Chapter 31: Haute Cuisine on the High Seas

2Strathaird-PC-Colour-Ship-3-FunnelsIn 1956, I decided to emigrate to Australia.  I travelled on the RMS Strathaird to Melbourne.  Talk about the life of Riley.  Lunch and Dinner were amazing occasions every day for twenty-eight days.

The Menu would have been totally acceptable at the “Savoy”.  There was always a choice of cold meats, fish and three or four different roast meats.  Wow !

Here is a typical lunch menu:

Grapefruit au Maraschino
Consommé Royale Cream of Barley
Fillets of Plaice Tyrolienne
Fillet of Beef Chasseur
Roast Turkey Chipolata Sausage
Chateau Delmonico
Brussels Sprouts

Rolled Ham
Roast Lamb
Sheep’s Tongues
Salade de Saison

Chilled Fruit Salad with Whipped Cream Coupe Marquise
Dates Assorted Nuts Figs


Coffee is served in all public rooms.

Strathaird menuMost of us had never seen such an array of food.  Visits to the Dining Room (Aft) became a feature of the voyage.

Before dinner, I could and would,  visit a bar and have a large scotch and soda or have a  Williams and Humbert’s Dry Sack each costing one shilling and three pence.

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I drank no wine on the voyage.  I did not wish to drink a bottle at a sitting and I could not find anyone else who wanted to drink wine and share the bottle.

On June 3rd, 1956, I wrote to my brother Bob and his wife Evelyn.  Here is an extract:

You would both love the voyage, the luxury on board is absurd.  We are waited upon hand and foot all day.  We have tea brought in every morning.  Our shoes can be cleaned by the steward.  We are served at all meals by a steward with the most wonderful food I’ve tasted.  We have an extremely wide range of food to choose  from and you can imagine I make the most of it.

After lunch and dinner, we retire to the Smoke room, where we are serviced with coffee at our tables.  We usually buy a cherry brandy, to settle the meal.

At about 11,30 am, wherever you may be on board, beef tea and cheese biscuits are served.  At 12.15, potato crisps and nuts are served in all the lounges and bars.  At 10.15pm sandwiches are served in the bars.  Of course, this is all free.  Drinks and cigarettes are ridiculously cheap and we have sufficient of both.  There is a laundry service and a valet service for pressing etc.  My blazer is being pressed at the moment (1/6d) on a 4 hour service. Of course, this sort of thing on land would cost something like £8 per day in a Hotel, and I don’t suppose you would get anything like the service.

I had to leave this letter to go to dinner and I had soup, halibut, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts, fruit and nut sundae, and apple tart and then coffee.  What did you say ? “I am a pig”.  Yes, but it’s lovely………….

Strange as it may seem, a “Savoy” menu, offered daily, breeds contempt and one longs for fish and chips or sausages with fried onions and mash. We always made a point of avoiding eating at the various ports of call, there was always plenty to eat on board.  However in Colombo, we did get a cup of tea.  A group of us went into a jewellers to look at some sapphire stones.  We were offered a cup of tea from a large teapot.  I watched with interest while the tea was brewed in front of us.  Lots of black tea leaf, condensed milk and loads of sugar which rendered the tea as a strong solution of sugar.  It was almost undrinkable but we could not do anything other than drink it in front of the brewer.

The photos on the slideshow above were taken by Terry with his Finetta camera, they show the departure from Tilbury on 18th May 1956, as well as visits to Aden and Columbo on the way to Australia – Ian.

To be continued

© Terence Gallacher 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
All photographs © Terence Gallacher – All Rights Reserved

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