A copy of Raymond Postgate’s pioneering Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 is a real eye-opener for the 21st century foodie. Forget steak, mushrooms and chips followed by Black Forest Gateau at the nearest Berni Inn—- here were restaurants where high quality and innovative dishes were served. Postgate asked those who were members of the Good Food Club to fill in the report page at the end of each guide, ‘approving’ a particular restaurant. If he liked the comments the names of the ‘approvers’ were added to the end of the restaurant entry. Most of these approvers were just ordinary people who liked good food, but a number turned out to be amongst the great and the good of the time, including writers, academics and showbiz types. It is likely that Postgate recognised these names and deliberately selected them out as a way of attracting diners who also recognised these ‘ celebs’. Here are some examples.
Eternal bachelor Norman Painting, who played the patriarch of long-running radio series’ The Archers’ for a record number of years after leaving an academic career at Oxford, where he fell out with his B.Litt tutor, the lazy and apathetic Lord David Cecil, was an enthusiastic diner at Bertorelli’s in Shepherds Bush, just round the corner from the BBC. He also enjoyed the food at several other good restaurants scattered over the country. A serious gastronome, it seems.
Antiquarian book legend Anthony Rota, a great diner-out, appears to have enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine at the Tavana restaurant in Heddon Court Parade, Cockfosters. He also approved the cheap ’n’ cheerful Romano Santi bistro in Greek Street, Soho, and the more traditional Foxley Hotel in Bishop’s Stortford.
Instantly recognisable comic actor Norman Rossington (star of BBC TV’s much underestimated ‘Big Jim and the Figaro Club ‘ ) and émigré artist Fred Ulhman ( whom I once met when he lived in Keats Grove, Hampstead) both liked the Emilia restaurant in South End Road, Hampstead.
Sybil Eysenck, eminent psychologist wife of controversial ‘personality psychologist’ Hans ( of IQ notoriety) liked the Pantiles Grill, described by Postgate as ‘one of the very few places where you can find good international cooking at a very reasonable price in Tunbridge Wells’. Being a native of Vienna, she would have appreciated that.
Writer Jacquetta Hawkes, author of A Land and wife of J.B.Priestley, loved The Crown Inn at Hallow, not too far from her home in Stratford on Avon.
[R.M.Healey] To be continued…