When it opened the Trocadero Restaurant was something of a surprise for London. The city was not noted for its food, and the best which one would normally do was a 'mutton chop' eaten in a noisy and crowded environment, as likely as not, a public house.
The opening of the opulent new Trocadero, right in the heart of London at Piccadilly Circus was something of a revelation as The Penny Illustrated Paper reported enthusiastically. The outside of the building, designed by architect W.J. Ancell, was very impressive, even palatial, and reflected the surroundings of Piccadilly. This was London's latest and grandest area, having been developed from slum land by Lord Shaftesbury, who philanthropically sought to improve the living conditions of London's poorest. Though it wasn't installed until some fifteen years later, the restaurant faced out over the famous sculpture of Eros - more correctly titled The Shaftesbury Memorial, in recognition of Lord Shaftesbury's efforts. More about the history of the site and how the Trocadero came about is here.
On entering the building, the visitor was immediately in a large hall with an impressive staircase leading ahead. The various banqueting rooms were both on the ground floor and above. Running round the ceiling of this hall was a giant frieze depicting King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, six feet deep and ninety feet long. Having been restored in the early 1990's the frieze exists in a first floor cinema foyer on The Trocadero site at Piccadilly Circus - click here for pictures and to find out more.
The rooms themselves were all individual, and all sumptuous. The Alexandra Room (picture right) was typical of the high style, but also his 'hi-tech'! By means of an automatic wall, the Empire Room next door and the Alexandra Room could be joined for large events. By means of hydraulics, the wall between, which weighed thirty tons of steel and cement, could be raised from below. When in place however no one would ever know it wasn't a permanent fixture.
The style in the restaurants was also something unequalled at that time. Crisp linen, quiet and discreet waiters, and a menu, as witnessed by the Banquet Book which was extraordinary in its variety, and probably unmatched today.
When it opened The Trocadero published a publicity brochure. It didn't overstep the mark when it said: The Trocadero is "the newest, the latest, the most luxurious of London's most modern development in refinement, order and good taste. The Trocadero has raised its head proudly, and is the ornament of a district whose approach in 1860 would be a positive peril for any woman and to most unguarded men..."
The Trocadero didn't change for many years, and continued past the Second World War as one of London's leading restaurants. It catered for thousands of grand meals and events which didn't depart significantly from the early days. This event, arranged for Wye College, University of London in the early 1930's shows the main rooms, and also the style of meals.