Food fit for a king as Palace prepares for royal wedding

THE royal wedding guests will celebrate the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in one of the most opulent buildings in the world — Buckingham Palace.

On April 29 the doors of the Queen’s official London home will open for the privileged 600 invited to the canape reception where the hospitality will match the surroundings.

Nineteen state rooms in the royal residence will be used for the afternoon event and the intimate evening dinner and dance planned for 300 of the couple’s closest friends and family.

Jennifer Scott, assistant curator of paintings at the Royal Collection, highlighted how the Palace was designed to impress guests with its ostentatious decorations and world-class art collection.

She said: “When we think about what George IV did for Buckingham Palace, he turned it into a showy building, a building we could be proud of, a national institution almost like a British monument.

“He got the architect John Nash to design Buckingham Palace and the overall sense was to have an opulent building which was very much a show (piece).

“The 19 state rooms, which are used during state functions, drip with opulence they really are intended to make people think ‘Wow, this is an incredible Palace’.”

Among the state rooms used for the reception will be the white drawing room, music room, blue drawing room and state dining room — all found in the west wing — and the nearby picture gallery.

In the 1820s George IV commissioned Nash to rebuild his mother’s home, the Queen’s House, as the property was then known, into a palace but by 1829 the costs were approaching £500,000 (€568,183) — almost £50,000 over budget.

The king died before the Palace was completed and his younger brother William IV, who succeeded him, finished the work but never moved in. It was Queen Victoria who became the first monarch to take up residence in July 1837.

The west wing’s state rooms, where the guests will mingle, are virtually unchanged since Nash’s time and much of their furniture and works of art were bought or made for Carlton House, George IV’s London base when he was Prince of Wales.

The focus of the reception will be in the Palace’s picture gallery where the wedding cake — a multi-tiered fruit confection created by Fiona Cairns — is expected to be on display surrounded by priceless paintings by Old masters like Canaletto, Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian acquired by the monarchy over the centuries.

The Queen’s head chef spoke of his pride at having the task of creating an unforgettable menu for the wedding reception.

Mark Flanagan said his Buckingham Palace kitchen team would be under pressure and working flat out but would be guided by the need to ensure the food was a memorable experience.

The cook, who has worked for some of the world’s best chefs, like Michel and Albert Roux and Raymond Blanc, is relishing the challenge of preparing dishes for the guests.

But Flanagan remained tight-lighted about which hot and cold canapes and sweets would be served to those invited, only hinting that the best British produce would be used.

The 43-year-old, who said his staff of 21 were “excited” about the royal nuptials, added: “For us to be involved in any of the large events is just great, it’s a huge opportunity for us to say we were part of that.

“Whether it’s for the visit of Mr Obama (in May) or the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday (in the summer) or the royal wedding, they’re all chance-in-a-lifetime events.”

The chef added: “At any large event we are always conscious of trying to make sure we uphold people’s expectations when they come to Buckingham Palace.

“For a lot of people it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Much of the produce from game to vegetables is sourced from the monarch’s gardens and estates around the country and Royal Warrant-holding suppliers.

Talking about the canapes which will be served, Flanagan, who has worked at the Palace for nine years, said: “We wouldn’t really go into any of the specifics for the big day but we always concentrate on showing off the best of British produce — so your bets are safe on that.”

A typical canape selection could include smoked salmon on a beetroot blini, confit duck-leg terrine with smoked duck and pear chutney, quails eggs with celery salt and Ragstone goats cheese, with caramelised walnuts and parmesan crisp.

The sweets made by the pastry chefs may include dark, milk and white truffles, blood orange pate de fruit and raspberry financiers. Canapes are made to be consumed in two bites and the food will be washed down by champagne and wine from the extensive palace cellars.

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