Royal Ascot 2018: What to Expect!

Royal Ascot 2018: What to Expect!

There are few better sporting sounds than the roar of the crowd as the first race of the Royal Ascot festival gets under way.

Thousands of horse-racing enthusiasts gather trackside to hear the pounding of hooves on turf as the finest jockeys and mounts get the punters on their feet in hope of a win and almost certainly a bottle of bubbly in celebration of a winner.

Though hospitality options increasingly come into the public consciousness during every event, horse racing is one of the few sports where food and drink have always been synonymous.

Sponsors of the major races over the calendar often feature high-end spirits or sparkling wines, while celebrity chefs continue to ensconce themselves at courses up and down the country. At Ascot it is no different.

Raymond Blanc OBE has held a position in the kitchens during the famous race meeting for the past five years and returns once more for 2018, while Royal Ascot will also welcome a star-studded chef line-up that includes five Michelin stars and a Bib Gourmand to the event.

“There’s a huge amount of talent at this year’s table,” says Jonathan Parker, director of F&B at Ascot Racecourse. “Raymond will be here across all five days of the Royal Meeting, bringing his two-star classic French cuisine from Belmond le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons to the lofty heights of the Panoramic Restaurant once again.

“Phil Howard will also return as chef in residence of ON5 for a fourth Royal Ascot, this time bringing his 2017 Michelin star that was awarded for his fine food served at Elystan Street restaurant in Chelsea.”

New for 2018, two-Michelin-star chef Simon Rogan joins the line-up with a restaurant in the Royal Enclosure Gardens as he brings a taste of his incredibly successful Roganic concept to the racecourse.

Having been so well received by London foodies in 2011 when he launched Roganic as a pop-up, Rogan launched his permanent site in London in late 2017 alongside his development kitchen and chef’s table Aulis.

Also new to the fold this year is Adam Handling of The Frog E1 and his more recently opened restaurant in Covent Garden. Having risen through the ranks to the
finals of Masterchef The Professionals in 2013, Handling will take over The Balmoral – a brand new restaurant for 2018.

“It’s a perfect match for the restaurant’s Scottish Summer vibe,” says Parker. “Adam’s Bib Gourmand food is exciting, fresh and offers diners a taste of some of Scotland’s finest ingredients.”

ITV chef James Tanner will also return for a second year, having had a super-successful Royal Ascot in 2017 when he hosted the Queen Anne Kitchen. This year he brings this well-received concept back to the Royal Meeting alongside a second concept – The Burger Kitchen – where racegoers can enjoy his sell-out gourmet burgers from last year.

Royal Ascot will welcome around 300,000 guests across the five-day festival, with Thursday’s Gold Cup Day being the busiest with more than 80,000 racegoers.

More than 35,000 fine-dining covers are expected to be served across 15 restaurants, with a further 12,500 walk-up diners expected across the site’s F&B outlets.

With an average of 60,000 racegoers per day, many more will head to the 30+ on-the-go concepts open across all four enclosures, while there will also be 3,200 covers across the 210 private boxes.

“We have a wide range of options that is tiered,” says Parker. “Starting with The Pavilion in the Queen Anne Enclosure, which is 800 covers and is more traditional corporate hospitality, to The Village Restaurant in the centre of the course offering a vibrant and al fresco garden party feel, through to Michelin-star chefs taking over Panoramic and ON5.”

During Royal Ascot the F&B team will swell from its 60-strong full-time staff to include 4,500 temporary staff.

“The racecourse has partnered with Sodexo Prestige for more than 10 years now and last year we launched a joint catering venture – 1711 by Ascot,” says Parker.
“Our food and drink operation has continued to go from strength to strength, so we wanted it to have its own customer-facing identity.”

So named because the course was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, 1711 by Ascot is responsible for delivering outstanding hospitality, fine dining and ‘on-the-go’ on-site catering across 26 annual race days, with further conferences and events at the venue throughout the year.

“For us at Ascot Racecourse, our guests of course come for the horse racing, but it’s also a real sense of occasion, particularly during Royal Ascot,” says Parker. “It’s about bringing together the fashion, heritage, pageantry, racing and fine food into one memorable experience.

“With horse racing, the on-track action comes in short, sharp bursts with a six-race card each of the five days. In between the racing we want people to enjoy themselves, whether that’s through the food they’re enjoying, live entertainment, socialising with friends or simply soaking up the atmosphere. Food plays an intrinsic part in that overall experience, with afternoon tea also synonymous with Royal Ascot.

“It’s important that we’re offering something tasty for everyone. Whether that’s the Sussex Charmer offering the best cheese on toast ever in the Queen Anne Enclosure, street-food-style pop-ups in the Village Enclosure, noodles in the Windsor Enclosure or a fine-dining feast from two-Michelin-star chef Simon Rogan in the Royal Enclosure Gardens – there really is something for every price point and palate.”

This year, the Royal Ascot F&B portfolio will welcome three new F&B concepts: The Balmoral, Windsor Forest and The Furlong Restaurant.

The Balmoral

How many covers? 220

What is the dining style?
It’s combination of interactive chef stations and a small a la carte menu offering table service.

Fine-Dining or general admission?
This is a relaxed fine-dining option so the price includes admission, food and drink and a dedicated table for the day.

Style of food?
With chef Adam Handling being from Scotland and The Balmoral designed to be a gentle nod to a summer spent in the Highlands, this is a perfect pairing as Handling brings his culinary flair to life with the best seasonal Scottish flavours. Think classic British dishes such as beef Wellington but with a twist of haggis. Handling will also have his own pop-up smokehouse serving the best seafood found in the British Isles.

Why was it created?
The new relaxed fine-dining concepts have been created to offer racegoers more flexibility with how they plan and enjoy their day. Some people want to have the freedom to interact with the chefs and have more or less of a certain dish whereas others want a more formal table service experience – this offers both options in an atmosphere that is relaxed but still elegant.

The Furlong Restaurant

How many covers? 400-450

What is the dining style?
A well-known Royal Ascot feature, the former Furlong Club will be transformed for 2018 into a new and spacious fine-dining restaurant in the Queen Anne Enclosure. Light and airy with lounge areas for guests to retreat to and an expansive viewing deck running its entire length, the Furlong Restaurant offers racegoers a unique dining experience with both seated and grazing dining concepts. Offering a casual feel with a four-course lunch and afternoon tea that can be customised by each guest, this is a prime spot for views of the straight mile.

Fine-Dining or general admission?
This is classed as a fine-dining option, with this being characterised by having a dedicated space for the day. Although the atmosphere will be vibrant, sociable and convivial, the service and food will still be of a Royal Ascot standard. Drinks aren’t included in this package, but there will be fully stocked bars offering everything from premium soft drinks to champagne and the Royal Blush cocktail.

Style of food?
This restaurant will consist entirely of interactive chef stations that offer an array of foods for both lunch and afternoon tea.

Why was it created?
The Furlong Restaurant was also created in response to in-depth customer feedback that indicated guests wanted the freedom to pick and choose more or less of the foods they wanted to enjoy. Having these stations also adds a little food theatre to the day as people interact with the chefs and service staff more, whether they’re looking for dish recommendations or want more information on dietary requirement-friendly foods.

Windsor Forest

How many covers? 48

What is the dining style?
The Windsor Forest is getting a complete revamp for this year, which will see it become the venue’s top restaurant with the provision of a completely bespoke experience where guests can enjoy whatever food and drink they want at whatever time of day.

Fine-Dining or general admission?
A fine-dining ticket includes admission, private table, all food and drink, racecard and tipster, and private viewing deck.

Style of food?
Contemporary fine-dining that includes food service all day – guests can enjoy their lunch from 11am until 3.30pm from a completely a la carte menu, with afternoon tea following. There’s also a grazing menu that runs alongside afternoon tea offering a selection of savoury favourites such as Aberdeen Angus beef sliders and tempura langoustine. A dedicated cocktail bar will be creating anything a guest wants throughout the day and a fully stocked bar will offer a wine list presented by Champagne Bollinger. It’s about curating your own day, exactly how you want.

Why was it created?
At this level, although it’s the Royal Enclosure and therefore has a strict dress code, customer feedback has very much indicated that people want the incredible experience of a day at Royal Ascot but without the restrictions of having set times for lunch. Each guest will have a private table for the duration of the day with the option to graze throughout the afternoon on the viewing deck. With just 45 covers, this is the most intimate restaurant in the Royal Ascot portfolio, allowing guests to have a luxurious space for the day with prime views over the winning post and a completely personalised experience.

Who is the chef?
Ascot’s talented executive chef Gemma Amor and head chef Ben Dutson have been working to create a menu that epitomises the style, elegance and occasion of Royal Ascot, utlising the wealth of summertime flavours and local produce available.