Saturday, 8 February 2014

Brackenber Dinner

Brackenber House

I called for a cab from Belmont GHQ at about six-fifty last night. Valuecabs have arrived promptly - if one requests a cab immediately - in my previous experience.

I waited till ten past seven before calling them and speaking to an operator, who told me they were running late. Blast.

It eventually arrived at almost seven-thirty. The Old Boys' dinner was at seven forty-five.

At least the driver took me to the Club itself, where none other than Paul, Lord Bew, was alighting.

We exchanged greetings, I strode up the stairs, and proceeded to relieve myself of a layer of clothing, viz. the overcoat, scarf, gloves, and whangee umbrella, which I hanged from the inside arm of my overcoat.

Gordon Harvey, who always does a superb job at organizing the Dinner, was on hand to greet Old Boys and I handed him my remittance.

I have to confess that I am very fond indeed of the Ulster Reform Club. It is one of the few remaining genuine Victorian gentlemen's clubs.

The opulent interior has changed little: Thick carpeting, oak panelling, fine plasterwork, a sense of grandeur and well-being.

Several pals have urged me to consider joining, though I wonder how often I'd actually spend there.

On arrival in the main bar, I met Michael Elliott, who immediately offered me a drink; and he was slightly surprised when I asked for a fizzy water.

"Are you sure"? I was indeed minded to be more careful with the old boozy intake last night. I've been endeavouring to moderate it.

I'd normally drink gin quite happily all night long, though we shall see how long I can sustain this new regime.

In fact, the sum total of my drinking last night consisted of one large glass of rather agreeable red wine and a small gin (I didn't finish it).

THE MEAL was delicious as usual. It was held in the Antrim Room on the second floor. There were about fifty of us.

The dining-table was traditionally set, with heavy cutlery, white table-cloths and monogrammed crockery.

This room has a wonderful old grandfather clock which chimes beautifully, not to say delicately and melodically, every quarter-hour.

We began with gateau of hot-smoked salmon, tomato and prawns, served with a home-made horseradish mayonnaise and freshly baked wheaten bread.

This I devoured with gusto. It tasted as good as it read on the menu.

Our main course was an very generous joint of lamb shank, slowly braised with vegetables and red wine; with Chef's selection of fresh market vegetables (cabbage and carrot).

The lamb was simply sumptuous. There was abundant lean meat, too much for some diners, in fact.

Not for Timothy Belmont, however, the Old Boy with hollow legs. I'd deliberately brought along the Number One ancestral nose-bag, and it was firmly attached for the duration of this culinary feast.

Pudding consisted of baked lemon tart with raspberries, raspberry sorbet and coulis; followed by tea or coffee. This dessert was also, unsurprisingly, jolly good.

After dinner, Robert Curran rose and treated us all to a witty and nostalgic speech, largely ad libitum, recounting his schooldays, the characters who taught at dear Brackenber, and journeys to the Falls Municipal Swimming Baths and the odd bit of verbal abuse from uncouth youths (our uniform was - let's say - conspicuous, being scarlet in colour.
Bob spoke of Miss Zena Rankin, who once endeavoured to teach me French. He reminded us that Miss Rankin was governess to the Henderson brothers at Hillsborough Castle (Brum and Bill Henderson lived there while their father, Commander Oscar Henderson DSO CVO CBE RN, was Comptroller and Private Secretary to the His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland, the 3rd Duke of Abercorn).
Later, we retired to the bar again, for another good old chin-wag. It rained heavily outside, though the Club has a spacious terrace or kind of veranda where patrons can enjoy a smoke or even enjoy the weather on a fine summer's day (!).

I called for a taxi on my mobile phone at the entrance hall, where arrived fairly promptly before midnight, though they advised me that it would pick me up at Kelly's Cellars, an establishment in Bank Street.

It was delightful to see so many of my old school pals once again.

Does anybody have a photograph of Brackenber House, preferably colour? Probably not. It was unlikely that school-parents would have taken a photo of the school.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good temperance work!