The Parade Ring Restaurant is the most exclusive of the fine dining experiences at Ascot Racecourse, offering both a private terrace above the Parade Ring and access to a private balcony on the north side of the grandstand, directly opposite the winning post, with sweeping views over the racetrack and wider course. It also happens to be adjacent to Her Majesty’s Royal Box, so it must be the best view, although I would have found it difficult to concentrate on the racing had HM been present.
Reopened in 2015 following an extensive refurbishment and redesign which included brand new kitchens, the glamorous 1930s feel of the restaurant takes inspiration from the elegance of fine millinery and the beautiful Queen Anne rose, the subtle pastel shades of mauve and pink featured in both the upholstery and floral table arrangements lending the atmosphere a refined and feminine charm entirely in keeping with Ascot’s racing heritage and their association with the royal family.
When you consider that an average of 300,000 people attend Royal Ascot week, most of whom opt for the general grandstand admission and possibly a picnic in the car park, you are one of the privileged few if you happen to be enjoying what the Parade Ring Restaurant, with just 140 covers, has to offer, yet you certainly don’t have to attend Royal Ascot in order to get the most out of this very special experience.
While Royal Ascot is the most celebrated of the flat race meetings, the greatly reduced crowds are a good reason to experience a different date in the calender, as is the much more affordable cost of a ticket and the less formal dress code if you are not keen on wearing a hat or morning suit. I took the Parade Ring Restaurant’s stated ‘encouragement’ of hats for ladies as a positive excuse to visit my local milliner, however, and donned a very large hat regardless, for the joy of dining in a large hat cannot be underestimated.
The size and scale of Ascot’s grandstand is akin to travelling on a large ocean liner, and therefore to enjoy this most regal of pleasures it’s essential to be in 1st class. From the moment your tickets arrive in the post, contained within a glamorous ‘Ascot’ embossed souvenir folder, everything has been taken care of, each thoughtful detail designed to make your day as pleasant and effortless as possible; from the brochure with a map of the course and grandstand (it’s very easy to get lost) to the luncheon menu and car parking badge giving you access to one of the smaller and better located car parks that make it a breeze to arrive and depart.
A glass of champagne kicked off proceedings on Victoria Cup day, the last flat race meeting ahead of Royal Ascot 2017, and guests settled down to enjoy a gourmet three course luncheon ahead of the first race. My starter of roasted wood pigeon, accompanied by a well crafted pithivier stuffed with the leg meat, a beetroot purée, charred sweet corn and roasting juices possessed an aristocratic gaminess that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a royal banquet, while the light, summery main of seared sea trout, crab tortellini, wild garlic, mussel velouté and pickled samphire proved a welcome contrast.
Being able to spot your horse and jockey in the Parade Ring, followed by a quick dash to our racetrack seats was a definite highlight, while the seamless front of house ensured that following courses, such as the selection of British cheeses and afternoon tea, were served in-between races. If you find yourself dejected from too many losses, or just enjoying the food too much to haul yourself away from the table, large screens are dotted around the restaurant for your convenience. Popping outside to see the action meant that we never got weary of spending too long at the table, although the consequence of doing so was that the day passed tremendously fast, for we were either occupied with consuming delicious morsels or clutching our betting slips while yet another horse finished last. It’s impossible to be peeved for long, just spending the day at the Parade Ring Restaurant feels like winning the Totepool.
For more information on Parade Ring Restaurant packages at Ascot Racecourse, High St, Ascot SL5 7JX, please visit the website.