Thursday, January 07, 2016

Drinking and Dining at the Races in Hobart, 1859.

While I am in Hobart I am staying at Hadley’s Orient Hotel, which is one of the oldest hotels in Australia. It was built by convict labour in 1834, when the island penal colony was still known as van Diemen’s Land (the official name change came in 1856.) The building was originally called the Golden Anchor Inn, then in 1849 it became the Marquis of Waterford, under which name it traded for many years. When a pardoned convict called John Webb bought the hotel, it became known simply as ‘Webb’s Hotel.’ (As an interesting aside, Webb subsequently went on to become official caterer to Government House. In the 1890’s the hotel was purchased by John Clay Hadley, who renamed it Hadley’s Orient Hotel. The hotel has played a huge role in the city’s history, and has welcomed many famous guests including Prince Alfred of England (in 1868,) Roald Amundsen (in 1912 after his return from the South Pole) and Errol Flynn.

History snippet number 2: The first recorded horse race in Tasmania took place in 1813 – a mere decade after European settlement. It was in ‘New Town’, a small settlement a couple of miles from Hobart town centre, which finally gained its own post office in 1842, and is now is an inner residential suburb graced with magnificent Federation-style homes.

So, now you have some context for my story today.

In 1859, the three-day Annual Metropolitan horse race meet began on 6th April, at the New Town Race course. It was a huge affair, with almost as much effort applied to the catering as to the sporting aspects. The first day’s events were described in minute detail in The Courier (Hobart, Tasmania.) The weather on the day was apparently fine and fair, and we are also told that:

The Turf was in first-rate order and the Course presented a gay appearance.

Most of the citizens, with their families, availed themselves of the opportunity to leave for a short time, the toil of business and the dust and smoke of the city*, and enjoy the fresh air and delightful scenery of the country.

A party of Police, under Mr. Sub-Inspector Weale, were in attendance, should their services be required to preserve order.

[*the population of the entire state that year was less than 88,000 persons.]

Various hostelries set up refreshment booths (all listed in the newspaper), and one of these was provided by the hotel in which I am now staying, when it was still called The Marquis of Waterford. There were also ‘two booths conducted on temperance principles’ and ‘swings, &c were provided for the juveniles.’ It seems like it was a fine day out for the citizenry both rich and not-so rich.

It is, however, the bill of fare enjoyed by the committee members and their guests which is the real purpose of this post:

Was under the superintendence of Mr. George Brown, of the Sir John Falstaff, Campbell-street, and the varied and plentiful supply of refreshments, as well as the excellence of the arrangements, reflected great credit upon him.

The arches under the Grand Stand had been curtained off, and hung with the flags of
All Nations, forming a most commodious dining-room. Down the centre ran a long
table, which, whilst it was covered with a profusion of good things, was laid out and décor rated in a very tasteful and artistic manner. Covers were laid for fifty, but during the day fresh guests were continually arriving. At the head of the table a gigantic baron of beef, garnished appropriately, and decorated with flowers, reared its lordly proportions, sirloins of beef; saddles of mutton, turkies, geese, ducks, fowls, game, &c, formed the first course. The second consisted of tarts, puddings, jellies, blanc mange, custards, and a choice dessert concluded the spread.
Every dish was ornamented with flowers and appropriate ornaments, and vases of choice floral beauties were placed at short distances on the table. The centre-piece was very beautiful and was much admired. It consisted of a pyramid of grapes surmounted by a bouquet of dahlias grouped in the form of a tulip.

The wines, spirits, &c. were of the first qualities, and the courtesy and attention of
Mr. Brown and his assistants were such as to win the golden opinions of the guests.

The following is the day's bill of Fare:
Baron of beef (1) weighing 88 lbs., sirloins (12), saddles of mutton (8), rounds of beef (8), sucking pigs (10) tongues (22), hams (12).
Turkeys roasted (14), turkeys boiled (8), geese (16), ducks (18 couple), fowls (20 couple, boiled and roasted.)
Wild ducks (8) pairs, quail (8 dishes).
Giblet pies (12), chicken pies (10), veal pies (10), pigeon pies (8), French raised pies (12), rump steak pies (8)
Apple tarts (20), open tarts (25), boiled custards (20 dozen glasses), 20 quart moulds lemon, orange and calves foot jellies, blanc mange (20 dishes), raspberry creams (12 dozen), plum puddings (25).
Grapes (12 dishes), apples (12 dishes), pears (12 dishes), raisins and almonds (20 dishes), biscuits, cakes, &c.

The whole of the provisions were cooked on Mr. Brown's premises, Campbell-street, under the superintendence of William Jones, from Farance’s, Spring Gardens, London.
The Flowers and Fruit were from the Nursery gardens of Mr. Alexander Begg, Battery

As the recipe for the day, I am going with the grapes. Grapes appear in the above bill of fare simply arranged in dishes, which is surely the best way to eat them. The admirable centre-piece also featured grapes, and it is to be hoped they were not discarded with the deceased dahlias. 

Please enjoy this marvelous solution to the problem of too many grapes whether due to a leftover situation or a produce glut. From The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas.) of 17 November, 1888:-

Spiced Currants and Grapes.

To five pounds of currants or grapes add half a pint of vinegar, three pounds of sugar, and a tablespoonful each of ground cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Cook 15 minutes, , stirring frequently; then remove from the fire, strain, and even run through a sieve. Some cooks add a teaspoonful of white pepper and the same of salt, but such flavours do not suit all tastes. Preserve in air-tight pint jars. This will be found a most delicious condiment with meats and game

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