Just after the advent of spring, the world will observe the 100th anniversary of an event that shook the world. During the hours of April 14 and 15, 1912 the RMS Titanic sunk into the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
On the evening of the 14th, passengers on board who were booked in first class dined in luxury. Accompanied by the romantic music from a string orchestra, enjoying Dom Perignon, wines from Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Burgundy and the Rhone, all paired with an amazing nine course dinner, they were unaware that this was their last dinner.
A few years back, I walked through the touring Titanic Artifact Exhibition, covering an amazing 15,000 square feet. I could hardly add anything original to the stunning impact. Movies, books, folklore and the accounts of survivors actually make a good composite of the tragedy that still captivates us like no other disaster except 9/11. The artifacts brought from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean included china, wine bottles, dinnerware and many other implements of fine dining and wine enjoyment. Each cup, spoon, saucer, crystal wine glass and dish seemed to say that fine dining was not only a Titanic hallmark, but was the basis of a great and fascinating story.
The Ritz Restaurant aboard the Titanic
The Ritz Restaurant (as it was called) on board the Titanic arguably was the finest restaurant in the world. It was for the exclusive use of first class passengers only. This restaurant was in addition to the already sumptuous first class dining saloon. The Ritz Restaurant was under the control of the Titanic’s corporate owner White Star Line, who appointed Luigi Gatti as manager who they hired from Oddenino’s Restaurant one of the finest at the time in London. The rest of the staff came from Italy, France, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Spain.
The rich and famous queued up for the very expensive privilege of dining at the Ritz, and White Star granted passengers who booked a table for the entire voyage enjoyed a reduction on their fare. While meals were available from 8am until 11pm daily-tables were always fully booked-it was the seated dinner in the Ritz Restaurant that commands the most attention.
Aboard The Titanic
A glance through the list of occupations of some of the dining and kitchen staff brings back a world of opulence and luxury. In addition to the well-trained waiters, there was a roast cook, assistant roast cooks, pastry cooks, fish cooks, a soup cook, an iceman, entree cook, the very important sommelier, barman, glassman, carver, maitre d’, platemen and of course a couple of page boys to take messages and do all the running about. In all, sixty-eight men and women were employed to give nothing but the best in service at all times. Added to the dining, cellar and kitchen staff were the musicians. Edwardian dining often had the added luxury of a string orchestra and the evening of April 14, 1912 on the Titanic was no exception.
The Ritz Titanic experience on that fateful evening can be replicated and many restaurants throughout the world are doing this throughout the spring. The archived menu is available in museums.
The R.M.S Titanic, Ritz Restaurant’s, First Class Menu
The menu items (which I have been served at different restaurants that by necessity exercised some modifications) included an appetizer of Oysters a la Russe followed by Barley Soup. Poached Salmon, then and now, is always a favorite of the rich and famous and was served with Strawberry Sauce Mousseline.
There is much to be said about the wines. The Titanic carried in its vast cellars fine Champagne, primarily Dom Perignon, noble Bordeaux, whites and reds from Burgundy, wines from Alsace, the Loire and Rhone River Valley, Germany and Spain plus the wonderful dessert wines from Sauternes. I am always content to have Champagne with my oysters and the diners that night were no doubt served refreshing Cru Chablis from Burgundy for the delicious salmon.
The meat entrée was filet mignon, served with Beurre de Truffle. It was paired with magnificent Margeaux, a Bordeaux legend..
Dessert consisted of Waldorf Pudding with French Vanilla Ice Cream. Coffee was quite appropriate, but I chose a glass of Madeira served cold. The acidity in the fortified wine just fits superbly with dessert.
Over 6,000 meals were served each day during the Titanic’s voyage. Tons of food were in storage and it had one of the world’s largest and best stocked wine cellars. The Titanic took most of the kitchen staff and waiters into the icy waters of the Atlantic that fateful evening. The maitre ‘d survived.
Recreating the experience is tasty, cheerful and respectful. Each sip of wine and bite of Escoffier-inspired fare magically recalls the events of long ago when dining was elegant. I couldn’t help but think if it will be possible to have something like this-well in the future, of course-as my last dinner.
Each course is from the actual menu. The wines were in the ship’s heralded cellar, perhaps the best on earth at the time.
The pairings are by Doc Lawrence.