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    4 May 2020


    On Friday 8 May, the 75th anniversary of VE Day will take place. The occasion, which is also known as Victory in Europe Day, is regarded as one of the grandest celebrations in British history, during which festivities took place in 1945 to mark the end of the Second World War.


    In summer 1939, one of Searcys directors wrote to the Ministry of Works and asked whether he should stop catering for events in view of the ‘luxury’ nature of the trade. But he was told to do nothing of the sort, there was a place for outdoor catering on the home front even in a war. Searcys was also asked to open a restaurant for war workers on the first floor of 19 Sloane Street.

    Most of Searcys staff went to join the forces. One of the managers, H.G. Knill, went into the Royal Air Force to become a squadron leader. The company directors joined the Air Raid Precautions Service from its formation and remained until the end of the war.

    As war became imminent, Searcys stocks of Champagne, were all but depleted. Instead, partygoers used their rations of gin, and Searcys supplied bottles of cider. The mixture of the two became a heady ‘champagne substitute’. Weddings were celebrated in the most modest ways, as the times demanded. Brides spent their rations on currants and brought them to Searcys to decorate their wedding cake. Sugar was in even shorter supply. There was never enough to put on the sides as well as the top, so fancy paper was wrapped around the sides for decoration.

    It is a little-known fact that Searcys also took part in a morale-boosting daily lunch concert held at the National Gallery throughout the war. These were the idea of the pianist Myra Hess who launched the scheme with a recital and planned all the programmes. Myra Hess was an accomplished pianist of international fame. She referred to the National Gallery concerts as her ‘national service’. She believed passionately in their symbolic importance, seeing them as a way of satisfying the ‘hunger of the spirit’ she sensed all around her in the early months of the war. Admission was a low flat price – a shilling, and an equally cheap packed lunch was available – supplied by Searcys.


    Marches and street parties to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day may have been cancelled or postponed, but our chefs have come up with some simple recipes to mark the occasion at home. We bring you allotment salad, corned beef and piccalilli sandwiches and toffee and milk pudding. We would love to see your creations! Tag us on social media @SearcysLondon #StayinwithSearcys

    Allotment Salad

    The Ministry Of Agriculture introduced the “Dig For Victory” campaign in October 1939, one month after the outbreak of the war. By persuading the public to transform their garden spaces into vegetable plots, the campaign aimed to replace imported food with locally grown produce. The campaign proved to be a roaring success. By 1943, estimates suggested that home gardens were responsible for more than one million tonnes of produce. By 1945, Britain had almost 1.4 million allotments.



    Corned Beef and Piccalilli Sandwiches

    Corned beef became popular during and after World War II as rationing limited the availability of fresh meat.


    Milk and Toffee Pudding 

    The original recipe is thought to have come from two Canadian Air Force officers who had lodged at a hotel in Lancashire during the Second World War.


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