Tsar (Emperor) of Russia
Thousands of roast thrushes stuffed with foie gras were served alongside prized Houdan capons, ornate moulds of jellied lobsters, and ice-creams flavoured with anise liqueur at this 1887 palace supper hosted by Tsar Alexander III of Russia.
These late night suppers (often served in the early hours of the morning) usually followed a palace concert or palace ball at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg; and were served amongst forests of palm trees replanted inside the palace ballroom especially for the night’s entertainment.
This nine course menu-card fails to do justice to the sheer volume of food on offer. A single mention of lobster on the supper menu actually translated to “three hundred and fifty large lobsters, with mayonnaise sauce” as the Governess to the imperial children once recounted.
The mention of soup and asparagus on this imperial menu also downplays that there were in fact, according to the Governess Margaret Eagar, “several hundred gallons of soup”… and “two thousand bundles of asparagus were boiled for the salads”.
Grand volumes of grand food were set amongst the grand scenery and entertainment that only an Emperor can offer. The Vicomte de Vogüé was Secretary to the French Embassy in the 1880's and recorded for history what it was like to attend a supper hosted by Alexander III:
“When one o'clock strikes, the Grand Marshal opens the doors of a long gallery transformed into a tropical hothouse. Among palms, myrtles, and camellias in full flower are set little tables, where 500 persons can sit down to supper.
“In the midst of this African forest, brought in the morning on sledges from the Imperial conservatories, the picturesque crowds we have just described stroll about, or sit down and listen to music, which is produced by a band hidden behind the foliage.
“Beneath the dome of greenery a scene of extreme beauty is spread out - flowers here, there, and everywhere, on the trees and plants, on the dresses of the women, vying in beauty with the vivid colours of the costumes and the gleaming brightness of the armour, the helmets, the swords, the costly decorations, the rivers of diamonds, such as are seen nowhere else but in Russia” - Vicomte Melchior de Vogüé, Secretary to the French Embassy.
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Potage Consommé á la Royale
Clear chicken consommé garnished
with diced Royale
Pailles et Petits pâté
Grissini and a selection of small pastries filled with
meats, fish and vegetables to accompany soup
Homardes et Langoustes á la Parisienne
A dome-shaped mould of medallions of lobster and
crawfish set in a truffle and mayonnaise jelly
Filets de Perdreaux á la St. Cyr
Filets of Partridge
Châpons de Houdan et Grives rôties
Roast Houdan Capons (young, fattened castrated
roosters with black feathers and white spots)
and roast thrushes
Asperges d’Argenteuil, Sce. Hollandaise
White asparagus served with a Hollandaise sauce made from eggs, butter and lemon juice
Timbale glacées á la Princesse
Vanilla ice-creams flavoured with anise liqueur and dried fruits
A ball at the Winter Palace during the reign of Tsar Alexander III
Menu dated 27th January 1887
(15th January 1887 in the Julian Calendar)
Supper at the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg, hosted by Their Imperial Majesties Tsar Alexander III and
Tsarina Maria-Fyodorovna of Russia.