The nation is understandably fascinated by what goes on behind the closed doors of our royal palaces, but few subjects have generated quite as much interest as what the royal family – and particularly Queen Elizabeth II herself – like to eat.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports about what the Queen eats in a day, from elaborate afternoon teas to the chocolate biscuit cake that’s so iconic it had a place on the dessert table at Prince William and Kate’s wedding. In fact, Her Majesty’s sweet tooth is apparently ever-increasing, with afternoon tea treats disappearing faster than ever before.
‘That’s not just because they’re being snaffled by the corgis,’ a source told The Sun. ‘HM is getting through more nibbles these days.’
When it comes to sitting down at the dining table, many of her most-loved meals are thought to be classic British affairs: for instance, when she’s on holiday at Balmoral, the Scottish residence where she spends the summer, it’s said that the Queen treats herself to a fish supper.
An insider close to the family told Fabulous: ‘She very occasionally treats herself to fish and chips when at Balmoral. A footman is despatched to get it from the local town of Ballater.’
However, generally our Queen is not the type to send out for a takeaway – in fact, former royal chef Darren McGrady told Insider that she eschews pretty much all genres of fast food. ‘Her Majesty’s Victorian upbringing dictates that the only thing you would pick up and eat with your fingers is afternoon tea,’ he notes.
The one exception to this rule is burgers, but she’ll only have a homemade version, and served without a bun. ‘It always tickled me at Balmoral, we would make our own burgers,’ McGrady added.
‘They would shoot deer, and we would do venison burgers. There’d be gorgeous cranberry and everything stuffed into them, but we never set buns out.’
Back in the 90s, former pilot Graham Laurie says the Queen was also partial to a comforting tinned Fray Bentos pie when she travelled long-haul. ‘Do you know, [the family] used to love it,’ he said as part of a Channel 5 documentary. ‘I think it’s such a lovely change from all that fancy food which comes first class!’
And although her tastes have likely moved on since then, there’s still one thing we don’t know about Her Majesty’s diet – her absolute favourite dish of all time.
According to her staff, there’s a very good reason why Liz has never let slip the name of the meal she loves more than any other. Gordon Rayner, who served as royal correspondent at The Telegraph for more than 20 royal tours, told the Express recently: ‘As one of her staff told me, “If she said she had a favourite meal she would never get served anything else.”‘
So we may never find out what our monarch is partial to for dinner when she gets to choose a plate, but we do still know plenty of her other favourites, should she ever decide to pop round for a bite to eat one day.
Here’s 24 hours in the day of a royal kitchen – according to reports, at least…
What the Queen eats in a day
Darren McGrady told The Telegraph previously that the Queen is a fan of a rather humble breakfast of cereal, and is especially keen on Special K, which she pours from a plastic container for freshness.
‘The Queen loved scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a grating of truffle,’ he added. ‘But she was too frugal to ever order fresh truffles and only really enjoyed them at Christmas when the truffles were sent as a gift.’
Occasionally, she might opt for toast and marmalade, or eggs – brown ones, as she believes that they taste better, according to The Guardian.
McGrady reports that she’ll accompany her breakfast with Darjeeling tea, but butler Grant Harrold has said in the past that HRH also likes either Assam and Earl Grey, and will always pour the tea in first if she’s taking milk.
Margaret Rhodes, a late cousin of the Queen, once stated that Queen Elizabeth II enjoys an aperetif before lunch, consisting of a gin and Dubonnet – a sweet, wine-based aperitif – with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice (she has a lot of thoughts about ice cubes, apparently). A woman after our own hearts.
In fact, while an obscure choice, it turns out that a gin and Dubonnet is one of the Queen’s favourite drinks. Speaking about the drink on the Royally Obsessed podcast, cocktail expert Noah Rothbaum said: ‘It was very popular in the 60s and 70s and then kind of disappeared for a while. In other parts of the world, they are enduringly popular. So it makes a lot of sense that the Queen would be a fan of it. But it is sort of bizarre, it’s not a traditional Pimm’s cup.’
Speaking to Food & Wine, McGrady explained that lunch looks very different for the Queen when she’s entertaining – it might be four courses of heavy meals with butter and cream, with a main meal of game caught at her estate, which she ‘loves to eat’.
However, when she’s by herself, the dish is likely to be a simple piece of lean meat or fish with vegetables on the side, or a grilled chicken salad, and a small portion at that. McGrady has said on several occasions that his former boss is not a foodie like her husband Prince Philip, but is very health conscious, and ‘very disciplined’ when it comes to dining.
But its not all self-restraint, all the time – after lunch, Margaret Rhodes stated that she does sometimes wash down her meal with a glass of wine. And on Sunday, she’ll opt for a roast dinner after church, choosing the well-done end slice of a joint.
The tradition of afternoon tea lives on in the royal household, and it’s thought to be a daily affair. Despite her restraint at meal times, ‘the Queen is a total chocoholic,’ McGrady laughed to Food & Wine. ‘Chocolate biscuit cake [made with McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits] is her favourite, but a chocolate éclair or a slice of chocolate perfection pie works too.’
These are served alongside a number of other elaborate cakes, scones and pastries, and jam pennies – miniature raspberry jam sandwiches cut into circles the size of an English Penny, which Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed in her childhood with her sister Princess Margaret.
Chocolate aside, Dundee cake and honey and cream sponge were previously said to be top of the Queen’s list of preferences, although ‘now, the Queen has cut back on cakes and just has sandwiches,’ according to McGrady. These are usually made with traditional fillings such as salmon, cucumber, egg mayonnaise or ham and mustard.
It’s usually another small meal for the Queen when no guests are present – ‘no starch is the rule,’ McGrady declares. ‘No potatoes, rice or pasta for dinner. Just usually something like grilled sole with vegetables and salad.’
The Telegraph notes that twice a week, she browses through a red leather-bound book of menu suggestions from the head chef to the royal household, selecting her favourites to keep things interesting. Dishes that can be sourced from her properties, such as fillets of beef and venison from Sandringham and Balmoral, are favoured, and served with mushroom, cream and whisky sauce (and speaking of mushrooms, they’re always cooked with ‘a smidgen of Marmite’ for an extra savoury richness).
When it comes to fruit, the Queen also likes eating seasonally, enjoying strawberries from her garden at Balmoral in the summer, as well as white peaches from the greenhouses at Windsor Castle.
In the evening, she’ll sometimes pour a dry martini or glass of champagne to finish the day. We can’t think of a more fitting end to the feasting.