A Bloomsbury Dinner Party

“One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own)

How to create order out of the chaos of existence the Bloomsbury way (or, at least one of them…)

Why not take a leaf out of Mrs Ramsay’s book in Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse‘ and throw a Bloomsbury-inspired dinner party?

Here,  Mrs Ramsay attempts to create collective memories by means of the highly crafted moment, or series of moments, that is the dinner party.

The food has been well chosen, the table looks beautiful and the conversation flows due to clever seating arrangements and Mrs Ramsay’s wonderfully generous attention.

A Bloomsbury Dinner Party inspired by Mrs Ramsay in ‘To the Lighthouse’

starter :  soup

But why after all should poor Augustus not ask for another plate of soup?

As the text doesn’t specify a type I’ve chosen Nellie Boxall’s ‘Good Soup’.  As Virginia’s cook, her recipe seems appropriate.

  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 small cabbage
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1 heaped tbs crushed tapioca or sago
  • salt and pepper

Wash and trim the leek and cabbage, slice the onion. Peel and slice the potatoes. Cook in the butter for several minutes. Add 3-4 pints water and simmer for 1 hour. Season well and put through a blender. Reheat and add the milk. Bring back to the boil. Add the tapioca or sago and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Garnish with a tsp celery seeds or a few leaves of fresh celery.

main course : BOEUF EN DAUBE

It is a French recipe of my grandmother’s.

Boeuf en Daube
adapted from an Elizabeth David  recipe


For the marinade
Olive oil, 1/2 cup
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
Celery, 1/2 stalk chopped
4 shallots, chopped
Red wine, 2/3 cup
3 cloves garlic
Parsley, 2 sprigs
Herbs (herbes de Provence) to taste
Salt and black pepper

For the daube
 3 lb beef
Carrots, 1/2 lb chopped
3 cloves garlic
Herbes de Provence & 1 bay leaf
half lb of bacon
handful of pitted black olives
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1. Heat the oil in a  pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and shallots. Sweat for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool, then strain the marinade.

3. Arrange the beef in a casserole and add the carrots, garlic, and herbs..

4. Pour the  marinade into the casserole, then add the bacon.

5. Cover the casserole with greaseproof paper and the lid.

6. Cook in an oven (300°F/150°C) for 2 1/2 hours.

7. Add the olives and tomatoes, and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.

8. Remove from the oven. Slice the beef thickly. Cut the bacon into cubes and add to the beef. Serve with a bit of the cooking liquid.

For an alternative recipe click on the link http://www.food.com/recipe/boeuf-en-daube-french-beef-burgundy-in-the-crock-pot-176183

The BOEUF EN DAUBE was a perfect triumph.

 dessert : fruit

  • bananas
  • grapes
  • pears

to create a yellow and purple dish of fruit.

Rose’s arrangement of the grapes and pears, of the horny pink-lined shell, of the bananas, made her think of a trophy fetched from the bottom of the sea, of Neptune’s banquet, of the bunch that hangs with vine leaves over the shoulder of Bacchus (in some picture), among the leopard skins and the torches lolloping red and gold…


As for the beauty of the table and the generous attention lavished on your guests, those details can be all yours!

Image of door

door by Duncan Grant at Charleston

The dining room

         the dining room at Charleston

Oh, and I nearly forgot! The wine! Try a Gigondas  or your favourite French red. Or take at look at Matt Wall’s wine matching blog –  http://www.mattwalls.co.uk/wine-matching-daube-de-boeuf-a-la-provencale/


To see the Virginia Woolf plate in the work by Judy Chicago entitled  ‘Dinner Party’ click on –


to read a review of ‘Life in Squares’ click on –




and for a review of a Bloomsbury cookbook click on –



and for more on Charleston, where Vanessa Bell and family lived after moving out of London click on –


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