To pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II in London, you can join hundreds of thousands of people on a queue that might be the longest in UK history, stretching more than four miles down the River Thames with a 10-plus hour wait.
Today the line became so long that entry was paused for at least six hours.
There’s a lesser known and much less crowded place to remember her majesty: Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair. The grande dame hotel, which is reportedly completely booked out in advance of the Queen’s funeral on Monday, has a history with the royal family. It’s been called an annex of Buckingham Palace for the long list of royals and dignitaries that crash there when they’re in town to visit the Windsor family. Queen Elizabeth II chose it to host a party for Prince Charles and Princess Diana right after they were married, and she and Prince Philip celebrated their 40th anniversary there.
It’s also home to a large glass cabinet filled with mementos of the Queen. That includes a swatch of Elizabeth’s coronation gown, several pictures of her at the hotel throughout the years and the menus from her coronation in 1953. But the most charming artefact in the lobby display is a letter from the royal household requesting the recipe for Claridge’s seafood cocktail. The dish was a favourite of the Queen and The Queen Mother.
Many of the Queen’s preferred foods are well documented. Her taste in sandwiches is widely known: According to her former private chef Darren McGrady she had a jam sandwich every day at tea, preferably featuring preserves made with strawberries grown at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She also favoured chocolate biscuit cake, made at Buckingham Palace. And she had a fondness for a Dubonnet and gin cocktail with a slice of lemon.
But her fondness for seafood salad has not gotten so much attention. The dish is on the elegant end of the salad spectrum, combining lobster, langoustine and crab meat with caviar and quail eggs, dressed with a tastefully named Marie Rose sauce, which is essentially mayo and ketchup with a splash of Tabasco. The recipe features in Claridge’s: The Cookbook by Martin Nail & Meredith Erickson (£30; 2004) and appears below for home cooks who want to make it for themselves. There’s the option of serving it in martini glasses, which doesn’t seem like the way Queen would have eaten it.
The salad has also stayed on the menu at the Foyer & The Reading Room, in Claridge’s. The dish, as it's currently served, is less ornate (but not cheap; it goes for £38 or $43 at current rates). There were no langoustines when I tasted it, or flowers. The dressed crab is hidden under a row of lobster tail slices; mix it all up and you have a highly comforting dish that you might consider the savoury equivalent of a marmalade sandwich. And it’s just down the hall from the Queen Elizabeth cabinet.
And yesterday, there was no wait to view it.
160 g (5 and half oz) shredded gem lettuce
400 g (14 oz) cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
12 small lettuce leaves
1 kg (2-plus lb) cooked lobster meat
250 g (9 oz) white crab meat
16 cooked peeled langoustines (optional)
4 soft-boiled, shelled quail eggs
2 gm caviar (optional)
4 cherry tomatoes, blanched
16 pea shoots
20 sorrel leaves
4 edible pansy flowers
Marie Rose Sauce
150 gm (5 and half oz) mayonnaise
50 g (1 and three-fourth oz) ketchup
One-fourth tsp Tabasco
One-fourth tsp Worcestershire sauce
Half tsp brandy
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the Marie Rose sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and season well.
Make the salad: If going the martini glass route, place the shredded lettuce in the bottom. Alternatively, pile the salad in small glass bowls. Now line the inside of the glasses or bowls with the cucumber slices. Collop one spoonful of Marie Rose sauce on each bed of lettuce, the add 3 round lettuce leaves to the side of each serving. Arrange the lobster, crab and langoustines neatly on top.
Top each cocktail with a quail egg, crème fraiche and the caviar. Add a cherry tomato to each and then arrange the herbs and flowers on top. Dollop the remaining Marie Rose sauce on one side of each glass or bowl and serve.
Story by Kate Krader, Bloomberg News