Tea for One

What would you eat if you could have anything you wanted, whenever you wanted it? The Queen prefers it plain and simple

The Queen doesn’t seem particularly bothered about food. She oversees the menus at the Palace every week but she tends to be just as interested in what the dogs are going to eat. Her corgis always join her for afternoon tea at which they are treated to freshly-baked scones which their adoring mistress crumbles up for them. Her chefs also prepare dainty sandwiches and cakes and, of course, the Queen’s special blend of tea.

The precise blend is a closely-guarded secret. Royal warrant holders Twinings are well aware that if you supply the royal household, the first rule is confidentiality. But from my experience of drinking tea at the Palace, I’d say there’s a generous helping of Earl Grey mixed, perhaps with the smoky flavour of Lapsang Souchong. In any case, it is a unique and delicate blend.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to one of the Queen’s summer garden parties, you’ll have an idea of how precise and perfect royal cuisine tends to be. The crustless sandwiches are cut to a uniform shape and size, the patisserie is a work of art and it’s all very tasty.

But if you’re looking for the wow factor, you need to get yourself invited to a meal with the Prince of Wales. With him, it’s all about the very finest organic and seasonal ingredients; fabulous cuts of Welsh lamb or local beef with freshly-picked vegetables from his extensive kitchen garden at Highgrove or, perhaps, the wild mushrooms he likes to forage at Balmoral.

I once had a long conversation with the Prince about custard marrows while having tea in his drawing room at Highgrove. I remember sitting in a deep settee with very high arms and being rather embarrassed about how to extricate a cup from a highlipped tray offered by the butler. It all seemed very awkward – but the tea was good and so were the Duchy of Cornwall biscuits.

Our meeting was taking place in the midst of the breakdown of his marriage to Diana – so gardening seemed a safe topic and the Prince seemed genuinely interested to hear about the bright yellow, organic custard marrows my husband and I had grown. And if you’re lucky enough to be asked to stay for canapés and champagne, do not demur. The nibbles at the Palace are good – but Prince Charles goes one step better and favours Anton Mosimann’s exotic creations which, in my experience, simply cannot be bettered.

Jennie Bond is a former BBC royal correspondent

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