Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Offley's Henrietta Street


This noted tavern, of our day, enjoyed great and deserved celebrity, though short-lived. It was No. 23, on the south side of Henrietta-street, Covent Garden, and its fame rested upon Burton ale, and the largest supper-room in this theatrical neighbourhood; with no pictures, placards, paper-hangings, or vulgar coffee-room finery, to disturb one's relish of the good things there provided. Offley, the proprietor, was originally at Bellamy's, and "as such, was privileged to watch, and occasionally admitted to assist, the presiding priestess of the gridiron at the exercise of her mysteries." Offley's chop was thick and substantial; the House of Commons' chop was small and thin, and honourable Members sometimes ate a dozen at a sitting. Offley's chop was served with shalots shred, and warmed in gravy, and accompanied by nips of Burton ale, and was a delicious after-theatre supper. The large room at that hour was generally crowded with a higher class of men than are to be seen in taverns of the present day. There was excellent dining up-stairs, with wines really worth drinking—all with a sort of Quakerly plainness, but solid comfort. The fast men came to the great room, where the spécialité was singing by amateurs upon one evening of the week; and to prevent the chorus waking the dead in their cerements in the adjoining churchyard, the coffee-room window was double. The "professionals" stayed away. Francis Crew sang Moore's melodies, then in their zenith; sometimes, in a spirit of waggery, an amateur would sing "Chevy Chase" in full; and now and then Offley himself trolled out one of Captain Morris's lyrics. Such was this right joyously convivial place some five-and-forty years since upon the singing night. Upon other evenings, there came to a large round table (a sort of privileged place) a few well-to-do, substantial tradesmen from the neighbourhood, among whom was the renowned surgical-instrument maker from the Strand, who had the sagacity to buy the iron from off the piles of old London Bridge, and convert it (after it had lain for centuries under water) into some of the finest surgical instruments of the day. Offley's, however, declined: the singing was discontinued; Time had thinned the ranks and groups of the bright and buoyant; the large room was mostly frequented by quiet, orderly persons, who kept good hours; the theatre-suppers grew few and far between; the merry old host departed,—when it was proposed to have his portrait painted—but in vain; success had ebbed away, and at length the house was closed.[39]

Offley's was sketched with a free hand, in Horæ Offleanæ, Bentley's Miscellany, March, 1841.

[39] Walks and Talks about London, 1865, pp. 180-182.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866