President Donald Trump’s highly controversial U.K. state visit is in full swing — a nauseating procession of pomp and ceremony afforded to world heads of state, wherein they are lavished with food, wine, and small talk from the British royal family.
The “highlight” of a state visit is appropriately the state banquet with the Queen, — famously a “brisk eater” — various royal dignitaries, and politicians which took place at Buckingham Palace last night. Typically, a menu of four courses is served at a state banquet: fish, meat, pudding, and dessert — which, distinct from pudding, is traditionally some fruit.
Last night’s menu for Donald Trump and his family was presented in French, as per tradition, and personally approved by the Queen, included a tranche of steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse, asparagus spears, and chervil sauce for starter.
The main course was new season (spring) Windsor (Royal’s own) lamb with herb stuffing, spring vegetables — including carrots with tarragon and “Pommes Elizabeth” (the Queen’s potatoes?) — and a port sauce.
Pudding was a strawberry sable with lemon verbena cream — a shortbread-like sweet stack. A selection of fresh fruit was served before coffee and petit fours.
The 170-person do took six months to plan, with the menu having been kept secret in the build up to the event. It takes a team of three officials eight weeks to unpack George IV’s Grand Service — the plates and some 2,000 pieces of cutlery used for these occasions. Each place setting is exactly 45 centimetres from the next and every chair is positioned an equal distance from the table. The room itself — which includes one massive horseshoe-shaped table — takes between three and five days to set. Around the table, 19 serving stations are each occupied by a page, footman, under butler, and wine butler.
All napkins are embroidered with the Queen’s monogram and folded into a Dutch bonnet by the same person to avoid the finished result differing.
To accompany last night’s menu, The Donald was served a senior selection of fine wines, including white Burgundy and some big-deal Claret, one of which was a Lafite Rosthchilde 1990 which, according to Wine Searcher, has an average retail price of £843, per bottle. This is England, though, so the Royal sommelier threw in a couple of English bins, a Windsor Great Park sparkling white to kick things off and non-vintage sparkling rosé from Hambledon in Hampshire to pair with the sable.
After the speeches and photo ops and before dinner is served, the press is asked to leave so unless he takes to Twitter to announce how Big League(!) it was, it will remain unknown how much Trump — famously a fan of Big Macs and Diet Coke — enjoyed the meal. It is worth noting that “under royal protocol guests cannot continue eating after the Queen has finished,” so a brand of decorum presumably unfamiliar to the visiting president might have presented some challenges.
Tonight, the President will be served more food at another big banquet, hosted by the U.S. ambassador at Wingfield House in Regent’s Park, where Trump is staying. (Typically, heads of state are put up at Buckingham Palace, but the Trumps had to find alternative accommodation because of “refurbishments.”)
Where last night’s event was white tie (and cropped jacket), tonight will be a black tie affair (and therefore marginally less formal). Other differences include the Queen’s absence; the most senior guests of honour will be Prince Charles — a modern prince who prefers olive oil instead of butter with his bread — and Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Correction: an earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to the price of the 1900 Chateau Lafite Rothschild (£9,360) rather than the 1990 vintage, which has an average price of £843 per bottle. Still wedge.