College Inn returns to the middlle ages – Best Western College Inn hotel
QUALICUM BEACH, B.C. — The Best Western College Inn here can trace its roots to its beginnings as a British-style boys’ school in 1935, but the 69-room hotel would have to look a few centuries further back for the origins of one of its most popular menu listings.
A whole page of the dinner menu for the property’s Old Boy Dining Room restaurant is dedicated to a medieval meal that, according to co-owner Kerry Kielty, is authentic right down to the absence of silverware.
The meal, priced at $21 per person, consists of five “removes,” the medieval term for courses. Since silverware was largely unknown in the Middle Ages, customers use only their fingers to eat four of the removes.
The one exception is a meat platter, for which diners are equipped with a hunting knife.
The dinner begins with the removal of all utensils from the table. Next Kielty said, whatever “hearty, lots-to-it soup” is being featured as that day’s “manor house country soup” is ladled from a table-side cauldron into wooden bowls.
After customers have slurped down their soup, the table is cleared once again and a platter of local seafoods is presented. It includes crab, prawns, oysters and what the menu describes as “salmon smoked as it used to be.”
The third remove is the meat platter, which consists of “a squire’s serving” of roast chicken, chunks of beefsteak, roast potatoes and pieces of lamb. All are sliced and eaten with the hunting knife.
Next is a platter of fresh fruit, and the meal ends with a selection of cheeses.
Although wines are not included in the price-fixed meal, the dining room’s servers are trained to suggest vintages for the various courses, according to Kielty.
For instance, he said, “with the seafood course, we feature three selections of white wines, including a British Columbia product, a French product and either a California or a German selection.” Kielty acknowledged that the medieval meal flies in the face of the light-dining trend. “It’s definitely for someone who’s very hungry,” he commented.
“But it has consistently been one of our best sellers since we opened 13 years ago,” Kielty said. “We sell several thousand a year. We’ve done it for groups as small as two people, which is the minimum, and as large as banquets for 100.”
He also said the medieval meal was included on the menu when the property reopened as a hotel in 1972 because “we wanted to create something unique and something that fitted in with the overall image of the hotel.”
Kielty and partner Michael Dyde had purchased the property two years earlier from Ivan Knight, the Englishman who operated the building as Quanticum College, a private boys school, for 35 years. Knight, now 83, still lives in the area and frequently visits the College Inn.
What is now the property’s restaurant formerly served as the student dining room. During a recent reunion at the College Inn, Quanticum graduates found that the outlet features many of the dishes they were served as students.
For example, the Old Boy Dining Room’s breakfast menu lists an item called Senior’s Prerogative, which consists of porridge, kippers, hash browns, English muffins and marmalade and tea or coffee. A similar breakfast was served to students.
Similarly, the luncheon menu of the College Inn’s only food and beverage outlet features such entrees as fish and chips ($4.95) and steak and kidney pie ($5.75).
In addition to the medieval meal, the Old Boys’ dinner menu includes a number of high-ticket entrees, such as a chateaubriand carved table-side ($38 for a portion that feeds two) and a gourmet meal flambeed tableside (available only on a limited bases).
Other dinner items include bouillabaisse ($16.25), a whole dungeness crab ($16.95) and a sauteed salmon fillet ($12.50).
The average dinner check “runs about $24 to $26, though it fluctuates dramatically according to the time of year,” Kielty said.
He added that “we have a 69-room inn and a 140-seat dining room, so obviously the major portion of our business comes from local residents.”
The College is a member of Best Western International, a marketing and referral cooperative for more than 1,800 independent lodging properties.
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