Bompas & Parr worked with Andaz Liverpool Street hotel to launch the British Menu Archive in May 2014. Menus, a staple of our culinary life, are a typically ephemeral part of the dining experience, normally binned and forgotten after their short lives are over. The British Menu Archive is an attempt to right that wrong, and to hero by creating an unrivalled historical resource into British food and drink trends, putting the humble menu on a pedestal for the first time.
Menus speak not just of food and drink, but of wider economic, cultural and political influences. They are an interesting window into the eating habits of our ancestors and a record of the evolution of our national identity, as well as a veritable celebration of our mastery of cooking and appreciation of flavour.
The inauguration of the British Menu Archive marks a line in the sand – no more shall menus be consigned to the waste paper basket of history. From now on, they shall forever be recognised as an essential component of our gustatory lives.
For the launch, Bompas & Parr worked with the talented chefs at Andaz Liverpool Street’s 1901 Restaurant to create a grand banquet, followed by an installation in 1901 Wine Bar of some of the best examples from our curated collection of menus, including a menu signed by Churchill from a feast on board HMS Victory, beautifully illustrated menus from sought-after artists including David Hockney, menus from the last month of Concorde and even menus from Her Majesty’s prisons' current bill of fare to inmates. Bompas & Parr's favourite? A British prisoner of war menu from Stalag III in modern Poland, the same camp famous for the world famous escape, which says ‘Christmas 1944…our last?’
We’re continuing to populate the archive and are planning to digitise everything so it becomes a searchable resource. Send us your menus, old and new, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The exhibition at Bar 1901 at the Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel will be open until the end of May 2014.
Photography by Ann Charlott Ommedal