Preview of Royal Ascot Hospitality for 2014
Guest Feature by Adrian York:
My uncle and cousins are jockeys, trainers, farriers and saddle makers; however despite the bloodline, my experiences equine have always ended badly. I’ve been thrown into ditches, kicked and even dumped by a girlfriend after a trot out in a hailstorm.
So on receiving an invite to preview the food and drink on offer at this year’s Royal Ascot race meeting you might think that I would approach this event with some sense of caution. However on your behalf I overcame my misgivings, donned my rather fetching Feraud tweed two piece and sallied forth into the badlands of Berkshire for the Ascot Chase Raceday.
Visiting Ascot is a pleasurably surreal experience. The main building has the feel of a huge airport terminal packed with a plethora of food, drink and betting outlets. The scale and history of the place is immense. There has been racing on the site since 1711 and over the five days of Royal Ascot over 300,000 happy punters will come through the doors many of whom will be fed in the restaurants and the 245 boxes by Executive chef Steve Golding and his merry cohorts. If you want to do the top end package in The Parade Ring Restaurant it will cost £1200 per head so the food and drink offer better be good!
Alongside Steve Golding the Ascot people have brought in some culinary big guns; Atul Kotchhar is the chef/patron of Benares, the Michelin starred jewel in the crown of London’s Indian fine dining scene and for Royal Ascot Atul will be masterminding the menu in The Panoramic Restaurant where today’s lunch is located.
Chef Tom Kerridge has a pub not far from the racecourse but it’s not just any old pub! The Hand and Flowers and Kerridge’s contemporary take on modern British cooking have won an amazing two Michelin stars, the first pub to do so. His Royal Ascot destination will be the new 196 cover restaurant On 5.
Rather thrillingly the first thing that happens as we enter the restaurant is that we are given a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvée. Bollinger is Royal Ascot’s Champagne partner and over 51,000 bottles will be drunk during the meeting. With endless refills our little group managed to sink quite a few ourselves!
Next on the agenda was a series of playful canapés from upmarket caterers rhubarb who are taking care of the private box hospitality packages.
My favourites included this delicious Garden pea pannacotta which was delicately flavoured with an appropriately wobbly texture.
Rhubarb’s Foie Gras Rocher is a take on the ambassador’s favourite chocolate, but here in a luxe savoury form.
The Salmon mi cuit (half cooked) had been cured and then cooked at a low temperature which gave it terrific flavour, and with your personal soy pipette for an injection of sauce (which is something we all need from time to time) what’s not to like.
For those of us who were racing novices we were next given a presentation by tipster and retired jockey (Desert Orchid) Colin Brown. I backed his tip on the second race however the horse decided to stop for no obvious reason. I asked for my money back as the horse seemed to be faulty but apparently it doesn’t work like that!
By this time we were ready for Atul Kotchar’s starter so we took to our tables which were charmingly decorated with floral decorations from Silwoods. The wine was provided by the Royal Ascot supplier Bibendum.
Atul’s dish was a pan fried sea bass with beet mash and turmeric coconut sauce. This was a subtle dish and light dish with the fish only lightly spiced that is a good expression of Atul’s cooking.
Tom Kerridge’s main course was treacle marinated fillet steak with béarnaise sauce. The marinade gave a real depth of flavour to the meat which was tender and delicious.
Steve Golding’s dessert was named “After Eight”-mint and chocolate variations, peppermint sorbet, chocolate and mint gel. This was a really technically adept dish using a variety of techniques with strong and distinct flavours (especially the astonishing peppermint sorbet). Steve is in no way the junior partner amongst the Michelin starred chefs and as the Executive chef of Sodexho prestige, Ascot’s resident catering partner, is in charge of all the fine dining outlets.
After a trip to see the building site for Tom Kerridge’s On 5 restaurant it was time for tea.
The Smart Group will be the caterers for The Royal Ascot Village where they will be providing a four course lunch and the Mad Hatters Tea Party. It was a fantastic spread of sandwiches, meringues and cakes.
The team at Ascot are really committed to providing a top class catering experience for their visitors and have really made an effort this year to innovate and improve their offer. But despite the eye-watering prices at the top end, Ascot really is for everybody. A ticket for the Silver Ring Encloure is only £17 and its Best of British food theme will give everyone the chance to try something special for this Royal Ascot.
Royal Ascot runs from Tuesday 17th - Saturday 21st June 2014.