Today is King Edward VII’s 171st birthday. I like to joke to people who attend our events that he’s still going strong thanks to his regular intake of King’s Ginger, not to mention its highly medicinal and health-giving properties. That’s a fib of course, but unlike the king himself, KGL is only one of many Great British brands that came into being during the reign of our Bertie, and are still going strong today.
Typhoo Tea was launched in 1903 by John Sumner. The name derived from the Chinese for ‘doctor’, and it was chosen for its uniqueness as well as the ease of which it rolled off the tongue. Perrier came into being in 1903 as well, when Sir St John Harmsworth bought the spring from its French owner and started to bottle in in glass modelled on the Indian clubs he used for toning his manly biceps (a popular exercise at the time). Cadbury’s Dairy Milk was first produced in 1905. Notable for its higher milk content than anything else made by Cadbury’s, it became hugely popular in the King’s lifetime, and by 1913 was the most popular chocolate product the company produced. The famous Dairy Milk bar, has been essentially the same size and shape since 1905… until last month when Cadbury’s decided to update it. Sigh!
Personal favourite spread Marmite was started up in 1902, and Oxo also popped up just before the end of Edward VII’s reign, sponsoring the 1908 Olympics (as mentioned on here a couple of months ago, they even provided the athletes with fortifying drinks during the marathon), with the famous cubes appearing in 1910.
But what about the meals we were eating back then?
Well, there was a heavy focus on meat. Meat at every meal was not unusual. As well as oysters, terrines, patés, potted shrimps and fish pastes, sautéd kidneys… all manner of stodge. If anyone ever saw the programme ‘Edwardian Supersizers’, they told Giles Coren that he’d be dead at 42 if he’d eaten like that all his life. So, really, our hero did pretty well to last to 69.
One of King Edward’s favourite restaurants was Rules in Covent Garden. Established in 1798, it has the honour of being London’s oldest eatery and it still served up exactly the same kind of food that he would have eaten when entertaining Lillie Langtry (and he frequented it so often that the restaurant had a secret door fitted so that he could enter and leave without being observed by restaurant diners). Game, oysters, pies and puddings are the standard fare at Rules, with all the meat sourced from their own estates, everything is fresh, seasonal and British.
So there was only one place to celebrate the King’s birthday really, wasn’t there?
I was extremely sad not to have made this historic event – when I found out the confirmed date, I was already booked on a location film shoot the same night (which was probably the coldest I’ve ever been, oh for a meat pie!), so the fab pictures are all I have to go by. But look who did make it!
The dinner was, naturally, held in the King Edward room, itself full of interesting portraits and memorabilia from its long history.
Much King’s Ginger punch was served, and spirits were high.
Spot the lovely Ms S from the Cocktail Lovers on the right there – always a lovely lady on his arm!
No pictures of me at the event due to the reason above, but what I CAN offer you is an actual video! Here is yours truly in the first of the King’s Ginger Cocktail sessions, this time making the Autumn Cobbler. Please let me know in the comments what you think about it, as I haven’t actually watched it yet!
If I suck, then please feel free to just fib and say I’m awesome anyway. and as always, please visit the KGL site, and please follow us on Twitter – so many tastings, events and fun happening before Christmas so if you want to get involved, then, er… get involved.