Quaglino’s restaurant on Bury Street in St James’s, London, has been using Evelyn Waugh in its advertising copy for some time:
The Mountbattens patronised Quaglino’s, Evelyn Waugh came for lunch, and the smart set crowded into the bar hoping for a table. When the Prince of Wales (later, briefly, Edward VIII) took a liking to the place, the fame of John Quaglino’s restaurant was assured.
Waugh’s patronage of the restaurant is borne out by his biographers and his own papers. Duncan McLaren says he had dinner there with Audrey Lucas in December 1930 (a year after it opened in 1929). Then in late 1932 he records two meals there in his diary: dinner with the Henry Yorke’s and later in the week with Teresa Jungman. He notes the menu of the latter: “caviare aux blinis, cold partridge, marrow on toast” (Diaries, pp. 355-56). Waugh’s latest biographer, Philip Eade, mentions this meal in recent excerpts from his book in the Daily Mail. See earlier post. The meal took place just before Waugh’s departure for British Guyana. Waugh also records in a letter to Diana Cooper meeting the restaurant’s owner on the Dover-Calais channel ferry in 1933 (Mr Wu and Mrs Stitch, p. 32).
Whether the current restaurant bears much resemblance to the one frequented by Waugh is difficult to say. It is located in the premises of the ballroom that was added in 1959 next door to the original restaurant. The Quaglino brothers had sold out after the war, but the restaurant survived through the 1960s. After a hiatus of several years, it was reopened by Terrence Conran in 1993 and eventually acquired by the present owners when Conran’s restaurant group was sold in 2007. The dinner menu still offers the caviar and blinis, but no partridge or marrow on toast. From the photos on the restaurant’s website, the decor looks a bit (if you’ll excuse the expression) cringe-making or, in more recent parlance, over the top. Understated it’s not.
On the other hand, a recent article in the Evening Standard suggests that Waugh would be impressed with this sort of restaurant decor:
Evelyn Waugh had a pet name for the luxuries of London life that he coveted — “marble halls”, meaning by this the grand hotel dining rooms of The Ritz and so forth. He would have appreciated Boyds Grill & Wine Bar, I think. For here, hidden away, despite being so central it is practically in Trafalgar Square, behind a hotel façade, is a beautiful room, with a soaring coffered ceiling, mighty chandeliers, marble on the walls, marble on the floor. It’s a treat in itself — yet almost secret somehow.
Waugh used the quoted phrase in a 1963 letter to Ann Fleming, jokingly advising her that if he were in London as frequently as she wrongly claimed, she “would be constantly plagued by invitations to marble halls” (Letters, p. 601).