In her latest book, Tea at the Palace, Carolyn Robb presents a beloved aspect of British culture: afternoon tea.
A former personal chef to THR The Prince and Princess of Wales, Robb spent thirteen years working in royal residences. These palaces and houses hold their own special traditions, character and histories.
Robb’s book centres on twelve important royal dwellings: Buckingham Palace (HM The Queen’s home), Sandringham House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Brighton Pavilion, Highgrove House, Blenheim Palace, Balmoral Castle, The Castle of Mey in Scotland, Kew Palace, Windsor Castle and Caernarfon Castle in Wales.
Each section focuses on a royal dwelling and provides recipes along with chef notes on variations. The recipes associated with each residence pertain to culinary themes, such as chocolate treats, French-inspired foods, and floral delights. Robb’s book presents savoury and sweet dishes and treats for all occasions and seasons.
Many of these dishes illuminate the daily lives and preferences of members of the British Royal Family. The section on Kensington Palace highlights children’s party foods, which were favourites for the young princes William and Harry. Moving to The Castle of Mey, you will find Scotch pancakes and Selkirk Bannock, which Queen Victoria enjoyed with a cup of tea.
Robb’s introductions on each residence melds history with personal memories. These overviews include fascinating details about nearby orchards, local produce and general climate. She sheds light on lesser known figures, such as Winston’ Churchill’s cook, Georgina Landemare, who worked for his family in Blenheim Palace throughout the war and the transition period afterwards. Her cherished recipes demonstrate her thoughtful adjustment to rationing and wartime demands.
Tea at the Palace’s straightforward format, clear instructions and stunning culinary, landscape and architectural photography make for great reading and cooking experiences. Now that spring is here, a pleasant afternoon tea party is in order!
Reviewer: Azariah Alfante
Allen & Unwin