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First Class Restaurants

This discussion on "First Class Restaurants" is in the Eating on Board section; I'm confused about the number of first class restaurants. I'm familiar with the Palm Court ...

      
   
  1. #1
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    I'm confused about the number of first class restaurants. I'm familiar with the Palm Court and Cafe Parisian. I've also heard of an a la cart restaurant. Was that a different restaurant or another name for one of the above?

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    The Cafe Parisien and Verandah/Palm Court areas were not restaurants. They were 'cafe' areas for socialising, with drinks and light refreshments available if required. Apart from the main dining room, the only place where a full meal could be ordered was the 'A La Carte' or 'Ritz' Restaurant, run by Mr Gatti and his staff.

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    Where was the A La Carte restaurant located?

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    On B-deck just aft of the after 1st Class Staircase and next to the Cafe Parisien.

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    Hi there - I know this post has been dormant for a while.... but just wondering if anyone knows what shifts were worked by the waiters in the A La Carte restaurant? If it was open between 8am and 11pm, did the waiters (and other staff) work on a rota of different shifts?

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    I doubt there were shifts. The A la Carte restaurant operated as a concession, so its waiters and kitchen staff weren't part of the ship's crew or its watch system. They would probably have worked the same long hours that were common in London restaurants - ie at least 12 hours a day, taking short breaks and grabbing something to eat in the kitchen during the quiet periods.

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    This section hasn't been published in in a while but i'm gonna beak the ice (no pun intended), I have been wondering who ate with who in the first class saloon and also which waiters (Saloon Stewards) served which tables, i was wondering who is known to have eaten with who?? Who ate alone?? And who is known to have served who?? Oh also how many tables there were in first class??
    Cheers Guys
    Matteo

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    Matteo:

    "Who ate with whom" was probably a fairly fluid situation, at least in First Class. The reason was the a la Carte Restaurant. Any First Class passenger could dine there, subject of course to paying the restaurant's stiff menu prices. Because the a la Carte was extra-cost, and quite expensive (Lady Duff-Gordon reminisced about being served hothouse strawberries in it - in April, in the middle of the North Atlantic, three days out from Queenstown), many First Class passengers would have dined there only for a meal or two. For a few very wealthy passengers, dining in the a la Carte for every meal was not only possible, but desirable, because of the extra privacy and the separation from "regular" First Class passengers, not all of whom would have been what they appeared to be. Then as now, ships teemed with all sorts of unsavory types, from card sharps to ladies specializing in entrapment of amorously-inclined gentlemen. Even had that not been the case, a man like J.J. Astor would have wanted to be spared the approaches of comparatively upstanding people wanting everything from business advice to investment in some scheme or other to a mere scraping of acquaintance with a celebrity; the a la Carte afforded a means to avoid all that.

    But that also meant that if a First Class passenger wanted to catch a glimpse of the fabulous Mr. Astor or some equally glittering personage, he or she had to make a reservation at the a la Carte, leaving their seat or seats in the First Class dining room unfilled for that meal or meals. That allowed for some filling of places on the part of dining room staff in the interest of conviviality.

    The a la Carte was so expensive that if a passenger elected to take all meals there, White Star would rebate part of the cost of passage. This also reflects on the cost of First Class dining room menu items; there was a real savings to White Star if a First Class passenger did not eat in the dining room, as was included in the price of passage.

    So far as exactly who sat where at what meal, that information is pretty much lost to history, because the lists made by dining room staff went down with the ship. Unless some miraculous discovery is made by a salvage crew, we'll never know. Of course, stranger things have been brought to the surface, so who knows what might be learned in future?

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    Matteo:

    It also occurs to me that you might want to know something of how seating assignments would have been made in a First Class dining room aboard any luxury ocean liner of that era. The Chief Steward (in the case of Titanic, Andrew Latimer) was responsible for these assignments, and making them took a substantial knowledge of society, as well as the worlds of finance, banking and industry, in addition to nerves of steel.

    The main idea was to put people together who were congenial for reasons of personal or professional relationships, and to keep people who were not congenial - for whatever reason - apart. This meant that a good Chief Steward made it his business to know what banks lent to what companies, which men were cheating on their wives with the spouses of other men, which well-born women were intensely religious and therefore not to be seated with the more liberal, and which ones were too highly placed socially to be put next to "new money," no matter how much money was involved. For those who crossed with some frequency, the Chief Steward might tell the passenger, "I know you to be on good terms with Mr. So-and-So; I'm very happy to put you at his table if you like."

    It could also be possible that adjustments needed to be made, a matter calling for the greatest tact and delicacy. A young woman with impeccable social credentials might prove at the first seating to have an irritatingly giddy laugh, which the Chief Steward might immediately know would be intensely annoying to staid older tablemates. The giddy one might have to be distanced by telling her there was suddenly a "better" seat with younger, more chic people, or some such tactic. In extreme cases of stewardly mistakes, a man traveling with his wife might find that a married woman with whom he'd had an affair - and her husband - were across the table from him, with other passengers "in the know" about the situation. Of such contretemps were the nightmares of Chief Stewards made.

    There was also the matter of "good" and "bad" tables; in any restaurant, some tables are front and center where the illustrious - or those who fancy themselves illustrious - want to see and be seen. But there are also tables next to the pantry door, where waiters fly in and out, and those are not nearly so desired. Knowing - or finding out the hard way - who would and wouldn't object to a less-than-glittering placement took the instincts of a trapeze artist and the patience of a saint.

    As you can imagine, Chief Stewards who could manage this task well were highly desirable employees.

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    Wow that is most confusing!! on those grounds then would the jewish people like Strauss and Bauman have sat together?? or those with young children like the Allisons the Carters have sat together?? or those i believe to be excentric like Stead and the Duff Gordons?? Is it known of any people who definately sat with selected people like i'm pretty sure the Astors sat with the Wideners?? Or who served who??
    Cheers Sandy
    Matteo

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    Matteo:

    In the absence of any seating charts or lists, or any written staff assignments, I think all we can really know is that the Chief Steward would have done his best to put people together when he had reason to think they would be compatible, on whatever basis. And that he would have taken as much care as possible to keep people apart if he had reason to know that they would not be compatible.

    So far as who served whom, that was probably handled on the same basis it is in every first-class dining establishment today - more senior waiters with the most experience would have been assigned to important passengers. If the Chief Steward knew that a particular passenger liked or would request a particular waiter, that would also be factored in. But exactly who served whom is a matter of records that are at the bottom of the North Atlantic, if they still exist at all.

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    Yeah i can imagine, must have been a long job and taken a lot of effort, what else did the chief steward do of this type?? Food related i mean, i don't imagine a few sheets of paper probably left on a table somewhere would have survived the sinking, shame
    Cheers Sandy
    Matteo

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    Matteo, Sandy is right that there are no surviving documents that list table assignments but you can in a few cases identify table companions and even the waiters serving them from comments made in survivor accounts. Sorry, I can't recall any offhand!

    Manuals of etiquette were popular back in Victorian and Edwardian times, and some of these have sections on correct behaviour 'on the steamer' which go into detail about the strategies applied by social climbers to get themselves seated in the dining room at the right table - ie with the right people!

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    Here's one example of a testimony (from the US Inquiry) which links table companions and the steward who waited on them:

    Senator Smith: If you can remember, whom did you serve on that voyage from Southampton to the place of the accident, if you know any by name?
    Frederick Dent Ray: I waited on Maj. Butt, Mr. Moore, Mr. Millet, Mr. Clark, and Mrs. Clark.

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    Cheers Bob
    I'll add that into my notes
    Matteo

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    Do we know if those who went to the party held by the Wideners sat with them?? These are those who i have heard attended the party and i would appreciate it if anyone knew who was really there??
    The names i believe are as follows
    Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon
    Mr and Mrs Astor
    Mr and Mrs Carter
    Mr and Mrs Clark
    Colonel Gracie
    Mr and Mrs Fortune
    Major Butt
    Mr, Mrs and Master Thayer
    the Wideners of course
    am i right or wrong with who i have mentioned??
    Cheers Guys
    Matteo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matteo Eyre View Post
    This section hasn't been published in in a while but i'm gonna beak the ice (no pun intended), I have been wondering who ate with who in the first class saloon and also which waiters (Saloon Stewards) served which tables, i was wondering who is known to have eaten with who?? Who ate alone?? And who is known to have served who?? Oh also how many tables there were in first class??
    Cheers Guys
    Matteo
    This brings up a question.:
    Just who would Mrs. J. J. Brown have been assigned with in a group as mentioned ? (I'm not going to make the mistake of using "Molly Brown." :-) ) Did she ever eat at The Captain's Table ?
    Would the Chief Steward have had a problem there ? :-)
    Last edited by Robert T. Paige; 23rd August 2013 at 01:32 AM. Reason: Typing error. Should have said "Chief Steward" instead of "Purser." LOL.

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    Just another question.:

    We had the good fortune to stay a night or two in one of the former First Class Cabins on Main Deck at the Hotel Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I also enjoyed a ship tour conducted by a former Navy Chief Petty Officer. On the tour he remarked that small children would not have been permitted to eat at the evening meal in the First Class Dining Saloon on the Queen Mary. (Not sure if he meant at The Captain's Table or regular seating.) He mentioned this to one child in the group, "You would have to eat a peanut butter sandwich in your cabin !" What was the procedure for families with small children on the Titanic ? (Just for example maybe chidren between the ages of 6 and 12 ?)

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    Children aged under 10 were catered for in the main dining room but at separate sittings before the adults arrived. Those aged 12 or above were charged the full adult fare and could therefore dine with their parents - if the parents so desired. Children aged 10 or 11 also could dine with their parents if the parents chose to pay the full adult fare for them too. But it's likely that most parents would have preferred not to take that option. It was standard practice even at home for the children of the upper classes to dine in the nursery with nanny rather than with the grown-ups.

    There was a similar policy on the Cunard liners.

  20. #20
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    Bob:

    A sensible custom, and one that could stand revival. Children should receive education in reasonable behavior before being thrust into public settings, as anyone who has encountered them in a public setting in recent years can attest.

    To say nothing of the fact that a good many parents nowadays could use remedial training. In the past few years, I have witnessed things in restaurants that would have gotten the miscreants jailed or sectioned when I was beginning my dining-out career.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert T. Paige View Post
    This brings up a question.:
    Just who would Mrs. J. J. Brown have been assigned with in a group as mentioned ? (I'm not going to make the mistake of using "Molly Brown." :-) ) Did she ever eat at The Captain's Table ?
    Would the Chief Steward have had a problem there ? :-)
    Forgive me, but you're running afoul of popular misconceptions about Mrs. Brown. At the time of her sailing on board Titanic, she was far from a nobody, and her social standing was not that of the brash parvenu of legend. She was divorced by this time, with a handsome settlement and alimony (the alimony alone was equivalent to about $15,000 monthly today), and she was a patron of the arts, a philanthropist, a supporter of women's suffrage, a founder of the Denver Women's Club and the juvenile court system in America and had run - unsuccessfully, it is true - for the Senates of both Colorado and the United States, though she could not legally vote until 1920, when American women were finally granted that right. In 1902, she lent her Denver house to the Governor of Colorado to use as his official residence while the State's Governor's Mansion was being remodeled. She was on very good terms with John Jacob Astor, and had much more social polish than movies depict; she was fluent in several languages and was well-read. I doubt she could have "passed" for old money, but my sense of her, after reading about her extensively, is that she herself had a rueful sense of humor about the situation and rather wisely, decided not to care too much for the opinions of others. In addition, she dressed well and tastefully.

    She could not possibly have been ignored by any Chief Steward who valued his continued employment.

    P.S.: Despite my unkind words about motion-picture depictions of Mrs. Brown, her portrayal by Kathy Bates in the Cameron film is actually fairly reasonable. She is shown mixing with Astor, her wardrobe is correct, and the rough edges she never quite rounded off are not entirely overdone by Ms. Bates. It's a sympathetic portrait, if perhaps not accurate in every least detail.

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    Thanks for sharing. I have heard about this extraordinary woman, however, I did not know exactly what she was famous for. She was a very accomplished woman and ahead of her time regarding women's rights and the role of women during this time period.

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    I share Sandy's comments as to the portrayal of Mrs. Brown.

    "Titanic" (1997) was much better IMHO than ANTR.
    I don't think Astor would have addressed her as "Molly" though .
    I understand she was actually quite intellectual and fluent in several language after traveling in Europe
    and her fluency in several languages was used in her contacts with immigrant survivors aboard Carpathia.

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    Robert:

    There is one touch in the Cameron film I like very much. Obviously, it never actually happened, but it accords well with my sense of what Mrs. Brown might have been like.

    I refer to the moment when Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio, of course), is momentarily taken aback by the ranks of cutlery flanking his place at the "swells'" table in the First Class dining room. Mrs. Brown spots his dismay, and swiftly gives him solid, correct advice on how to cope - "Start from the outside, and work your way in."

    It's a well-thought-out bit that sums up Mrs. Brown's trip from the underclass to a member of what Emily Post used to term "best society." She has learned her lessons, and knows how to impart them quickly, practically and without embarrassing this defenseless young man as she herself has been embarrassed.

    As I say, it never happened. But it gives insight into the generous spirit I believe the woman to have possessed, and that's good enough for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matteo Eyre View Post
    Wow that is most confusing!! on those grounds then would the jewish people like Strauss and Bauman have sat together?? or those with young children like the Allisons the Carters have sat together?? or those i believe to be excentric like Stead and the Duff Gordons?? Is it known of any people who definately sat with selected people like i'm pretty sure the Astors sat with the Wideners?? Or who served who??
    Cheers Sandy
    Matteo

    Children in first class were not permitted to eat in the dining room with their parents. I read somewhere that the Laroche's booked in second class had originally planned to purchase first class tickets but switched due to the no children in the first class dining room policy. Though I am not completely sure to the validity of the Laroche family originally planning to travel first class.

  26. #26
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    They had originally intended to travel on the French liner La France, which presumably had an adults-only dining policy in both 1st and 2nd Class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Godfrey View Post
    The Cafe Parisien and Verandah/Palm Court areas were not restaurants. They were 'cafe' areas for socialising, with drinks and light refreshments available if required. Apart from the main dining room, the only place where a full meal could be ordered was the 'A La Carte' or 'Ritz' Restaurant, run by Mr Gatti and his staff.
    This is not true at all... The Parisien Café was on B-Deck next to the A La Carte Restaurant and had French cuisine , like small sandwiches , etc. The Verandah Café , however , was not considered a fancy restaurant, because it served snacks and drinks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Godfrey View Post
    The Cafe Parisien and Verandah/Palm Court areas were not restaurants. They were 'cafe' areas for socialising, with drinks and light refreshments available if required. Apart from the main dining room, the only place where a full meal could be ordered was the 'A La Carte' or 'Ritz' Restaurant, run by Mr Gatti and his staff.
    Actually , yes it was, both of them were. The Café Parisien is considered a restaurant. The Verandah Café was too. The Parisien Café had French waiters who served little sandwiches , and the Verandah Café , just because it served light refreshments , it doesn't exclude it from being a dining place onboard! Anyway to answer Tammy's question , there were 4 restaurants the first class passengers could choose from. One , was the first class dining room ( the main dining room according to this quote) located aft of the forward grand staircase on D-Deck , and it was the largest room afloat by sources I have heard. The A La Carte Restaurant and the Parisien Café were next to each other on B-Deck near the aft grand staircase. Finally , the 4th place was the Verandah Café ( the one Bob said no to) located near the Smoke Room on A-Deck.


    About the Dining Room

    The First Class Dining Room was the largest room on the ship and the largest room afloat in he world at the period. It was located on D-Deck near the Reception Room , which had the D-Deck landing of the grand staircase right there. Many of the richest people ate their meals here, like J.J. Astor. The forward part of the room had 2 sets of doors , and next to those doors were 3 huge arched windows. Titanic Honor and Glory shows it on their webpage.

    About the A La Carte Restaurant

    The A La Carte was the most expensive restaurant onboard. They served food even past the dinner hours. It had its own reception room adjoining it on B-Deck. On the last evening aboard the RMS Titanic before she struck the iceberg, the Widener family held a party in the A La Carte. The tables were decorated with lamps and pink roses.

    About the Parisien Café

    The Parisien Café was right next to the A La Carte restaurant, located on B-Deck. It was designed to look like a French sidewalk café, and there were French speaking waiters who served little nice sandwiches French people would eat.

    About the Verandah Café and Palm Court

    The Verandah Café was located on A-Deck aft of the First Class Smoking Room, where passengers who enjoyed a stroll on the promenade deck could stop here for a drink and a snack. The room was decorated to look like you were eating outdoors. Actually there were 2 sets of these rooms. The port side was the place that everyone ate at. The starboard side café was used by the children of first class as a playroom.

  29. #29
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    Today virtually any establishment serving food can call itself a restaurant. Back in 1912 among First Class clientelle the term was reserved for those establishments which served the market for what today we would call 'fine dining', offering sophisticated menus for complete meals of high quality and at high cost. Coffee and sandwiches, even light snacks, did not make the grade even if served by French waiters. That's why the Cafe Parisien and the Veranda Cafe were not considered to be restaurants and would never have been referred to as such.

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    I understand, but it was only the Verandah and Palm Court Cafe that was the not the place to take a meal. The Parisien Cafe on the other hand, had meals.
    Last edited by Mark Baber; 2nd May 2015 at 02:26 PM.

 

 

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