Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

KaiMay 2, 2023

Bunting, banquets and bottomless Pimm’s: Britain goes coronation crazy 

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

With Union Jacks adorning every window and monarchist merch in every shop, it’s fair to say Blighty has jumped on the coronation bandwagon. Alice Peacock reports from London – and tries out the official coronation quiche.

The king’s coronation weekend is approaching and the UK is descending into monarchy madness, with themed food and booze, events for every man and his dog (literally), plus a long weekend even for those not royally inclined.

The coronation, which will see His Majesty King Charles III crowned alongside Camilla, the Queen Consort, is taking place on Saturday, May 6 and means the UK gets an extra public holiday the following Monday. 

Across the UK, plans are under way for street parties and picnics, while in London, there are bottomless Pimm’s brunches, afternoon tea in a double-decker red bus as it tours the city, a patriotic cookie-decorating class and, bizarrely, a coronation-themed “barking banquet pooch party”. 

A screenshot of the website advertising the "Barking Banquet Pooch Party", plus a photo of a cavalier king charles spaniel wearing a crown

Buckingham Palace is gearing up for a weekend extravaganza, involving a coronation procession, the RAF flypast and the coronation concert, during which Katy Perry will take to a stage in the grounds of Windsor Castle. 

The food with which Britain is celebrating the occasion has received almost as much attention as Prince Harry’s much-anticipated attendance. Supermarkets have brought out ranges of themed food, while restaurants have added dishes and even whole menus to their repertoire.

Lining the shelves of Morrisons and Sainsbury’s are coronation chicken-flavoured crisps and coronation orange gin liqueur, while Waitrose has a chocolate jack russell cake named Jewel, decked out in a crown (it’s inspired by Beth and Bluebell, the king and queen consort’s jack russell duo). 

a sponge cake topped with mini crowns, a bottle of coronation liqueur, a packet of coronation chicken chips, crown-topped cakes and a jack russell-themed cake
Some of the UK supermarket chains’ coronation offerings, including Jewel the jack russell cake

In the interest of research, I visited Sainsbury’s before starting this assignment to pick up the ingredients for Charles and Camilla’s coronation quiche; the dish supposedly chosen by the king and queen consort themselves and suggested to be cooked as the centrepiece of coronation celebrations.

The creation of a signature dish for a royal coronation has long been tradition. “Poulet Reine Elizabeth”, now widely known as coronation chicken, was invented by Le Cordon Bleu London in 1953 for the crowning of Queen Elizabeth. It remains a reigning favourite for royal and non-royal occasions – it’s become a staple sandwich filling in the high-street chains. The original recipe is described as involving chicken, boned and coated in curry cream sauce, with, at one end of each dish, a well-seasoned and dressed salad of rice, green peas and pimentos.

It’s looking unlikely that coronation quiche – which Buckingham Palace’s official website describes as a “deep quiche with a crisp, light pastry case and delicate flavours of spinach, broad beans and fresh tarragon”, which can be eaten hot or cold with a green salad and boiled new potatoes – will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and become a classic. The dish has been criticised for a variety of reasons, including its inappropriateness in light of the UK’s egg shortage, its French origins, its lack of meat (despite Nigel Farage’s horror, it’s not actually vegetarian if you make your own pastry from the official recipe, which calls for lard), and the fact that it’s, well, quiche. 

But as Zoe Williams pointed out in the Guardian, the chefs tasked with creating this year’s coronation dish didn’t have an easy task. While coronation chicken is undoubtedly delicious, its use of curry powder in a nod to colonial India wouldn’t fly in 2023. “Today’s chefs were in a bind. There wasn’t a single reference they could make from across the Commonwealth that wouldn’t leave a bit of a dodgy taste in the mouth, whether it was delicious or not.”

a quiche on a plate held up against a window out of which you can see a London street scene
Behold: the coronation quiche (Photo: Alice Peacock)

The recipe was simple enough to follow, albeit with a palace-approved shortcut involving a sheet of ready-made shortcrust pastry. To maintain journalistic integrity, I followed the recipe to the T, except for an extra helping of cheese, because sometimes, more is more. My taste-tester described the finished product, which I served for dinner rather than luncheon and paired with the suggested green salad, as “good”, but not a favourite. He later admitted he was “not really a quiche person”.

Both coronation chicken and coronation quiche are on the agenda for New Zealander Gregory Cleaver this weekend, along with a trip to Windsor Castle with his wife for the coronation concert. 

Cleaver, 27, grew up in Invercargill before moving to the UK with his family in his teenage years. While he touts the UK as having better work opportunities, he says New Zealand still feels like home and anticipates a move back in coming years.

Speaking to The Spinoff on his birthday, just 15 minutes after finding out he had won two of 10,000 tickets to the concert, the Londoner said he was “pretty excited” for what he described as a “historic event”.

“I myself am on the pro-monarchy side of things, due to the cultural links between home and the UK. I’m very much in support of the royal family, the cultural power it represents and the link to the rest of the Commonwealth. 

“I do think that they have evolved well and moved with the times.”

A smiling young woman with long brown hair sits in a booth seat in a typical UK pub, nursing a pint
Bailey Walters (Photo: Supplied)

Less impressed with the “royal shenanigans” was New Zealander Bailey Walters, who moved to Manchester from Cambridge last September. 

“I don’t take much notice of the royal family and hardly keep up to date with the events. I’m just not interested, I only know the king’s coronation is coming up because of the merchandise in every ASDA and Sainsbury’s I walk into,” Walters said.

The 23-year-old said didn’t have an opinion on the cost of the coronation until she googled it.

“Over £100 million? Are you fucking kidding me?!” she asked. “I’m grateful to be here in the UK, but it’s no world-class country by any means and there are so many areas that could benefit from even just a fraction of that money.”

Rather than attending any coronation-themed parties, Walters planned to get out of the city, to explore the Lake District.

“I couldn’t be happier about an extra day off, I’m just hoping it comes with some sunshine,” she said.

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