Eating Out 1900-1950
In 1900, most Londoners ate most of their meals at home. Men ate out more than women did: wealthy men dined out at their clubs, or if they were very adventurous, at a French restaurant in Soho. Most working men returned home for their midday meal. Those who did not, ate plain British food in plain British chophouses.
Eating out was transformed by a generation of catering entrepreneurs who created the 'popular restaurant' to serve London's changing workforce. The growth of commuting had created a new demand for lunch. The growing number of women in the workforce also increased demand for lighter sorts of food, and surroundings less male-oriented than chophouses.
Writing in the 1930s, Thomas Burke cited restaurants as one of the most visible changes in London society. 'To young people of today, a London without popular restaurants to which almost anyone can go for any sort of meal is almost inconceivable, yet 50 years ago [London] had very few, if any, of that sort'.
The most popular of the new restaurants were those run by Jo Lyons & Co. Lyons opened its first large restaurant at the Trocadero in 1894. Its real innovation was its chain of Corner Houses, the first of which opened in Coventry Street in 1909. Corner Houses offered reliable meals in clean and attractive surroundings. Their waitresses, known as 'nippies', became London icons in their smart black and white uniforms.
Sandwich bars and milk bars
By the 1920s, central and suburban London was dotted with teashops and small daytime restaurants. Besides Lyons, London chains included the Aerated Bread Company (A.B.C), Pearce and Plenty, and the Express Dairy Company. The sandwich bar also appeared. In the 1920s, Sandy's All British Sandwich bars was advertising 60 varieties of sandwich every day with 'no shellfish', no tinned food, no foreign produce, no tips, no waiting'. By the 1930s, the chain of Black and White Milk bars offered 25 varieties of soup at 4d (four pence) for a large bowl with oyster crackers.
For evening meals, the choice also increased. Soho had many European restaurants for bohemian-minded diners. However, for a grander meal, Londoners could go to a new breed of fashionable restaurant such as Restaurant Boulestin, which opened in 1927 in Covent Garden. Boulestin's, Quaglinos (1929), and Pruniers (1934) all appealed to a smart clientele. The chef Marcel Boulestin wrote a cookery column in Vogue. In 1937, he became the nation's first 'celebrity chef' when he recorded a television programme on cookery for the B.B.C.
What are these?
Social Bookmarking allows users to save and categorise a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. This is different to using your own browser bookmarks which are available using the menus within your web browser. Use the links below to share this article on the social bookmarking site of your choice. Read more about social bookmarking at Wikipedia - Social Bookmarking.