That this Edwardian feast lives on is thanks to one man: chef Connor McClelland of Rayanne House. Nestled in the cosy, tree lined suburbs of Belfast Rayanne House is HQ for Titanic-themed tastings. And it's not just on the plate where you'll get a sense of the ship. From the balconies in the guest rooms there, guests can look out onto Belfast Lough where Titanic first sailed. Menus are printed on Titanic tickets and little hints of the ship dot the interior.
It’s in a kitchen, however, where chef McClelland meticulously recreates Titanic’s First Class menu every night – all nine courses of it.
Five White Stars
Contrary to popular belief, all passengers on board the Titanic, from the steerage paupers to the elite, enjoyed good food. Unsurprisingly, the first class dishes were the most indulgent.
If you want an idea of just how important food was to the White Star Line, look at their wage structure: after the captain, the head chef was the highest paid member of staff.
The Escoffier effect
McClelland specifically uses the menu from the final night the ship was afloat, the 14th April 1912. That particular menu, and many others found aboard the White Star Line's fleet of ships, was heavily influenced by a certain Augustus Escoffier. Head chef at London’s Savoy Hotel at the time, Escoffier was considered one of the greats of 19th century French cuisine.
Following on from Edwardian trends, Titanic’s food was incredibly rich. As Chef McClelland tell us, the Edwardians based their social status on their girth. The bigger the waist – the bigger the wallet.
At the tables of the Edwardian elite, meals lasted for a couple of hours, and with were effectively considered the main source of an evening’s entertainment.
Chef McClelland can sympathise with the Edwardian palate:
“Personally, I think I would have been a natural Edwardian as I am such a carnivore and we know the Edwardians loved their meat. Lamb chops were even served for breakfast on board the Titanic – yummy. What a way to start your day. Although, this diet cannot have helped your waistline.”
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Eating like an Edwardian
According to blogger IdleHistorian Edwardian men were known to consume around 5000+ calories a day thanks to a diet consisting mainly of red meat and wine.
To gauge just how much the Edwardians ate, Britain’s BBC Four challenged the constitutions of two presenters on the television programme, Edwardian Supersize Me. The show followed comedian Sue Perkins and food critic, Giles Coren as they spent a week living as a wealthy couple from the era. As the two found out, eating like an elite Edwardian ancestor could lead to you contracting gout, among other painful medical conditions, within weeks. Is it any wonder that the average life expectancy for Edwardian men was 42?
Fear not though. One night at Rayanne House will not send you to an early grave. After all, everything in moderation.
“Most of our guests are surprised that they manage to eat all of the nine courses and I have tailored the menu portions to suit today’s palate. The original menu consisted of 11 courses and the portions would most definitely have been larger. The secret is to pace the menu over approximately 3 hours”, McClelland says.
If he had to recommend just one dish from his vast menu, it would be “the Roasted Squab/Pigeon and watercress salad with grilled asparagus and Saffron champagne vinaigrette. I love the combination of all the flavours together.”
McClelland is eager for customers to come away with a sense of the Titanic and Belfast city is brimming with the ship’s legacy. Over nine courses and in sight of the very lough where Titanic sailed, he has done just that and a little bit more.
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