Royal food and drink: What the Queen most often ate and drank

·4-min read
Special relationship: The Queen with Ronald Reagan  (Getty Images)
Special relationship: The Queen with Ronald Reagan (Getty Images)

Most of us will be looking for ways to pay tribute to the Queen over the coming days. Eating and drinking may seem a flippant way to do so, but few things bring people together like the habit of sharing memories around a table.

We can’t promise that following our guide to the Queen’s favourite food and drink will get you to the ripe old age of 96, but it might help get you through the next few weeks. Here’s to you, Ma’am.

To drink

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Raising a glass of Champagne feels the most fitting way to toast the Queen for a lifetime of unstinting service to the people of the UK and the Commonwealth. The Queen herself was known to enjoy a glass; Bollinger (£40, sainsburys.co.uk) was the first Champagne house to receive a royal warrant in 1884. Do make sure there’s some left for later — according to the Queen’s late cousin Margaret Rhodes, Her Majesty was partial to a glass of Champagne before bed.

The drink the Queen will forever be associated with, however, is a gin and Dubonnet, which tastes a bit like a sweet Negroni and was also a favourite tipple of the Queen Mother. Mix two parts Dubonnet (£10, waitrose.com) with one part gin; perhaps the Buckingham Palace Gin (£40, royalcollectionshop.co.uk) launched in 2021. The choice of gin, though, is less important than the ice: the Queen preferred round ice cubes, on the grounds they don’t chink as noisily as square ones and take longer to dilute the drink.

Breakfast

The Queen was said to have four meals a day but only eat small portions at each. She began her day with a cup of Earl Grey tea (Fortnum and Mason, and Twinings are thought to have been favoured) and a biscuit followed by a bowl of Special K, poured from an airtight Tupperware container to keep the cereal crunchy. If she was still hungry, she would have a slice of white toast with marmalade, or else smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (brown eggs, for preference, which she believed taste better). But, should you wish to be more like a royal, the term is “buttered eggs”.

Lunch

Second-hand copies of Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen by the Queen’s former private chef Darren McGrady are currently available on Amazon for about £85 (amazon.co.uk). However, Her Maj’s tastes were so simple that a cookbook hardly seems required.

Lunch for the Queen usually meant a simple plate of grilled meat or fish and vegetables: chicken with salad, perhaps, or Dover sole with wilted spinach or courgettes. Starchy carbs of pasta, potatoes and rice were reserved for special occasions, though like the rest of the Buckingham Palace staff, the Queen enjoyed a lunch of fish and chips on a Friday, albeit coated in panko breadcrumbs rather than batter.

Afternoon tea

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Queen might have had simple tastes in food but she was also possessed of a sweet tooth. Afternoon tea was a daily ritual involving scones with jam and clotted cream, with the jam on first, in the Cornish way. Another sweet favourite, according to McGrady, was “chocolate perfection pie”, layered with white and dark chocolate. There was also a chocolate biscuit cake made with McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits that was known to be such a favourite it was served at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Of course, it’s not an afternoon tea without sandwiches. The Queen was partial to cucumber, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and ham-and-mustard finger sandwiches served, naturally, with the crusts cut off. Morecambe Bay potted shrimps on toast was another savoury favourite; Waitrose sells pots of brown Lancashire shrimp in spiced butter for £4 (waitrose.com).

Supper

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Wild food sourced from the Balmoral estate was a regular on the Queen’s dinner plate: salmon fished from the river Dee, or venison made into a super-healthy burger with cranberries. Try a “Balmoral fillet” from royal warrant holder John Ross Jr (£45, johnrossjr.com), which has been smoking salmon in Aberdeen since 1857. Venison burgers are easier to get hold of — Morrisons has a pair of Highland Venison burgers for £2.75 (morrisons.com) — and avoid pairing anything with lingering flavours: garlic and onion were very much off the menu for Her Maj.

For pudding,white peaches from the greenhouses at Windsor Castle or Balmoral strawberries with cream (the UK strawberry season is still going strong) finished a simple supper on a seasonal British note.

Do not, however, load up the dishwasher before that pre-bedtime glass of Champagne. Washing up in rubber gloves when off-duty was a routine that brought the Queen close to a feeling of normal life, so much so that the Sandringham Estate shop sells a “Natural Dish Wash” (£14.99, sandringhamestate.co.uk) for doing the dishes. The Queen wanted to feel close to her subjects; it only feels right that we repay the honour however we can.