What do you do when you get an invitation to a day at the Ascot racecourse for the Royal Ascot fine dining preview launch headlined by two Michelin star chefs Raymond Blanc and Phil Howard? Start shopping for the fanciest hat you can afford of course. That is until I realized smart casual is the dress code for premier admission during jumps season – so my plans for a big & bold cobalt blue hat will have to wait.
Lunch at the Panoramic Restaurant, Ascot racecourse
An experience at the Ascot racecourse was one for the senses. I’d recommend watching the video first for a general sense of the energy and atmosphere because it was a thrill I haven’t experienced in a while. Bollinger champagne flowed more freely than water in the Panoramic Restaurant and for once I did not have to chase the canapé servers around (they can be pretty elusive at some events). While the Brit bought our betting cards I was busy taking in bite-sized black truffle arancini with black truffle mayo, popping wild mushroom tarts with enoki & truffle oil and savoring roasted fillet of Japanese beef with wasabi hollandaise. If the afternoon ended there I would have been happy enough.
As the fog rolled in outside we sat for our first course devised by Raymond Blanc, the Chef Patron of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons: a confit of salmon with cucumber ribbons, cauliflower and horseradish créme fraiche. The salmon was cooked in a water bath and tasted light as air, delicate and refined. In between courses we congregated at the narrow balcony outside the Panoramic Restaurant for the first of seven races. I was rooting for SpookyDooky but unbeknownst to me he wasn’t racing this round. It didn’t matter though because I was embracing the electric thrill of being at the Ascot racecourse, further amplified by the collective roars from the crowd.
By the time our mains arrived I had already worked up an appetite. An attractive dish of spring lamb, artichoke, smoked ricotta, artichoke, carrots and lamb jus by Ascot’s head chef, Gemma Amor was a beautiful medley of flavors on its own but did not quite work so well collectively and missed the mark for me. Dessert was a treat of strawberries, lemon verbena and Brillat Savarin by The Square’s Phil Howard, who will be hosting the Royal Ascot On5 Restaurant this year. It tasted like the promise of spring and if I wasn’t on my best behaviour I would have asked for seconds. At some point in the event a few of us found ourselves out on the muddy grounds crouched behind a bush just in time to see a frenzy of jockeys on horses fly over a bristled hedge. With the back of my legs coated with sludge and a fierce grin on my face we skipped back to the restaurant for afternoon tea hopeful of a big win for Bangkok Pete.
Note: I was a guest of the Ascot Racecourse, all views are my own.