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Monthly Supper, Reform Club

May 16, 2011

It was a gastronomic first for the Reunion in visiting the most famous and historic of London clubs, so long associated with Alexis Soyer (the U.K.’s first celebrity chef) as well as being an inventor, best- selling author, philanthropist, secret bigamist and colleague of Florence Nightingale during the Crimea War!

The president had requested Head Chef, Terry Howard ,to compose a menu which included some of the dishes for which A.S. was famous ,but brought up to date to reflect modern tastes ;hence the Famine Soup, produced in vast quantities for the starving Irish during the potato famine of 1854,was a lighter more refined version to please the modern palate .No Soyer menu would be complete without the classic Lamb Cutlets Reform —-again up-dated from the Louis Saulnier version in the Reptoire de la Cuisine(surprisingly a cordon of gooseberry coulis was featured in the original recipe)

The Strangers Gallery was filled to capacity; excellent Cremant de Bourgogne from Berry Bros and Rudd was presented to members on arrival ,whilst they had the opportunity to view the Soyer memorabilia put on display by the club archivist .Portraits of Thackery,Dickens(all past members of the Reform) ,as well as the great man himself, looked down on the assembled company ,all appreciative of the superb surroundings created by Sir Charles Barry{best known as the architect of the House of Commons)

The Reform Club has enjoyed an excellent reputation historically for good food and wine and from the outset and gastronomy was seen as a powerful agent of political cohesion at that time ( La plus
ca change???)The Reform Club has, over the years, boasted a membership of political heavyweights—Asquith, Lloyd –George, Gladstone and Palmerston to name but a few!

The Santé du Chef was coupled with that of the name of Alexis Soyer, with glasses being raised in direction of that famous portrait of Alexis(painted by his wife Emma) ,wearing his trademark red beret and eating his favourite dish of truffled chicken .

The President was delighted to introduce his personal guest, Ruth Cowen, the Daily Telegraph and F.T. journalist, who is also the author of the definitive biography on Alexis Soyer.

After dinner, Ruth spoke with considerable passion and knowledge about the great man (research for the book “Relish” took in excess of 5 years).Ruth focused on the Soyer/ British army connection which was of considerable interest to members with a military background ,as well as his skills for self-promotion and P.R. The modern celebrity chef could learn much from the techniques he applied!

A mini A.S. quiz was completed by members with much debate (argument?) — The 3 best entrants were presented with a signed copy, complete with personal dedication, of Ruth’s excellent biography of Alexis Soyer.

An evening, with a slightly different format, held in a truly historic club with a great gastronomic pedigree ensured maximum occupancy of the Strangers Gallery by the membership.

Adrian Bannister


May 16, 2011


Reform Club
United Kingdom