Friday, October 9, 2009

Sherman, Set the WABAC Machine To...

An occasional series on meals I wish I could travel back in time to enjoy.

...the late 1930s, aboard the New York Central's luxurious 20th Century Limited. Here is a vintage photo of the dining car in all it's art deco glory. I'm guessing the interior color scheme -- including that glorious wall striping -- was Vanderbilt maroon and silver. Starched white tableclothes. Monogrammed ceramic dinnerware. Heavy silver cutlery and table service items.

The train left New York City's Grand Central Terminal for Chicago at 6PM, so I imagine this photo was taken somewhere in upstate New York, say 8PM.

My time-travel dinner might include a Tom Collins to sip while waiting for my food. The first course could be vegetable soup or fruit cocktail, followed by a grilled halibut steak in lemon butter with kernel corn and pimientos alongside Franconia potatoes. All washed down with an American Sauterne and topped off with a butterscotch sundae and Port.

The service would be gracious and efficient, the foods sourced from vendors along the famed Water-Level Route over which the New York Central's trains traveled. The conversations would be lively throughout the room and might include several between titans of business or movie stars.

By the time I pushed back from my table, to head back to 2009, we'd be entering Ohio and, if the night was clear, off the right-hand side of the train the moonlight would silver the waves of Lake Erie.


  1. What a fantastic photo, it really evokes the spirit of the era and what an iconic service the 20th Century was. I love those few places I know of that seem to take you back to that age of classic, old-school service. Two that spring to mind are Sweetings in the City of London:

    and Annabels:

    I love them both and they are always on the agenda when I go back home if I have time. Where else for you!?

  2. Bradley, old bean:

    I will post on this's terribly important to record those concerns that provide a service above the others.

    Off the cuff, I'd nominate the following for London service excellence:

    * Gordon Ramsay (Royal Hospital Road) -- Nothing tops the mother ship. Between Jean-Claude's courteous greeting at the door and his adieu, you are attended by a dizzying number of consummate professionals (none uneasy on the eye) through every course. And the god. Go at least once in your life.

    * Chelsea Kitchen -- Don't you dare laugh. Yes it's one of the least expensive meals in the Kings Road, and the cuisine reminds one of dining hall at school, but the people who work there are funky and fun. I have enjoyed every meal I've eaten there. A staple before or after a film at Chelsea Cinema, unless, of course, one longs for The Bluebird...

    * Claridges Bar -- You can just imagine.

    * The Connaught Bar -- Ibid.

    * Purple Bar at Sanderson -- one of the most exceptionally designed spaces in London, features 150+ vodkas -- but best of all, even in a bijou room stuffed with incredible somebodies to filthy rich nobodies, the service is provided by gorgeous young women who are friendly and efficient. God knows there has been a parade of "in" places that promise the glitz but blow it on keeping the punters happy. Blue Bar at The Berkeley doesn't come close, nor did the Met Bar back in its 90's heyday. A first rate room.