Nota bene

From: Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class (2018), by Luke Barr:

(1890) Over the coming weeks, Escoffier and Ritz imposed themselves on the Savoy.

…In the dining room, Ritz and Escoffier watched their guests and soon identified another problem: they could not read the menu…

The solution was simple, and proved to be hugely popular: the prix fixe meal. For any party of at least four people, Escoffier would create a personalised seven-course menu for a set price…

He had always paid attention to the choices of his important guests over the years…Escoffier had made notes in his diary…It was a haphazard record, based on what he gleaned from conversations as he passed through the dining room, or learned from guests when they made their reservations.

But now Escoffier instituted a more systematic record keeping: in his files, organised by customer name, he kept the original chit from the maitre d’hotel who’d taken the reservation, and a copy of the resulting personalised menu. Over time, it was this record of predilections, favourite dishes, and likes and dislikes that made possible Escoffier’s seemingly magical, uncanny ability to design the perfect meal for his regular guests, every time.

…Ritz had followed through on his plan to remove much of the bric-à-brac and decorative glass from the hotel lobby and drawing rooms to create a more streamlined, modern style…

…Guests entered from the lobby into a white and gold papered anteroom in which there were two fireplaces, comfortable terracotta coloured armchairs, and numerous palm trees in large pots – a place where a gentleman might wait for his dinner guests. The restaurant radiated a sense of sophistication.

The alterations were expensive, and required knocking down walls, moving the restaurant lavatories to a different position, and redecorating the new salle a manger (previously a private banqueting room), which Ritz took in hand personally. D’Oyly Carte made no complaint about the costs…”

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