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April 22, 2011 10:14 pm
The announcement of the royal wedding has been met with a flurry of patriotic opportunism in the world of food and drink. Cocktail bartenders have searched for nuptial themes in their drinks cabinets, pub landlords have chalked up promises of “royal wedding” food, and some establishments have gone the whole hog and offered a bespoke piece of consumable monarchy. The Langham hotel, for example, is offering “Tea Royale” until the end of May, complete with “Westminster Abbey chocolate cake”.
Though it’s possibly unlikely we will see an edible classic emerge from this royal event, as coronation chicken did in 1953 for the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II, there have been some imaginative attempts to celebrate William and Kate’s forthcoming union. Food artists Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have teamed up with Selfridges to create a jelly mould of Buckingham Palace, site of the post-wedding balcony wave. The pair drew inspiration from the 1863 marriage of Prince Edward to Princess Alexandra of Denmark when, says Bompas, “wonderfully ingenious” jelly moulds were made – “the Brunswick Star to symbolise Prince Edward and the Alexandra Cross to symbolise Princess Alexandra, each with inner liners so you could put a different-coloured jelly in the centre”.
There were practical reasons for choosing Buckingham Palace. “The towers on Westminster Abbey – they’d be a disaster in jelly,” says Bompas. He is pleased with the result: “It’s got a great wobble. Jelly wobbles in the most intriguing way, an S-wave up and down.” To fill the mould, Bompas suggests something celebratory – gin jelly with fruit, perhaps, or “a touch of violet liqueur to give a royal purple colour would be wonderful.”
Chantal Coady, founder of upmarket chocolate company Rococo, also felt moved to put a royal spin on a new product. “We did a chocolate bar for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee which was very successful,” she says. “This was much more of a challenge. [William and Kate] are both quite private people and we know much less about them... In the end, we drew inspiration from their engagement in Africa.” And so the chocolate box features the happy couple in a jaunty biplane flying past a Mount Kilimanjaro sunset. The image was painted by Coady herself, who designs and creates all Rococo’s packaging. “It must have taken the best part of two weeks to get the design finished. I do hope that it’s something people will want to keep after the wedding is over.”
Indeed, it’s the royal wedding chocolate boxes and biscuit tins that traditionally outlive the marriages they celebrate. In Scotland, royal warrant-holders Walkers has just brought out a limited edition tin of shortbread, complete with a large engagement photograph on the lid. “Every time we produce a commemorative tin, there’s a big demand for it,” explains Jim Walker, the managing director. “For this tin we’ve abandoned our corporate colours for a royal blue, inspired by [Kate’s Middleton’s official] engagement dress.” With the wedding date only announced last November, Walkers had to work swiftly. “It takes us three to four months to make a tin like this,” says Walker, “so we only have a few weeks to sell them before the wedding, though I expect interest to continue into the summer.” Twinings, another royal warrant-holder, has also produced a commemorative tin, containing a specially created floral blend of white Earl Grey tea.
And if you think this is modern consumerism at work, look at the Royal Wedding Souvenirs exhibition currently running at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London. It includes an extremely rare decorative mustard tin, also brought out in 1863 for Edward and Alexandra’s wedding. “Ever since 1863, weddings and coronations have been marked with commemorative tins,” says packaging historian Robert Opie. “The manufacturer’s name would always be very discreetly present. There’s an unwritten royal protocol which means that manufacturers don’t intertwine their names with images of royalty; that respect still exists today.” This is certainly true of the Walkers tin; as Jim Walker points out, “Our name is attached to the tin on a swing tag.”
Subtlety is not always a priority: Waitrose last week launched a royal trifle in collaboration with chef Heston Blumenthal. “We wanted to develop a dessert with Heston that could be served at street parties,” says Waitrose product developer Michelle Gibbs. “We decided to keep it British as it’s a very British event, so we went for a combination of two iconic British desserts – trifle and Eton mess. It’s very indulgent and luxurious.” And in true Blumenthal fashion, it is also complicated: “Instead of custard we have saffron cream, while the topping is a meringue crown, sprinkled with ‘edible confetti.’”
Walkers’ Royal Wedding Limited Edition Tin (£10 for 450g), www.walkersshortbread.com ;
Twinings’ Royal Wedding Blend Tea (£5 for a caddy with 20 tea bags), www.twinings.co.uk ;
Rococo Chocolates’ “Biplane over Kilimanjaro” box with an African Dawn Chocolate Plaque (£9.50), www.rococochocolates.com ;
Bompas & Parr’s Buckingham Palace jelly mould (£12.95), www.selfridges.com ;
“Royal Wedding Souvenirs” runs at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, London W11 until August 31, www.museumofbrands.com
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