for its rebellious poor and for artisan and early working class political organisation. At one time the Thames bank at Lambeth was littered with windmills – eventually they were all put out of business by steam power. When the Albion opened London millers feared ruin.

It was hardly surprising that when mill was an inferno, they made their joy immediately apparent. A huge crowd gathered and made no effort to save the Mills, but stood around watching in grim satisfaction. Later in the day locals and mill workers danced around the smoking ruins, ballads of rejoicing were printed and sung on the spot and millers waved placards which read ‘Success to the mills of ALBION but no Albion Mills.’

After a soldier and a constable got into a row, a fight broke out leading to a mini-riot; but firemen turned their hoses on crowd thus the first recorded use of early water cannon. To further make their point, the millers labelled the factory Satanic.

William Blake lived a short distance from the factory and it is thought the event inspired the line ‘Dark Satanic mills’ in his poem And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time, later made famous as the hymn Jerusalem.