I would like to know more about Mr Willis but there seems to be a dearth of easily-discoverable information about him. There is a little more however on his place of work. The Thatched-House Tavern was no mere pub. It was in fact a rather posh gentleman’s club in the very posh area around St. James’s Palace in Pall Mall (home of the current royal princes). I understand that the Conservative Club is now on the site in St James’s Street. The Thatched House was already over a hundred years old (maybe a lot more) when Michael Willis became cook there sometime in the Regency era. It was a favourite venue for the male members of the literati and aristocracy of the time, so we can assume that Mr Willis was competent at the regular manly club food, especially broiled steaks.
Mr Willis included in his book some suggestions for bills of fare for each month of the year. For June (remembering that the ideas were intended for the northern hemisphere summer) he recommended for dinner:
Leg of grass-lamb boiled, with capers, carrots, and turnips; shoulder or neck of venison roasted, with rich gravy and claret sauce; marrow pudding.
Or, a haunch of venison roasted, with rich gravy and claret sauce; tarts.
Because it is always seasonal, in either hemisphere, I give you his basic recipe for beef gravy.
Cut a piece of the neck into small pieces; strew some flour over it, and put them into a saucepan, with as much water as will cover them, an onion, a little all-spice, pepper, and salt. Cover close, and skim it; throw in some rasping, and let it stew till the gravy is rich and good; strain it off, and pour into the sauceboat.
Quotation for the Day.
It may not be possible to get rare roast beef but if you're willing to settle for well done, ask them to hold the sweetened library paste that passes for gravy.