Found: top Southsea restaurant’s head waiter – Nostalgia

Henry Byalas in action at Murrays.
Henry Byalas in action at Murrays.
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Last Monday I reproduced an advert from a 1950s’ Kings Theatre programme for Murray’s restaurant at 27a South Parade, Southsea.

In the middle of the advert was a box which simply said: ‘Ring Henry on 32322.’ 

Henry behind the bar taking orders in the Belshazzar Restaurant in the 1950s.

Henry behind the bar taking orders in the Belshazzar Restaurant in the 1950s.

I assumed that Henry was the head waiter and he was the man to contact if a reservation was needed, so I asked if anyone knew who Henry was.

Almost immediately I received photographs from Stephen Bialas who tells me that Henry was his father and that indeed he was the head waiter for many yeatrs during the 1950s and early 1960s.

‘He used to flambé at the table and was very well known to regular customers,’ says Stephen.

Henry, or Henryk in his native Poland, came to England in 1947 as part of the Polish Resettlement Act 1947. 

Henry with fellow countrymen. He is third from the left (at the back) holding his baby son Stephen.

Henry with fellow countrymen. He is third from the left (at the back) holding his baby son Stephen.

He began his time in England at Woodhall Spa Resettlement Camp, Lincolnshire, where he met his future wife, a Boston girl.

He no doubt knew his trade as he was born about the time of the start of the First World War so was in his early 30s when he arrived in the UK.

He worked on Cunard liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

After he had settled in Southsea he worked in the Queen’s and Royal Beach hotels.

St Nicholas' Chapel, HMS Nelson - not the modern barracks but the battleship.

St Nicholas' Chapel, HMS Nelson - not the modern barracks but the battleship.

In the restaurant trade he was head waiter at the Cut Loaf  in Osborne Road, Southsea, which became the Belshazzar restaurant.

Perhaps Henry became more well known around the city after he took the top job as head waiter at Murray’s.

For that top-class restaurant served the elite business people of the city and was always known as the best place to eat in town.

Stephen provided these three photographs of his father who died in 2009, aged 91.

If you recognise any of the people in the pictures please let me know.

• If I told you this was the Chapel of St Nicholas, HMS Nelson, you would be forgiven for thinking it was in the naval barracks HMS Nelson, formerly the  Royal Naval Barracks, Queen Street, Portsea.

You might be surprised to know that this is the chapel in the Portsmouth-based battleship HMS Nelson. The ducts overhead perhaps give the game away.

Nelson had a peacetime complement of 1,360 men so I would imagine there is a much larger space behind the camera.

The ship was one of two Nelson-class battleships built between the two world wars.

They were unique in British battleship construction because they were the only ships to carry a main armament of 16in guns and the only ones to carry all the main guns forward of the superstructure.