Parkes’ Restaurant—eating place of the swinging sixties

Beauchamp_Place_In his Good Food Guide of 1961-62 Raymond Postgate describes the trendy Parkes’ Restaurant at Beauchamp Place (above) in Kensington as ‘ a personal restaurant, dependent upon Mr Ray Parkes, the chef and owner, who offers in his basement at high prices what is claimed to be , and up to date is, haute cuisine.’

Postgate then complains of the ‘ exasperating whimsicality ‘ of such named dishes as ‘ Mr Goldstein’s Prawns’ (15/6), ‘Ugly Duckling’ (25/-), ‘Sweet Mysteries of Life’ (21/-). However, Postgate admires the fact that the ‘very inventive ‘ Parkes was always creating new dishes and provided such large helpings that ‘ the place isn’t quite as dear as it sounds’. Some Jot readers who dined at Parkes’ might recall what these whimsically named dishes actually were.

Parkes is credited with being a pioneer of the nouvelle cuisine revolution that properly began in the seventies, but the conventionally named dishes cited by Postgate, including ‘fillet of beef en croute’ and ‘duck and truffle pate’ don’t sound particularly ‘ nouvelle’. Nevertheless, in his time Ray Parkes was rightly considered an ‘original genius ‘. Egon Ronay described him as ‘ absolutely unique ‘, and the author of British Gastronomy, Gregory Houston Bowden, wrote: ‘ Many experts rate him almost on a par with the chef that he himself admired most, Ferdnand Point of the ‘Restaurant de la Pyramide’ in Vienne.

In addition to his eccentricy as a chef, Parkes was also unusual in that he had no licence. Diners were invited to bring their own wine. Another attraction for the many show-biz clientele that tended to eat at Parkes’ was the fact that it might be open until 2.30 in the morning. [R.M.Healey]

pGKCo-1

Bookplate of Chesterton of Kensington

Found in a copy of Bella Duffy's Madame de Stael (Eminent Women Series, W.H. Allen, London 1887) a bookplate of one E. Chesterton of Kensington. This is almost certainly a close relation of G. K. Chesterton, the writer, novelist and creator of the immortal Father Brown. He was from Kensington and a member of the family who owned the Kensington estate agent Chesterton's - which still flourishes in London's white hot property market of 2014.

The illustration seems to be by E. Chesterton (a man) and is reminiscent of the style of Lucien Pissarro. The quotation is from one John Wilson, whom Holbrook Jackson, in his Anatomy of Bibliomania, notes was a London bookseller. Modernised, it reads thus:

“Oh for a book and a shady nook,
Either indoors or out,
with the green leaves whispering overhead,
or the street cries all about.
Where I may read at all my ease
both of the new and old,
For a jolly good book whereon to look
is better to me than gold”