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Another hint is provided by the engraved crest of the Dorchester – for only the classiest gastronomic institutions of the late 19th or early 20th century would cater for such an elaborate atavism as pressed duck.

The habit of crushing any cooked carcass to extract all that nourishing goodness from the bones probably dates back to prehistoric times – certainly it was common practice in medieval Italian kitchens judging by this woodcut illustration, right, from Bartolomeo Scappi’s encyclopedia published in 1570 – but it was only during the 19th century that this method as applied to duck achieved widespread recognition, thanks to the efforts of the Rouen restaurateur Méchenet and the enthusiasm of his patron, the Duke of Chartres.

On one of his regular trips to Paris the Duke recommended pressed Rouen duck to Fredéric at Le Tour d’Argent and he proceeded to make it his signature dish. In fact, so beloved of the chef was this dish that he decided to number every bird served in this fashion; in 1890 the Prince of Wales sat down in the restaurant and consumed duck no.328.

Duck No. 253,652 was presented to Charlie Chaplin in the following manner: the aiguillettes (thin slices of breast) were laid in a pan of reduced red wine on the hot plate and the legs removed and broiled. The stripped carcass was then crushed under the press (in full view of the customer) and the resulting juices thickened with butter, sharpened with cognac and poured over the meat.

The dish may not be so fashionable as it was once and certainly it has become more expensive; this Elkington and Co. duck press, 21in (53cm) high, sold to the London trade at £900 (plus 10 per cent premium).