How to host a Regency breakfast

Regency breakfast hams and figs

Regency breakfast at Elizabeth Bay House. Photo Jacqui Newling © Sydney Living Museums

We recently hosted a Regency-style breakfast in the grand dining room at Elizabeth Bay House as a “money can’t buy” experience for the literacy charity, Room to Read. The offer included a personalised gastronomy-focused tour of the House followed by a breakfast which was based on the menu plan given to Maria Macarthur by her godmother,  Continue reading

The de Maliez mystery – in search of the governor’s French cook

A drawing of first Government House, Sydney, showing the surrounding gardens, water and meeting of Aboriginal and European peoples.

Governor's House at Sydney, Port Jackson 1791 by William Bradley. State Library of NSW Safe 1/14

Historical research is a curious thing. You find a fleeting reference or snippet of information that prickles your interest about a place, a person, an object or an incidence, then find yourself chasing leads that might shed more light on the subject. In this case, it is the mystery of Governor Arthur Phillip’s ‘French cook’.

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Dining by lamplight

The Rouse Hill dining room by candlelight

The Rouse Hill dining room by candlelight. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

Currently at various Sydney Living Museums Houses we’re running a series of night time tours, where you can see the houses as their original occupants saw them lit by candle and lamplight. Which raises the vexing question of just HOW should you light the historic dining table? Continue reading

A New Year picnic

Detail of oil painting, A day's picnic on Clarke Island, Sydney Harbour, Montagu Scott, 1870.

A day’s picnic on Clark Island, Sydney Harbour (detail), Montagu Scott, 1870. State Library of New South Wales: ML3

While many Sydney-siders gather around the harbour for New Year’s eve celebrations, New Year’s Day was often spent in public celebration in colonial times in the form of a foreshore picnic. Montagu Scott’s extraordinarily detailed depiction of such an event gives a brilliant ‘snapshot’ of revelers and their antics in 1870. Continue reading

Blood on the tablecloth

Detail of a set table, showing a a plate, cutlery and glasses.

'Supper table' (detail) in Mrs Isabella Beeton, Beeton's every-day cookery and housekeeping book, Ward, Lock & Co., London, [ca.1895]. Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums

Servant ‘butchers’ dinner guest!

In putting on the dishes and taking them off, I shall observe to you a few things, as many accidents have occurred through inattention and want of care. Thomas Cosnett, The Footman’s Directory, and Remembrancer; or, The Advice of Oneimus to His Young Friends. (London, 1835)

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A gentleman’s dinner

The Cook and the Curator set a table with china and silverware.

The Cook and the Curator set the table for a Macleay dinner, at Elizabeth Bay House. Photo Alysha Buss © SLM

Famous for ‘evicting’ his mother and father and unmarried sister from Elizabeth Bay House in 1845, William Sharp Macleay (1792-1865) remained as master of the house for another 20 years. Continue reading

Dining a la mode

The dining room at Elizabeth Bay House, with a full ‘a la Francais’ setting for 14 diners.

The dining room at Elizabeth Bay House, with a full ‘a la Francais’ setting for 14 diners. Photo © Patrick Bingham-Hall

As any Downton Abbey or Austen aficionado will tell you there are two obligatory scenes in a costume drama: the ball, and the dinner – and we do love a dinner that pulls out all the stops! Continue reading

The Governor’s table

A view of old Government House in 1845, with two cames shown in front.

[Philip Gidley and Anna Josepha King, and their children Elizabeth, Anna Maria and Phillip Parker], Robert Dighton, 1799. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: ML 1244

Today’s post is brought to you by our guest blogger, HHT Historian, Jane Kelso whose exhaustive research on first Government House includes a fascination with the various Governors’ dining practices – and their guests! Continue reading