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February 8, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 2:12pm

Sitwell Scoffs: Seeking 'Restoration' in Pratt's and Eating Breakfast for Dinner

By William Sitwell

Sitwell’s blog has gone topsy-turvy this week, he doesn’t eat in any restaurants and he has breakfast for dinner…

This week, shock horror, I don’t appear to have eaten in any restaurants. I find it hard to believe that I have even written that sentence. But there it is.

Although, come to think of it, I have eaten at places where one parts with cash in exchange for food, so I could broaden the definition of a restaurant and thus provide myself with some comfort. In fact the etymology of the word restaurant comes, apparently, from the same French word, referring to a place that provides ‘food that restores’; the French word restaurer being to restore or refresh.

Naturally I have been restored and refreshed on many occasions this week. And while I wouldn’t like to define my kitchen at home as restaurant, the Partners’ Dining Room at Waitrose head office in Bracknell, Berkshire did restore me, as did the ancient members club Pratt’s in St James.

I won’t dwell too long on the roast chicken sandwich, crisps and still lemonade I had at Waitrose, save to say they filled a hole and the conversation was very jolly.

I will, however, spend a little longer pondering on the food offered at Pratt’s. Pratt’s is located in the basement of a house in St James’s, London. It’s a super-exclusive club that was established in 1857 and is now owned by the Duke of Devonshire.

It is very small, comprising just two rooms – one for sitting and one for dining – with the table able to seat just 14 members.

To assist the gentlemen members, all the staff are called George – or Georgina if female; a similar trick employed by another posh bastion of male clubbiness, the Beefsteak Club in Covent Garden, where the staff are all called Charles. I’m not aware of them employing females, but if they do, perhaps they call them Charlotte.

Inside Pratt’s: ‘More claret please George!’

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I suppose the point being it’s better to call for ‘More claret please George’ than just ‘More claret please’ or ‘Oi, more claret’ or ‘Oi, you, more claret’.

All of which information is in the public domain so I shouldn’t be shunned, blackballed, tarred and feathered for revealing it.

I will, however, ponder on the food. Because the food has a simple theme. It is unchanging and nods to no season, fad or fashion. They simply serve breakfast, although they don’t call it that. Main courses are a variation on this: sausage and bacon with scrambled eggs, mixed grill – bacon, kidneys, lamb chop – and fillet steak.

Now you may not regard lamb chops and steaks as breakfast fare but then that would be because you don’t seek to dwell in the Victorian era. The classic Victorian cookbook, Breakfasts, Luncheons and Ball Suppers, which was published in 1887, suggests the following as ideal breakfast fare:

Kidney omelettes, hashed mutton, broiled chicken, ham and eggs as well as pheasant, tongue and guinea fowl.

There is also a recipe for broiled sole. But I imagine that would sound too healthy and modern for the members of Pratt’s. Put Pratt’s in the hands of some trendy chef and they’d probably try to introduce granola onto the menu, or maybe grapefruit and haloumi or a chorizo soufflé.

That, of course, will never happen.

Believe me, on yet another damp, dark, cold, miserable, pathetic and sadness-inducing February evening I can think of nothing better than a delicious English breakfast (in my case it was the mixed grill) washed down with lashings of claret.
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