Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pub Grub in 1986

In 1986 the BBC launched an ambitious project to record a snapshot of everyday life across the UK for future generations. A million volunteers took part. The BBC has launched the new Domesday Reloaded website which has lots of memories from 25 years ago.

To celebrate this, I will be posting occasional extracts from 1986 editions of "Thinks!", the Journal of Channel Islands Mensa, on which I worked as Assistant Editor in the 1980s; the Editor was Ken Webb.

In this piece from February 1986, the pseudonymous gastronaut, Yvonne Ronez, reports on the monthly dinner.

Henry Cooper, whom she mentions, was a well known boxer and personality of that time, who died very recently on 1 May 2011. He was a heavy-weight fighter, whose left hook was called "Enry's 'Ammer", and he is most famous for fighting world champion Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay). The fight nearly ended in Henry winning, had it not been for the chance coincidence of his punch and the bell:

Cooper finally connected and Clay went down. Hard. This was no flash knockdown. Clay was the recipient of a perfecty timed hook and sent reeling into the ropes, his body falling against the middle strand of the ropes on the way to the canvas. As everyone in Wembley jumped to their feet in unison, Clay lay on the canvas for a few brief seconds with a look akin to shock on his handsome face. Clay scrambled to his feet as the timekeeper tolled four. Fortunately for the American, the bell rang just as he got up. Clay had been fortunate in two ways: the punch that floored him came at the very end of the round; the punch that floored him came near the ropes and the ropes cushioned his fall. Under other circumstances, perhaps the outcome would have been different. There's no denying Clay's recuperative powers, but there's also no denying that Clay was more than just dazed. He was hurt. (1)

Clay went on to win, and it was Cooper who was defeated. He later retired from boxing and became almost as well known as a "character" in BBC quiz shows such as "A Question of Sport" and advertisements, notably for Brut aftershave.

The dinner mentioned by Yvonne Ronez took place at La Bourse Pub, which still exists at 8, Charing Cross, St.Helier. A guide notes that: "Located just off the main high street this small ale house has a friendly mix of local and visitors. The pub offers a great selection of beers and lagers along with a cosy atmosphere." The price of £6.95 for three courses plus coffee would probably be around £15.20 today, which would still be extremely good value for money. Unfortuunately I've not been able to find what a meal there would actually cost today, but I suspect it would be more!

Yvonne Ronez Returns!

Well, my little Jersey Wonders, guess who is back. And very glad too - as big, beautiful and bouncing as the US is, I got sick to the back teeth of burgers, brunch and bourbon. So I was rather pleased to be joining everyone on the 1st at La Bourse. Also, having read what that silly old fool, the Colonel, called a feature, I should think you are all pleased I am back too.

One should not be put off by La Bourse's grim green Victorian facade, I know it looks like a film set for Jack the Ripper, but the upstairs restaurant is extremely pleasant. The decor here is also turn of the century but without the clutter, Dark green swagged curtains, mushroom coloured walls and soft but good lighting give the room a pleasant restful atmosphere. Another bonus is that for once we did not have to compete with 40 watts of sound system going full blast. There were some pleasant prints, something Renoirish, a few framed Chinese Government Bonds, a couple of excitable looking ferns, a mother - in - law's tongue, and some other plants which I recognised but can
never remember the names of.

Like many Jersey eating houses, the bar is extremely small. It is also en route to the kitchen and a constant stream of staff bearing laden dishes had us all ducking and weaving like 'Enery Cooper.

We had opted for the table d'hote menu which was arranged not by fish or meat category, but by the length of wording so that It formed a pyramid display.

The starters included such delicacies as oysters, smoked salmon, clams, escargots, ripe melon, and avocado. Then came the soup - hot, thin and complete with croutons, but I was not really sure what the flavour was except it was tasty. This was followed by a warm prawn concoction in a sauce and served in scallop shells. The main course consisted of various types of good steak, veal, Jersey plaice, sole, chicken and trout. To round off, a selection of sweets, and for once I had no room left to try one. The coffee was Rambout, which is nice enough but means you only get one cup. Not that one could complain for the whole meal was only £6-95 and very good value, The house wine was also excellent and
not expensive. All in all a thoroughly good evening.


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