A Georgian Giles Coren (concluded)

Georgian eateries117Virginia, Newman’s Court, Cornhill.

This house is much frequented by ship carpenters, and ship brokers. Dinners are very well served up at 15d a head. Rural city merchants, that is, those who sleep in the country, generally dine here. The entertainment is good, and the charge moderate. As to the mistress at the bar, she is very obliging; she is as prolific in curtseys as a Frenchwoman, and as prolific in issue as a rabbit.1)

Mill’s, Gerrard Street, Soho

This house is remarkable for good red port, and good spirits. They dress dinners and suppers in style —and the breakfast are very comfortable. Several intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years, are it’s constant guests, and the conversation is both pleasing and instructive. The charges are indeed very reasonable, and the attention prompt and agreeable. It is celebrated for being the very first house that reduced the prices of wines and spirits, after the commencement of the French treaty. 2)

Batson’s Coffee House, near ‘Change.

This is the English emporium for the Russian trade. The Baltic ships are regularly filed here. It is the great commercial mart, and city lounge for the Thornton’s. No dinners are dressed. Opulent and elegant clubs meet here. It is the coffee-house patron of Sunday schools. The ladies at the bar Flood their customers with good spirits, good coffee, and good looks. As to their proof brandy, it serves as excellent fur cloaks to the Russian captains.3)

Bull and Bush, North-End, Hampstead.

The bon-vivants for several miles around meet here every Friday. There is a very pleasant garden, in the midst of which is a bush, that can accommodate a dozen people to dinner. The rooms are cheerful, and the prospect, altho’ confined, is neatly rural, and somewhat romantic. Every article, both in eating and drinking is of the very best quality; and it being without the vortex of common Sunday pedestrians, it is a most delightful recess on that day as well as others. The bill is conscionable, and the service speedy.

Notes:

  • Good to discover that the tradition of City bankers living opulently in the shires and commuting into the square mile each morning was alive in the late eighteenth century, though the absence of a railway network in 1788 meant that the country in this period probably meant Edmonton, Woodford or Clapham, which could be reached by a fast coach from the City.
  • Soho continued to be a refuge for ‘intelligent gentlemen, stricken in years ‘where good conversation could be had right up to the early nineteen seventies. Alas, that reputation is no more.
  • We confess to being perplexed by the references to the Thorntons and Flood, but perhaps historians of London will know more. According to a writer in the Connoisseur magazine for 1754 Batson’s was where physicians met their clients.

4) Food is still served at the famous Old Bull and Bush, and according to the  deputy manager, there was once a bush in the garden. However, she could give no information on when it disappeared or whether it could once accommodate  several customers. Just a few yards from the abandoned Northern Line tube, station of North End, which can still be visited, is Wildwood Terrace, where ‘ Buildings of England ‘ supremo Nikolaus Pevsner had his London home (blue plaque). For a time his neighbour was the gifted poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson ( no plaque, alas), who later on was to sell his Wiltshire cottage to Pevsner.

Pevsner had his London home (blue plaque). For a time his neighbour was the gifted poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson ( no plaque, alas), who later on was to sell his Wiltshire cottage to Pevsner.

‘Buildings of England‘ supremo Nik Pevsner had his London home (blue plaque). For a time his neighbour was the gifted poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson (no plaque, alas), who later on was to sell his Wiltshire cottage to Pevsner.

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