ROYAL REPASTS

The risks and re­wards of cater­ing for noble nup­tials. By Teresa Fitzher­bert

Town & Country (UK) - - TASTE -

When Henry VIII mar­ried Anne Bo­leyn, four ban­quet ta­bles laden with food stretched the length of West­min­ster Hall and the cen­tre­piece was a whole stuffed swan re-dressed in its own feath­ers. Royal wed­dings have be­come a lit­tle less ex­trav­a­gant over the cen­turies: Ge­orge V had a mere 17 cour­ses and only one ta­ble ded­i­cated to stuffed fowl when he wed Queen Mary. These days, at­ten­tion to de­tail has re­placed overeat­ing and the smartest wed­dings tend to of­fer a menu hon­our­ing the an­tecedents of the happy cou­ple. When Ta­ble Talk catered for the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge’s wed­ding, it cre­ated a dessert in­clud­ing Berk­shire-honey ice­cream as a nod to the bride’s home county. Since the same team are ru­moured to be cook­ing for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, one might an­tic­i­pate an Amer­i­can twist, such as mini burg­ers or a side of chips – the ac­tress once de­clared ‘fries be­fore guys’ on In­sta­gram. Guests may also find them­selves din­ing on a Meghan meringue or a Markle mousse, as it is a Royal tra­di­tion to name a dish af­ter the new bride. At the Queen’s wed­ding in 1947, the pud­ding was called Bombe Glacée Princess El­iz­a­beth.

Such oc­ca­sions are al­ways a nerve-rack­ing un­der­tak­ing for any caterer, as they come with a mine­field of po­ten­tial mishaps. Stately homes are full of long, draughty cor­ri­dors along which food can eas­ily cool; at one cer­e­mony in a cas­tle, I saw a waiter knock a rather sharp-look­ing sword from the wall. And then, of course, the ad­vice never to work with chil­dren and an­i­mals is im­pos­si­ble at an event that in­evitably in­volves le­gions of flower girls, page boys, dogs and horses. I once went to a wed­ding at which a knicker­bock­ered child fell face-first into the cake, and a guest rode into the mar­quee on a Shet­land pony. An­other in­sisted on hav­ing her fam­ily dogs in the re­cep­tion and the Ir­ish wolfhound was later spot­ted eat­ing the Brie from the cheese ta­ble. At least un­lim­ited cham­pagne is guar­an­teed and can mask all man­ner of mis­ad­ven­tures – Pol Roger is a Royal favourite.

left: the top lay­ers of the cam­bridges’ wed­ding cake. right: a model of princess el­iz­a­beth’s cake

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