Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Lunch at Highgrove

The second day I was staying in the Cotswolds with my old friends couldn't have been more different to the first evening - we were booked in for a Christmas lunch at Highgrove, the Prince of Wales' house.
One of my friends works in the sales department of a hat factory which supplies the Prince's gift shop with tweed flat caps, and she was invited along to the Orchard Restaurant because of that. She and my other friend have been going every year since, and this year they invited me to come along with them.
On the way to Highgrove, we realised we had to turn back - I'd left my ticket in the house - so we turned round in the drive of Prince Charles' farm. The turning was marked by a giant carrot made of horseshoes. There had been a previous, wooden one, which was stolen (how on earth could the thieves re-sell that?). There's a shelter there with organic produce from the farm and an honesty box - two other vehicles pulled up while we were there, taking the opportunity to stock up with organic carrots and pumpkin.
We needed photo ID to get into the grounds, as well as our tickets, past a police officer with a machine gun and a charming chap who checked our names off the list and looked at our ID. It was tipping down with rain, but he still seemed quite cheerful. Another cheerful chap in a raincoat told us to leave phones and cameras in the car before we headed for the Orchard Room, where we assembled in an anteroom for a glass of champagne, while admiring the many water colours on the walls, painted by Prince Charles. He's really quite a good artist.
When around twenty people were there, a greeting from Prince Charles was read out (with an exhortation to buy things in the gift shop after lunch, profits to the Prince's Charitable Trust), and we were led through the first room of the gift shop to the restaurant, with the warning not to get too distracted - there'd be plenty of time to browse later.
The staff were friendly, and helpful - one of my friends is diabetic, so they sorted out a cheese board for her sweet rather than the sweet things on the menu that she couldn't eat, and the other friend hates the taste of butter, so they checked for her that the pan-fried salmon was cooked in oil. I had the beef, and it was deliciously tender, and the ice cream that came with the Christmas pudding cake was just superb. It wasn't overly expensive, either.
After the meal, we headed for the gift shop, which apparently gets bigger every year. This year it was spread over three rooms - the main one with general gifts, including the tweed flat caps and Christmas tree baubles, and books and so on, a room for garden related gifts (I bought a flower pot with a bee on the side), and a room for food and drink - teas and biscuits and chocolate and beer and wine. I got talking to one of the staff, who said she had been to Hay and enjoyed going round the bookshops, and she took me over to where they were giving a wine tasting for the Christmas Pudding Wine. It's kind of like a spicy port, and I'm sipping some now. I treated myself to a little jug with a running hare on the side, too.
And then we headed out - it was still raining, so very little chance to see any of the famous gardens, though we did drive past the main house at a distance.
As we were leaving, another lot of cars were arriving - they also do afternoon tea.

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