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Titanic launch ticket sells for $35,000

An auction house has sold an original ticket to the 1911 launch of the Titanic and a dinner menu from the ill-fated ocean liner, plus items recovered from the wreckage miles underwater.

On the block at Bonhams in New York yesterday were various Titanic remnants offered to mark the centennial of its sinking.

The historic admission ticket fetched 56,250 dollars (£35,600), including the auction house premium. The menu, touting choices like the tongue of a castrated rooster and beef sirloin with horseradish, sold for 31,250 dollars.

Both went to private American buyers, said Gregg Dietrich, Bonhams' maritime consultant.

He said one surprise at the auction was the comparatively low price paid for a telegraph that read: "We have struck an iceberg."

That message - sold for 27,500 dollars (£17,405) - was sent to Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, about three hours before the Titanic sank just days into its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Only about 700 of the luxury liner's more than 2,200 passengers survived.

One important item that did not sell is a handwritten account from the captain of the Carpathia that rescued the survivors, Mr Dietrich said.

"But interest in Titanic artefacts remains strong," he said, noting that Bonhams' Manhattan auction room was filled with about 60 people, in addition to bidders on the phone and online.

He said many items went to buyers collecting Titanic artefacts for years.

The most curious lot of the day, he said, sold for 12,500 dollars (£7,911): three rivets and a piece of porthole glass recovered from the wreckage in the North Atlantic near Newfoundland during expeditions starting in 1987.

The biggest sale of Titanic lore has yet to come: 5,000 artefacts with a value of hundreds of millions of dollars owned by RMS Titanic Inc.

A New York auction planned for April was put on hold because of talks with various parties for the possible purchase of the collection, ranging from passengers' personal possessions and parts of the hull to china and the ship's fittings.

Meanwhile, crystal tinkled as women clad in dinner best bowed their heads over champagne glasses, listening attentively to the captain's evening address. The Armagnac they sipped was circa 1900 and he dishes, crystal and silverware also harked back to the era when the Titanic sailed the high seas, destined for disaster.

But last night the captain was Ryan Roberts, executive director of Cullen's restaurant in Houston, Texas.

"We're here to remember the people who perished on that fateful night, so if we could just bow our heads in a moment of silence," Mr Roberts said.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's maiden voyage which led to disaster when the liner hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic, killing 1,514 people, 12 people in Houston enjoyed a replica of the lavish 10-course dinner the wealthiest people aboard the ship enjoyed just before the collision.

The dinner was one of many served from New York to Memphis, Tennessee, and across the oceans to Hong Kong.

Chefs attempted to transport diners to a time when waiters in starched coats and napkins hanging from their arms served an upper class far removed from the common man, who filled the lower portions of the Titanic and went largely unnoticed by the wealthy until they perished together in the freezing sea.

At Cullen's, Mr Roberts and chef Paul Lewis spent months researching the menu, the waiters' attire, the china, silverware, crystal, wines, cognacs and Burgundies, hoping to offer their guests an experience as close to the actual event as possible.

Pairing up with the Museum of Natural Science to include a tour of its Titanic exhibit, they came up with a 12,000-dollar (£7,600) feast for each party of 12 that will be offered until September, when the ship's relics will move on to a new destination.

After viewing the exhibit, diners are driven by limousine to the restaurant, about 20 miles south of central Houston, where they are seated in an exclusive area suspended over the main hall.

There, they are treated to an array of foods from around the world prepared by cooks who have for months practised and discussed how to interpret a menu too lavish for today's palette.

The truffles are from France, the oysters from neighbouring Louisiana, the salmon from Scotland. The portions, however, have been scaled down, and some - such as the Consomme Olga, a Russian-style meat broth - were given a more modern twist.

"We wanted to make sure there's enough there to give you the flavour or the substance but nothing to make you hugely uncomfortable sitting there, dreading the next course," Mr Lewis said.

"Dinner back then was a little bit different as well. If you didn't want a course, you just waved it off and the waiter would just skip you and go onto the next person."

"Of course, we don't want that. We want to make sure that everyone gets a little bit of everything."

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