Café Anglais, Paris, 1890
This is where it all started – the piece which showed us just how beautiful vintage menus could be, and inspired us to share them with the world.
This 127-year-old menu comes courtesy of the University of Nevada's menu collection, and has a slight mystery around its provenance. The menu is officially attributed to Café Anglais in Versailles, France – but there’s no record of an establishment by that name in Versailles.
We believe the menu came from the world-famous Café Anglais in Paris, opened in 1802 and named for a peace treaty between Britain (England) and France.
The restaurant originally catered to servants, but its proximity to the opera house soon attracted a wealthier clientele. In 1822 a new owner moved the venue up-market, turning it into the dining room of the Paris aristocracy. The building featured 22 private dining rooms, including the famous, richly decorated, Le Grand Seize (Grand 16).
Café Anglais operated for more than a century at Boulevard des Italiens, before closing in 1913 – a New York Times report from the time states the owner planned to reopen the restaurant elsewhere, but there’s no indication this happened. In any case, as the report makes clear, the spirit and grandeur of Café Anglais was lost on its demolition.
We love these older pieces which have both beautiful artwork and a hand-written menu of the day.
One of the notable dishes diners could enjoy is Poulet (chicken) Marengo, created for the Emperor Napoleon after his victory over Austria at the village of Marengo, near Turin in northern Italy.
Legend has it the dish was created immediately after the battle, when Napoleon’s chef searched the town for supplies, and found chicken, eggs, crayfish and tomatoes – the dish allegedly became Napoleon’s favorite meal, and he refused any changes to the recipe.
However food historians have dismissed this story, suggesting it is much more likely a restauranteur created the recipe in Napoleon’s honor after the battle – and a long way away.
The artwork, showing a small boy dressed as a chef and feeding the moon a piece of meat, is simply charming.
It also represents a theme of human-faced moons which runs through several of our pieces, most notably Midnight Follies, which can be found as our April menu.
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