For many of us, January is a time to cut down on food and drink following the excesses of Christmas. This was clearly not the case for the Prince Regent.
200 years ago, Prince George hosted Grand Duke Nicolas of Russia in an extraordinary banquet at the Royal Pavilion. The meal consisted of over 100 dishes prepared by celebrity chef Antonin Careme. Some of the more exotic dishes included:
- The head of a great sturgeon in Champagne
- Jellied partridge with mayonnaise
- Pigeons in crayfish butter
- Terrine of larks
- Rose ice cream
- The Royal Pavilion rendered in pastry
The Prince Regent was famed for his excessive eating, and frequently mocked for his obesity. But this banquet was as much of a performance as an eating pleasure; the sheer scale and extravagance of the feast suggests that it was designed to impress.
A copy of the menu for this banquet can be seen by visitors in the Great Kitchen of the Royal Pavilion. The menu is also available to buy in the form of a tea towel or a chopping board, two of the most popular items in our online shop.
You can learn more about how George dined at the Royal Pavilion in this extract from our audio tour with David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion.
Dinner started at six o’clock, and went on for several hours. It usually consisted of dozens of courses, with several dishes served at once, as David Beevers explains:
‘It was called ‘service à la française’; there was ‘service à la française’ and ‘service à la russe’. ‘Service à la russe’ is what we use more or less today at formal dinners with each course brought to you by a waiter. ‘Service à la française’ was the courses were laid out on the table and you helped yourself to them and helped your neighbour to them and you might have three or four, what we would call courses, all laid out on the table at the same time. The table was very overloaded with plates and food and all kinds of things going on.’
At the end of the 18th century, it was customary for gentlemen to sit at one side of the table and ladies to sit at the other, with the order dictated by rank. George preferred a different arrangement, which, like his chefs, was a French import: placing men and women next to each other. It also meant greater contact between men and women, with all the possibilities for discreet dalliance that this entailed. For George, it meant he could sit beside whoever was his current favourite. And rather than being stuck at the end of the table, he sat in the middle, where he could be at the centre of things: the life and soul of the party.
Please remember you can ask staff if you have any other questions about this room.
You can also view both the Great Kitchen and the Banqueting Room online on one of our virtual tours of the Royal Pavilion.