It’s strange to think of the royals as real people. Most of the time, we just think of the monarchy as mythical creatures; people who pop up occasionally to open a hospital or plant a tree — before disappearing until they next need to wield some scissors or perform an age-old ceremony. To all intents and purposes, they seem to be a family who don’t exist in the real, or indeed our, world.
And yet, behind the closed palace doors, they do exist. They eat, they sleep, they watch Antiques Roadshow. Last week, we even rounded up an A-Z of royal warrant holders and — lo and behold — there were some pretty humanising entries on there. Who knew that the late Queen liked Jaffa Cakes? And that got us to thinking; if the royals are partial to a budget biccy or two, what other British traditions do they follow? Could they enjoy Sunday drives, rainy barbecues and half-time cuppas? Could they even — shudder the thought — brunch?
Well, actually, they could. And, what’s more, they do. So we’ve called on the expertise of royal warrant holders, accounts of former palace employees and even recipes from the royals themselves to piece together what makes up the ideal regal mid-morning meal. So dig out your ermine cloak and your finest silverware — it’s time to plan a brunch fit for Buckingham Palace.
The dishes are decadent — if not especially difficult to make
So what’s on the menu? First off, let’s check in with King Charles — who very helpfully shared his much-loved recipe for Cheesy Baked Eggs on the Clarence House Instagram a couple of years ago. “One thing that undoubtedly brings many of us great comfort is good food,” the Prince of Wales wrote. “It is, therefore, deeply troubling to learn that this crisis risks destroying one of the most wonderful joys in life — British cheese!”
And boy does Charles love cheese. Our heir apparent has two separate warrants out to UK cheesemongers — Paxton & Whitfield and Charles Martell & Son — and his eggy brunch recipe combines spinach, eggs and tomatoes with a good chunk of both soft Tunworth and hard Old Winchester cheeses.
Of course, eggs in general — from Devilled to Florentine by way of Benedict — are a mainstay of brunch. And a warrant from Queen Elizabeth II once gave Noble Foods the nod to provide these essentials to the royal household (Eggs Royale, there’s another one). Bacon, too, is a brunching classic — and the crown have issued warrants to Denhay Farms, Donald Russell and Dukeshill Ham to ensure they get the crispiest, tastiest, most regal rashers in this green and pleasant land. So, when you’re looking to buy your basics, you know where to look.
Your bread, another basic, could come from one of four brands — including Chalmer’s Bakery and The Bread Factory. And, once you turn it into toast, you should be slathering it with one of the many sweet, zesty preserves jarred by Wilkin & Sons. “It’s an absolute honour for us to continue to hold a royal warrant since 1911,” Scott Goodfellow, joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons, tells Gentleman’s Journal. A traditional marmalade, such as Wilkin & Sons’ ‘Old Times’ Orange, was revealed in palace papers in 2008 to be a particular favourite of the older royals.
And so we come to the late Prince Philip, who — as with most other aspects of his life — had very singular tastes when it comes to brunching. Thank goodness there are seven royal warrant-holding butchers on the books, because the Duke of Edinburgh used to enjoy kidneys for his mid-morning meal, along with the odd omelette (those Noble Foods eggs again, we dare say). If you’re feeling adventurous, follow suit. We’re sticking with a bacon sandwich…
Tunworth Soft Cheese
Wilkin & Sons ‘Old Times’ Orange Marmalade
Denhay Dry Cured Bacon
The drinks are the main attraction at a royal brunch
But is anyone really at brunch to eat? It’s all about drinking for us; coffee and cocktails. According to those palace papers released in 2008 — jotted down by Audrey Taylor, the Deputy Head Royal Coffee Maid — the Queen Elizabeth II was more partial to tea. HRH would drink Earl Grey sourced from Darvilles of Windsor, with King Charles buying his bags from food giant Fortnum & Mason. The Duke of Edinburgh was more of a coffee connoisseur (those Greek roots, no doubt), drinking his cups black and favouring beans from H.R. Higgins coffee merchants.
When it comes to juices, there are no kale smoothies or detoxifying green blends at the royal brunching table. The crown doesn’t even seem to have an affinity for a classic orange juice unless it’s being used to mix a mimosa — but we’ll get to that. No, the Windsors are an apple juice family, and Queen Elizabeth II once issued two warrants, to both Sandringham Apple Juice and Welsh Farmhouse Apple Juice, to ensure the palace glasses remain full of the stuff.
Soft drinks out of the way, let’s get down to boozy business. Because that’s what brunch is really about. The mimosas use Britvic orange juice to kick off the mid-morning cocktails. And for the fizz? A little more choice, with a whopping nine separate warrants given to various champagne houses. Bollinger, GH Mumm, Krug, Lanson, Laurent-Perrier, Louis Roederer, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger all got the bubbly nod.
And that’s not the only cocktail on the menu. King Charles has a warrant for Utkin’s UK5 Organic Vodka and Queen Elizabeth II did with Big Tom spiced tomato mix — swirling together to make that oh-so savoury brunching classic, the Bloody Mary. Lawrence Mallinson, of Big Tom’s James White Drinks, told us several years ago: “I’m not sure how the Queen likes her Bloody Marys, however, we do know that Prince Philip is an enthusiastic Bloody Mary drinker and that he loves Big Tom.
“And Big Tom makes a complex drink very simple to make,” Mallinson adds. “All you have to do is add vodka and ice and it’s ready to go. How much vodka? My personal secret is the more the better! Somewhere between two and three parts Big Tom to one part vodka is great. And the adventurous sometimes like to add a dash of dry sherry [the Queen favours Harveys, if you’re planning to drink as Her Highness does]”.
Big Tom Spiced Tomato Mix
H.R. Higgins Galapagos San Cristobal Coffee
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
The royal experience doesn’t start and end with food and drink
Let’s stay on drinks for a moment, shall we? The King has a warrant with William Yeoward Crystal for his flutes and glasses, and Queen Elizabeth II opted for Royal Brierley Crystal instead — one of the oldest and most prestigious names in British glassware.
For plating up your throne-worthy dishes, try investing in tableware from Royal Doulton, Wedgewood or Mayfair’s Thomas Goode & Co — the latter of which held a warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. Cutlery? It’s got to be Grant MacDonald Silversmiths for the fancy stuff, including knives and forks plated in 24 carat gold. Swish.
William Yeoward Athena Champagne Flute
Royal Doulton Union Street 12pc Dinnerware Set
Grant MacDonald Tea and Coffee Set
And, once you’ve laid out your spread on the dining table — itself probably from Peter Jones, if Charles and Philip’s past furniture warrants are anything to go by — you’ve just got to come up with the conversation. Being a royal brunch, it’ll probably range from where this afternoon’s drive in the Land Rover will take you, which of your many horses need reshoeing (there’s five farriers on the royal-warranted books) and which of your Holland & Holland shotguns you’re taking on next weekend’s shoot.
Or you could just have another Bloody Mary…