On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Food and drink from the novel

A detailed look at the food and drink in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Ian Fleming’s 11th James Bond book starts with 007 visiting Vesper’s grave in Royale-les-Eaux, which we learn he does every year.

Northern France

After James Bond checks into Hotel Splendide in Royal- les-Eaux he orders a bottle of the Taittinger Blanc de Blancs from room service. When it arrives in a frosted silver bucket he downs a quarter of it before showering and, after dressing, sits by the window and looks out at the promenade sipping champagne and wondering about where he will dine.

Here Ian Fleming tells us that “Bond was not a gourmet” and that when at home he “lived on grilled soles, oeufs cocotte and cold roast beef with potato salad”. When abroad however he enjoys the fine dining as it breaks the monotony but after three days on the road returning from Italy he is tired of “the sucker-traps for gourmandizing tourists”.

The previous night he had stayed at a “mock-Breton Auberge on the south bank of the Loire”, where he had a “fly walk” of Pâté Maison (the house pate) followed by poularde à la crème (chicken with cream) and downed by an “instant” bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé. He sent the pate back for a fresh slice and described the chicken as the “only genuine antique in the place”. Bond was not at all happy with the meal, especially when he saw the bill the next morning.

Determined not to repeat that particular mistake Bond decides on “one of his favourite restaurants in France”, a modest establishment directly opposite the railway station in Étaples. There he dines on poached turbot with mousseline sauce followed by half a roast partridge and half a bottle of Mouton Rothschild ’53 (by which Fleming probably means a half bottle) and finished off with a glass of 10 year old Calvados and three cups of coffee. The partridge is the best “he had eaten in his life” and he is in a considerably better mood when he takes the steps to the casino.

After rescuing Tracy from her coup du déshonneur at the baccarat table Bond joins her at the bar of the casino. She has a half bottle of Bollinger in front of her. He orders a half bottle of Krug and, when it arrives, he fills his glass and drains it.

The next morning he breakfasts in his room. “Normally, breakfast was an important part of Bond’s day, but today he had barely noticed what he was eating”, Fleming tells us. Bond is concerned Tracy is going to take her own life.

Keeping an eye on her lands him trouble though. He is captured and taken to meet Marc-Ange Draco, who turns out not only to be Tracy’s father but the head of the Unione Corse – the Corsican mafia (although Fleming spells it Union, without the final e). This real life criminal organisation primarily operates out of Corsica and Marseille and was responsible for supplying heroin to the United States between the 1930s and 1970s in an operation known as “the French Connection”.

Draco opens a filing cabinet, which turns out to be a “complete and compact” bar from which he takes bottles of “Pinchbottle Haig” and IW Harper’s Bourbon. Pinchbottle Haig is a Scotch whisky usually known in the UK as Haig Dimple and in the US as Haig and Haig Dimple Pinch and comes in a distinctive three sides “pinch” bottle.

Draco also produces “two pint glasses that looked like Waterford; a bucket of ice cubes, a siphon of soda and a flagon of iced water” from the filing cabinet. Bond pours himself a stiff Bourbon with water and lots of ice, while his host opts for the scotch.

London

Following Bond’s return the Secret Service finally gets the lead on Blofeld they’ve been looking for. Bond meets Griffon Or at the College of Arms to learn about heraldry. He’s to go undercover as Sir Hilary Bray to meet Blofeld in person at his supposed Alpine allergy clinic so needs to swot up on the subject.

The night before flying to Switzerland Bond plans his evening as he heads home in a taxi. After two double vodka and tonics with a dash of Angostura he’ll get May to cook her speciality, a large dish of scrambled eggs fines herbes, then have two more vodka and tonics and “half a grain of seconal” and for a “cosy self-anaesthesia”.

The next day at London Airport (now London Heathrow) Bond orders a couple of double brandies and ginger ale. Initially feeling ridiculous at his cover of a baronet, he decides to just act himself. Aboard a Swissair Caravelle headed to Zurich he is has “a delicious lunch served by a delicious stewardess”.

Switzerland

After settling into Piz Gloria Bond heads to the bar at 6pm. Irma Bunt has informed him of the evening routine. Drinks at six and bed at 10. He orders a whisky and soda and is introduced to the patients at Blofeld’s supposed allergy clinic, “ten gorgeous girls”. After Ruby runs through the names of the others Bond orders another drink.

They are all herded into the dining room at 7:30pm, when Bond is seated with Bunt, along with Ruby and Violet. Handed a giant menu, Bond opts for the Poulet Gloria, which turns out to be spatchcocked chicken with mustard and cream sauce.

The next morning Bond is brought a breakfast menu by one of Blofeld’s staff. He is served “a spare continental breakfast”. Later that morning he is introduced to Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the guise of Monsieur le Comte de Bleuville.

Afterwards he works on the Bleuville lineage until lunchtime. Sitting on the sun terrace he orders a double medium-dry vodka Martini on the rocks and oeufs Gloria with green salad. The dish turns out to be chopped hard-boiled eggs with a cream and cheese sauce laced with English mustard, which he finds delicious.

He spends the afternoon with his heraldry books as he continues to research the Bleuvilles, only interrupted by an unexpected visit from Ruby. At six he showers then calls for the warder to let him out of his room. He heads to the bar where he orders a a double Bourbon on the rocks and a Daiquiri for Violet. After Bunt ushers them to a table Bunt they order more drinks. Bond finds the bourbon is helping him unwind.

Afterwards they go through to the dining room, but what is ordered that evening is not recorded. Later Bond escapes from his room and heads for Ruby’s room.

The next morning Bond wakes at nine and rings for breakfast. Although unspecified, it’s likely to be a continental breakfast again. When it comes there is a note informing him of an appointment with the count at eleven.

That morning doesn’t go well for Bond though. Shaun Campbell, the secret service’s number two in Zurich, has been captured and raises Blofeld’s suspicions. Bond feels his time is running out, something confirmed later by Ruby who tells him that, unaccompanied, he is off limits to the “patients”.

Before lunch Bond again orders a double vodka martini. When it comes he downs it in two gulps and immediately orders another. Feeling he is likely to need all his strength to make his escape from Piz Gloria Bond decides to fuel up. He orders Pâté Maison followed again by oeufs Gloria and the cheese tray for lunch and finishes with a coffee.

At dinner Bond aims continues to fuel up prior to making his escape. Although Fleming doesn’t share details of what Bond eats he tells us “Bond concentrated on getting plenty of whisky and food under his belt”.

The next morning, after successfully getting away from Piz Gloria and thanks in no small part to a chance meeting with Tracy Vicenzo, Bond orders “plenty of scrambled eggs and coffee” at Zurich airport prior to boarding a delayed flight to London. But before boarding he proposes to Tracy.

Christmas Day with M

Only during his escape did he remember it was Christmas Eve and so his flight from Zurich is on Christmas Day. He’s met at the airport by a secret service car and glad to see Mary Goodnight along with the driver. After teasing her about working on Christmas Day she tells him he is to go first to HQ and then join M for lunch at his house, Quarterdeck.

But first the car stops at his Chelsea flat. He asks Goodnight to “stir up May while I clean myself up” to ask her to “brew me plenty of black coffee and to pour two jiggers of our best brandy into the pot”.

An hour later in his office he dictates his report to Goodnight then heads for M’s “small Regency manor-house on the edge of Windsor Forest”. After M has read his report, Bond admits he has no idea what Blofeld is up to.

M then ushers Bond through to the dining room, explaining “we’ve got to go through the turkey and plum pudding routine.[..] Damned sentimental rubbish”.

He draws the line at crackers on the table though. During lunch Bond, who is “aching for a drink” had “a small glass of very old Marsala” as well as “most of a bottle of very bad Algerian wine”.

“Good old ‘Infuriator'”, explains M. “Staple drink for the fleet in the Mediterranean”.

After lunch they have coffee in M’s study. Then at three o’clock they are joined by the Head of the Scientific Research Section and a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture named Franklin to discuss the situation. Franklin concludes that Blofeld intends to use biological warfare to negatively impact Britain’s economy. SPECTRE could profit by shorting sterling.

After their departure M orders a pot of tea, while Bond opts for whisky. Fearing that pursuing Blofeld through official channels would take weeks, Bond asks for two weeks leave. In order to reduce Blofeld’s window of opportunity to escape Bond plans on going rouge.

When he calls Tracy in Munich that night she tells him what she had be served for dinner; crayfish tails with rice and a cream and dill sauce followed by saddle of roebuck with smitane sauce.

“I bet it was better than what you had”, she tells him. That turns out to be “two ham sandwiches with stacks of mustard and half a pint of Harper’s Bourbon on the rocks”.

After hanging up he calls Marc-Ange Draco for assistance. Bond explains how he’ll fly to Marseilles the following afternoon.

Planning the assault

Bond is collected from the airport by Marius, one of Draco’s men. On the drive they talk briefly about bouillabaisse, a Marseille speciality.

“There is no more true bouillabaisse, because […] you must have the rascasse, the tender flesh of the scorpion fish”, Marius tells him.

Reunited with Draco, Bond is invited to help himself to a drink. He pours “a stiff” Jack Daniel’s on the rocks and adds some some water. After Bond brings him up to speed Draco tells Bond “he has ordered dinner “to be served us up here. And then we will go to bed stinking of garlic and, perhaps, just a little bit drunk. Yes?”

“I can’t think of anything better”, Bond replies.

They spend the following morning planning their attack. After lunch Bond makes his way to Strasbourg by air and rail. In Strasbourg is has a room at Hotel Maison Rouge, which, incredibly, claims to have been operating since 1387. Fleming tells us he dined simply “off the finest foie gras, pink and succulent, and half a bottle of champagne”.

The next day he is picked up at midday and driven to a large barn located an hour from the hotel. Draco is there to greet him. “You are just in time for some good Strasbourg sausage and a passable Riquewihr”, he tells Bond, adding about the wine “I would have christened it ‘Château Pis-de-Chat’” –  cat piss.

While Draco’s men are preparing equipment for the operation ahead, “Bond accepted a foot of garlic sausage, a hunk of bread, and a bottle of the ‘Pis-de-Chat’”. At 2.45pm they board a helicopter acquired by the Union Corse boss, headed for Piz Gloria.

Wedding plans

The assault on Piz Gloria is a tough operation and a long night for Bond. Battered and bruised after pursuing Blofeld on the bobsleigh run he makes his way to Zurich. He arrives on the doorstep of the Head of Station Z at two in the morning.

Alexander Muir invites Bond inside and tells him to help himself to a drink. While Fleming doesn’t specify what Bond serves himself, Muir pours himself a “thin” whisky and soda. They send a message to London while Muir’s wife makes up the spare room. She also leaves “fresh dressings and stuff” for Bond to treat his wounds.

The next day Bond flies into Munich airport to be reunited with Tracy. She drives him to the Vier Jahreszeiten hotel.

There he finds Tracy has arranged for “an impressive array of dressings and medicaments” for him. He calls to ask her to change his dressings, telling her after that afterwards he would “buy you a drink. Just one. And three for me. That’s the right ratio between men and women”.

After that he plans on “a wonderful dinner in Walterspiel’s and talk about rings” and their domestic arrangements. For many years the Walterspiel was regarded as one of Germany’s best restaurants but has been known as Restaurant Schwarzreiter since 2014. It is located in the hotel.

Overnight Draco arrives so the next day is “occupied with hilarious meals with Marc-Ange” and scouring antique shops for engagement and wedding rings. They find a wedding ring easily enough but when Tracy can’t make her mind up about an engagement ring Bond heads out in a taxi driven by an ex-Luftwaffe pilot.

After buying a “baroque ring in white gold with two diamond hands clasped” Bond and the taxi-driver head to Franziskaner Keller. There they eat “mounds of Weisswurst” and both down four steins of beer. Although beer steins vary in size they often hold a litre of beer.

Tracy loves the ring, but – unsurprisingly – tells Bond “You stink like a pig of beer and sausages. Where have you been?”


Free monthly newsletter

Get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.


No thanks, I'm not interested in news about 007