With no undue mishap he reached London the same night, and next day he lunched at a famous London restaurant. At night he dined at a fashionable establishment in Shaftesbury Avenue. In both places he received ordinary food served without distinction, reckoned up the bill, and found that in each case l’addition was correct—and rushed madly back to Paris, where he sold the Cafe Bleu, packed up his belongings, and explained matters to his wife, doing all three things simultaneously.
‘The dinner,’ he exclaimed in a fever of excitement, ’is served—so! As a funeral. I order what I like, and the waiter he stands there comme un gendarme, as if it is my name I give. “Any vegetables?” demands he. Mon Dieu! As if vegetables they are no more to him than so much—so much umbrellas. I say, “Garcon, la carte des vins!” and, quite correct, he hands it me with so many wines he has not got, just as in Paris, but—que penses tu?—he permits me to order what wine I choose, so—by myself. C’est terrible! I give him three pennies and say, “Garcon, for such stupidity you should pay the whole bill."’
Monsieur Beauchamp was a man of shrewdness. He knew he could not compete with the established solidity of the Trocadero, the Ritz, the Piccadilly, or the garishness of Frascati’s, so he purchased and remodelled an unobtrusive building in an unobtrusive street between Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street, but clear of Soho and its adherents. He decorated the place in a rich red, and arranged some cabinets particuliers upstairs, where, by the screening of a curtain, Madame the Wife and Monsieur the Lover could dine without molestation of vulgar eyes.
Monsieur Beauchamp felt himself a benefactor, a missionary. He argued that the only reason Londoners were not so flirtatious as Parisians was lack of opportunity. He, the proprietor of the Cafe Rouge, would bring light to the inhabitants of the foggy city. To assist in this philanthropic work he brought with him an excellent cook, who had killed a dyspeptic Cabinet Minister by tempting him with dishes intended only for robust digestions, and three young and ambitious waiters; while madame engaged what unskilled labour was required.
Unobtrusively they opened for business, for he knew that publicity would spoil his chance of success. (Once convince a Londoner that he is one of a select few who know a restaurant, and he will stand an hour waiting for a table.) The first customer to enter received such attention that he brought his family the next night. Monsieur Beauchamp issued orders that he should be snubbed. Parbleu! was the Cafe Rouge for families?