The White Star Line aimed not only to impress Titanic’s passengers with luxurious accommodations and amenities, but also with its dining selection. After Captain E. J. Smith, head chef Charles Proctor was the highest-paid crew member on board the ship.
First class passengers had the largest number of dining options. Bugles sounding “The Roast Beef of Old England” (the traditional call to meals aboard White Star ships) signaled the serving of lunch and dinner (though a dress call was sounded a half hour prior to dinner as well). At this time passengers would perhaps go to the dining saloon located on D deck. Stretching the entire width of the ship (114 feet), it could seat up to 500 people. Seating was assigned and passengers generally had the same dining companions throughout the trip. The large saloon had some recesses as well as portable screens that would allow privacy for those parties that wanted it. But if first class passengers were looking for a more intimate space to take their meals, they might choose the a la carte restaurant located on the Bridge deck, or perhaps the Cafe Parisien, which was a favorite spot for the younger first class passengers.
The second class dining saloon was also located on D deck and stretched the width of the ship, but was smaller at 71 feet and a capacity of 394 people, which meant diners had to come at different “sittings.” The room was nicely appointed with mahogany furniture and oak paneling.
The kitchens for both the first and second class dining saloons were located on D deck to expedite service, as were the serving rooms, pantries, and bakeries. Each kitchen was equipped with two ranges (each with 19 ovens), as well as electrical slicing, potato-peeling, mincing, whisking, and freezing machines.
The third class dining saloon was located on F deck, and once again stretched the entire width of the ship. At 100 feet long, it could accommodate 470 passengers, which meant that third class passengers ate at three different “sittings.” The room was well lit with portholes and side lights, and was finished in enamel white. The third class kitchen and pantry were located just aft of the dining saloon.
Before leaving Southampton, Titanic took into its inventory 127,000 pieces of tableware, including bone china dinner plates, cut-glass tumblers, and fine crystal. 75,000 lbs. of fresh meat and 11,000 lbs. of fresh fish were brought on board, along with 40,000 fresh eggs and 1,500 gallons of milk. Ingredients to prepare meals to rival those of the finest restaurants in Europe stocked the ship’s pantries.
On the evening of April 14, first class passengers in the dining saloon were served a seven-course meal. Hors d’oeuvres or oysters came first, then a choice of two soups. Next was a salmon dish followed by a choice of chicken Lyonnaise or stuffed marrow. This was followed by the main course, which was a choice of lamb, duckling or sirloin of beef along with vegetables. After the main dish passengers chose from four light savory dishes such as cold asparagus vinaigrette, and then finally were served one of four desserts: Waldorf pudding, peaches in Chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla eclairs, or French ice cream. If one wanted wine or other spirits they were required to fill out a card at the table. This order would be charged to their account, which passengers would settle at the end of the voyage.
On the same evening in the second class dining saloon, passengers were served a four-course meal. This included a clear soup, a fish course of baked haddock, a choice of curried chicken with rice, spring lamb, or roast turkey with vegetables or rice, and a choice of dessert, which included plum pudding, wine jelly, coconut sandwich or American ice cream.
While the first and second class midday meal was called “lunch,” and the evening course called “dinner,” the main meals in third class were labeled “dinner” and “tea.” “Dinner” in this case was served midday, and consisted of soup, a meat dish such as roast pork, a dessert, and fruit. Tea included a cooked course, bread, a light dessert, and, of course, tea. Besides these two meals, breakfast and a late supper were also served. Breakfast included cereal, kippers or boiled eggs, bread, marmalade, and tea or coffee. The supper meal consisted of cheese and biscuits or gruel and coffee.
Meals were a time for camaraderie among the ship’s passengers. And for first class, it was a time to see and be seen. The next post will focus on some of the famous faces aboard the Titanic.
Sources: Anatomy of the Titanic by Tom McCLuskie, Titanic: Fortune & Fate by Beverly McMillan and Stanley Lehrer, The Titanic: The Extraordinary Story of the “Unsinkable Ship” by Geoff Tibballs, The Titanic Collection Guide by Eric Sauder and Hugh Brewster, Notes for First Class Passengers On Board the Steamers of the White Star Line
Interior photos from Anatomy of the Titanic, menus from The Titanic Collection