Many of us may be used to the car park picnic during Royal Ascot (17-21 June), but this year the course is giving homemade Scotch eggs a run for their money. Expect celebrity chefs with four Michelin stars between them; a new restaurant with spectacular views and Tom Kerridge in the kitchen, backed by a team from his Hand & Flowers pub; and innovative menus using exquisite ingredients, some to be flown in from Paris each morning.
Atul Kocher of Benares and formerly Tamarind brings two Michelin stars to the table. At a press conference, we enjoyed his proposed starter of pan-fried sea bass with a potato and beetroot mash and turmeric coconut sauce; a glorious mix of contemporary British ingredients with Indian spices produced an unforgettable effect. ‘Royal Ascot is a special occasion and I want people to feel they’re having a really great meal and being looked after. That was the goal and I think we’ve come up with something to reflect this,’ said Atul.
Tom Kerridge’s Ascot criterion was to ‘celebrate the sense of occasion, giving a taste of the taste and feeling of the Hand & Flowers. It’s finding the balance between what we do and what we can do on this scale.’
For our main course Tom produced a dish that would have the British Heart Foundation gasping: treacle-cured fillet of Lancashire beef, with ‘Hand & Flower’ chips, béarnaise sauce and onion rings. The beef was heavenly, tender and dense with flavour. The whole dish gave the impression of not trying but achieving.
Steve Golding has been Ascot’s head chef since 2002 and will be responsible for ‘an innovative, sumptuous five course luncheon’ in the Parade Ring restaurant. His ‘After Eight’ dessert was adventurous to say the least; one or two notable food bloggers muttered something about there being too much going with several mint and chocolate variations. We were less convinced by juxtaposition of tastes, namely the cucumber gel, but the spearmint sorbet was the stuff of dreams.
Patrons who dine in one of the four top-priced restaurants will gain Royal Ascot membership, gaining access to the Royal Enclosure. Location commands a high price at Ascot: as much as £1,700 per head on Ladies’ Day in the Parade Ring restaurant. However, as well as a culinary journey, it promises a walk-on role by the Queen who makes her way through the restaurant in order to reach the Royal Box next door.
Steve Golding heads up the à la carte menu in this restaurant and ‘sheer indulgence and decadence produced with all my love’ is his mantra. One can expect to see lobster, turbot and the best cuts of meat accompanied by the finest wines and vintage champagne, paired by a sommelier.
In addition to the restaurants, which will expect to entertain 35,000 guests during the event, Ascot has the largest number of private boxes of any sporting facility in Europe with 245 accommodating for 5,000 guests each day.
For more information on dining at Ascot visit www.ascot.co.uk