Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Colonial Haute Cuisine - The Cafe de Paris

Isaac Lenneberg and the Cafe de Paris

The Courier 15.3.1864

Having obtained publican’s licence in March 1964, a German immigrant named Isaac Lenneberg opened the grandly named Cafe de Paris in Queen Street, Brisbane Town. It was not the only establishment of this name in the Australian Colonies, there were also Cafes de Paris in Sydney, Melbourne, and other towns.

The re-branding of the former Hart’s Cafe was announced in The Courier.

(Opposite to the Home of Parliament.)

I. H. LENNEBERG begs to announce that he has re-opened the above establishment   known as Hart's Cafe, where he is prepared to supply all kinds of the choicest WINES, ALES, SPIRITS, LIQUEURS. &c.

A Restaurant is attached, where a Table D’hôte is served daily, from 1 till 2 p.m.


And other meals stall hours of the day or evening, with tea and coffee.

The Cuisine combines all the luxuries of the season.

The bed-rooms are neatly fitted up, convenient, and well-ventilated.

To men of business and visitors the central situation and punctuality of arrangements require no comment.

Civility, promptitude, and cleanliness, are the "Household Words" at this establishment.[1]

Lenneberg’s Cafe de Paris soon became patronised by the prominent citizens of Brisbane Town and particularly popular as a meeting place of the substantial German community.  In August 1864, three eminent gentlemen of the German citizenry called a meeting to discuss a strategy regarding the Schleswig-Holstein conflict in their fatherland.[2]

The North Australian Thursday 4 August 1864

GERMAN GENERAL MEETING. The German inhabitants of Brisbane and surrounds are invited to a meeting on Monday, the 8th of this month, at 7:30 in the evening, at Lenneberg's cafe, Queen Street. Purpose of the meeting: - SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN.


The Meeting resolved to raise funds to support the families of the fallen.

OUR German citizens, with Dr. Emmelhainz as chairman, held a meeting at Lenneberg's Cafe de Paris in Queen-street, on Monday evening last, when the following resolutions were put and carried:—

That a subscription be made in favour of the widows and orphans of German soldiers killed in the battles of Schleswig-Holstein.

That the proceeds of the subscriptions be forwarded to the National Association in Germany (of which the Duke Ernest, of Saxe-Coburgh, is the President for distribution.

A subscription list was then opened, and the sum of £26 was collected. After a vote of thanks had been moved to the Chairman the meeting terminated.[4]

Before the year was out, disaster would strike at the heart of Brisbane Town.  Constructed largely of timber, the buildings were extremely vulnerable to fire, especially during a Queensland summer.  This was precisely what befell the town on a hot dry December night in 1864.  Amongst the victims of the huge conflagration was the Cafe de Paris.

The flames continued to spread onward, apparently gaining strength in contempt of the puny resistance offered to their might, until at half past eight o'clock advantage was taken of a temporary lull caused by the non-inflammable character of the roofing of some of the shops, to make one more vigorous effort to save the more valuable properties further up the street by pulling down the premises occupied by Mr. Lenneberg, and known as the Cafe de Paris.

It was too late, however, as before the men could more than partially demolish the structure the fire was upon them, and the bravest among them were compelled, by  the extreme heat, to make a precipitate retreat.

Queen Street Brisbane after the Great Fire of 1864

The enterprising Herr Lenneberg was soon back in business.  Within weeks he had found new premises and fitted out the new Cafe de Paris.  He announced the good news to his many patrons and even put on a free supper to bring back his clientele.

Darling Downs Gazette & General Advertiser 31.12.1864

MR. LENNEBERG, of the Café de Paris, recently destroyed by fire in Queen street, begs to return his sincere thanks to his old friends and the public generally for the kind and welcome assistance rendered to him on the night of the fire, and to inform them that he has taken the extensive

(Nearly opposite W. & B. Brookes')
Which he has fitted up in first-class style, and intends opening THIS EVENING, as the

A FREE SUPPER will be on the table at 8 o'clock TO-NIGHT, and he hopes to see as many of his old friends and the public as can make it convenient to attend.[5]

Early in the new year of 1865, the German community gathered for a Christmas celebration that had been postponed due to inclement weather.  The picnic feature a “Schutzen Fest” or shooting competition.  Isaac Lenneberg was called upon to cater the traditional German event. Understandably the stifling summer weather was not what they were used to and in an age before refrigeration, they were philosophical – after all “it was a picnic”!

The steamer “Diamond” took down a large number of the visitors, but there were many who proceeded to the trysting-place in cars and other vehicles. At one time it was estimated that there about three hundred persons on and near the camping-place.

To Mr. Lenneberg, of the Cafe de Paris, was entrusted the task of satisfying the thirst of all, and considering the bad spot which was selected for the encampment, he managed very well. The ginger-beer and lemonade were certainly very hot, as also were other equally enticing liquors. Fowls and pigs had a sultry appearance about them; but what of that? It was a picnic.[6]

Later in the year the Cafe de Paris was the venue chosen for a gathering to establish a “Deutcher Turn Verein” or German Club.

A MEETING of German residents in this town was held last evening at the Café de Paris, in Elizabeth-street, for the purpose of taking initiatory steps for the formation of a "Deutcher Turn Verein."

The following gentlemen were appointed to act as a provisional committee: Messrs. Horstmann, Homburg, Simmons, Bullanf, Caesarowicz, und Kieser. A general meeting, to be announced in the local papers, will be held, we understand, on Monday next, when the committee will be requested to report as follows:-

How far they have succeeded in obtaining suitable premises and also what funds it is likely will be raised, and expenditure incurred.[7]

The Deutscher Turn-Verein at Wooloongabbba, Brisbane

In 1876 fire again struck the premises of Isaac Lenneberg. On this occasion it appears the blaze was unintentionally started by a pair of inebriated intruders bent on helping themselves to supplies in the storeroom of Herr Lenneberg.

A FIRE was discovered by Senior Constable Driscoll, about eleven o'clock an Sunday night, in premises in Elizabeth-street, occupied as a wine and spirit store by Mr. I. H. Lenneberg, who, at the time, was absent at Pimpama.

The alarm was given at once, and the fire-bell brought a large body of constables and several members of the fire brigade, with a couple of reels of hose, to the spot in a few minutes. The water happened to be turned on, and in the course of half-an-hour the flames were entirely subdued.

We are informed by residents of the neighbourhood that one if not two men not belonging to the store were seen to enter the cellar by the back entrance on Sunday, and remain for a considerable time. One of the men brought out a bag which apparently contained bottles, and the men seemed partially drunk.[8]

A man was eventually brought to trial for the arson three months later.  Unfortunately for the prosecutor most of the witnesses had long since left town.  The Magistrate had no choice but to dismiss the case.

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL, on remand from last week, charged with having set fire to Mr. Lenneberg's store on the night of the 30th of January last, was again brought up at the Police Court yesterday morning.

The evidence adduced was that of a young man who was then in the employ of Mr. Page, hairdresser, of Queen Street, who deposed to having heard someone call out "fire," and to going down to Elizabeth Street by the right-of-way, where he saw a fire in Mr. Lenneberg's store. On looking at the grating to the cellar, he found a bag nailed against it, which he pulled off, and then saw a number of broken casks burning on the floor, in the centre of the cellar; but he did not see the prisoner anywhere about there.

-Sergeant Driscoll gave evidence of a similar character, except as to the fact of seeing a sudden glare 0f light in the store; could not see distinctly where it came from in the store owing to the fact of a number of cases being piled up in front of the windows; he also stated that on going round to the back of the cellar he found the door securely fastened, so much so that it had to be broken open with an axe, and on going in found a number of partially burned cases on the floor, and a mound of ashes about two feet high, which showed that a fire had been lighted there; also a number of bottles partially filled with Lorne whisky and rum.

This evidence closed the case for the prosecution, Mr. Lewis stating that, owing to the time which had elapsed between the fire and the prisoner's arrest found great difficulty in getting more   witnesses, as they were all scattered, some them being in Cooktown and other places.
Police Magistrate said that there were a great many suspicions circumstances connected with the fire which seemed to point to Campbell; but at the same time he did not think they were such as would induce a jury to convict him, and he would therefore order his discharge. Prisoner was discharged accordingly.[9]

Brisbane Courier 23.2.1877

The following year Isaac Lenneberg decided to move on from the Cafe de Paris to a larger and better sited establishment.  The cafe continued to operate under a succession of proprietors and locations into the 1890s.

Edward and Charlotte Streets, Brisbane.
Proprietor: I. H. LENNEBERG,
Late of the Cafe de Paris, Queen-street.

I. H. L. notifies to his Patrons and the Public generally that, having taken and altered the above Hotel, he is now prepared to guarantee SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATION to Families, Commercial Travellers, Bushmen, &c, and keeping only the BEST BRANDS of WINES, ALES, and SPIRITS, can safely solicit a further share of the patronage so liberally bestowed upon him for the last twelve years.

Great facilities are offered intending visitors to Brisbane, the above Hotel being situated within three minutes' walk of the Wharves and five of the Railway Station.

The Cuisine is superintended by a noted Chef, vouching for the Table being second to none in town.

Ample Stable Accommodation.
Plunge and Shower Baths.
Sydney and daily papers taken in.[10]

The Exchange Hotel in 1929

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Courier Tuesday 15 March 1864
[2] The War of 1864 was fought between Prussia and Denmark over the sovereignty of the Danish-ruled duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. The war ended in October 1864, when the Treaty of Vienna ceded the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia.
[3] The North Australian Thursday 4 August 1864
[4] The North Australian Thursday 11 August 1864
[5] The Brisbane Courier Monday 26 December 1864
[6] The Brisbane Courier 3 January 1865
[7] The Brisbane Courier 23 May 1865
[8] The Queenslander Saturday 5 February 1876
[9] The Brisbane Courier Tuesday 2 May 1876
[10] The Brisbane Courier Friday 23 February 1877

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