After 173 years of receiving invited guests, Buckingham Palace is about to open its new cafe, open to all.

The Queen and several other members of the Royal Family are currently at the start of their two week holiday cruising around the Outer Hebrides on the small cruise ship Hebridean Princess.

But back at home, preparations are under way for the royal cafe opening this Tuesday.

As from then, Her Majesty will be selling tea, scones, sandwiches, cakes, meringues and even seafood salads to the 400,000 people who will come wandering through her home throughout the summer.

Until now, you needed a ticket to be lucky enough to tuck into food at Buckingham Palace. Now you just need to pay £17 to be able to tuck into a brie and cranberry sandwich or an almond croissant made and served by the same people who do the Queen's garden parties

Nick Griffin, the leader of the far right British National Party who was elected to represent North West England as an EU MP and who was originally invited to attend Thursday's Buckingham Palace garden before he was eventually banned for trying to make too much publicity out of it, will also be able to go if he is prepared to pay the fee (this is a free country after all).

Also to be served at the royal cafe will be cappuccino. The frothed milk on top of every single one of the £2.65 drinks will have the Crown sprinkled in chocolate powder on it.

And rather than building the cafe in some outbuilding, this one is being erected in pride of place on the West Terrace, with a panoramic view of the 40-acre grounds.

It's sure to be THE cafe for the tourists to visit.

Buckingham palace was first opened to the public in 1993. Since then it has become a fixture on the national tourism scene and a mainstay of the Royal Collection, one of the greatest art collections in the world.

The coffee royal: The Palace's first cafe opens on Tuesday and its crown-sprinkled cappuccinos and smoked salmon bagels aren't just for the upper crust . . . even Nick Griffin will be let in!

By Robert Hardman
24th July 2010
Daily Mail

They've got the builders in at Buckingham Palace. No sooner had the Queen set off on her Hebridean cruise yesterday than the staff were shifting her furniture around back at home. At the same time, 300 temporary wardens were trying on their new uniforms ahead of Tuesday's summer opening of royal headquarters.

Amid all the preparations, however, there is the sound of banging, drilling and frothing in London SW1. Because, after 173 years of receiving royal guests, Buckingham Palace is finally building a café.

As of next week, Her Majesty will be selling tea, scones, sandwiches, cakes, meringues and even seafood salads to the 400,000 people who will come wandering through her home in the weeks ahead (and, as we shall see, they may even help with the clearing up).

20 year old waitress Danielle Hardwick serves pastries at the most famous address in Britain: Buckingham Palace

Until now, you needed an invitation if you expected to be fed or watered at the Palace. Now, anyone with a ticket can tuck into a brie and cranberry sandwich or an almond croissant made and served by the same people who do the Queen's garden parties. Indeed, if Nicholas Griffin, the pariah leader of the BNP, is as determined to sip tea at the Palace as he says he is, he can join the rest and pay the £17 entry fee.

While visitors will be served by uniformed catering staff rather than liveried footmen, there is no question of who is in ultimate charge. When I dropped in yesterday for the first taste of the gastronomic event of the year, I discovered the 20-strong café staff learning the fine art of crowning a cappuccino - literally.

A touch of class: There's a chocolate crown on top of every £2.65 cappuccino sold

The frothed milk on top of every single £2.65 cappuccino will have the Crown sprinkled in chocolate powder on it. It's the royal equivalent of finding a shamrock inscribed in the top of your pint of Guinness.

Most striking of all, however, is the location. Rather than building the café in some outbuilding - like most stately homes - this one is being erected in pride of place on the West Terrace, with a panoramic view of the 40-acre grounds. On Thursday, the Queen and her family stood on this very spot as they assembled for the National Anthem at the last garden party of the summer (the one from which Mr Griffin was disinvited).

Today, it is being covered with a hefty all-weather roof while a floor is built over the terrace and fridges, display cases, urns and coffee machines are all installed.

Everything must be ready by 10am on Tuesday, along with tables and chairs for 210 people.

It is, surely, the most civilised spot in the capital (if not the world) for a cup of tea.

The lawns stretch out towards the lake and the trees beyond with just the distant oom-pah of the Changing The Guard ceremony and birdsong on the breeze. It seems to me that the biggest problem for the Palace authorities will be extracting people from their tables so that other people can sit down. But, after 17 years of summer tours, the staff say that the tourists here tend to be very polite.

'We did a trial run last year with a sample menu and a smaller space and we discovered that it regulated itself,' says Nuala McGourty, retail director for Royal Collection Enterprises. 'We also discovered that by far the most popular thing is tea whereas there is surprisingly little demand for, say, fruit cake.' For those with a sweet tooth, the selection includes profiteroles, a 'fraisier' - a French classic full of strawberries and cream - and the traditional scone with strawberry jam and cream (all at £3.95).

On the savoury side, the organisers have gone for an international selection, including a smoked salmon bagel, Italian chicken focaccia and Greek salad. Even the traditional ham and cheese sandwich has been reinvented as either a croissant or as 'ham, emmental & rocket in a poppy seed sub'.

While tea (£1.95 a cup) and regal cappuccinos are likely to be the most popular drinks, the café will also sell Sandringham apple juice and another garden party favourite - iced coffee. There will be both bottled and London tap water and the caterers have also decided to include one fizzy drink. And it's not good news for Coca-Cola's relentless quest for world domination. The Palace, I learn, is Pepsi territory.

The Garden Café, to give it its proper name, will be operated by royal caterers Chester Boyd, who do all the Queen's garden parties. Many of the staff, like Bournemouth University hospitality student Danielle Hardwick, 20, have already worked at all this summer's garden parties (she met the Queen and served the Duchess of Cornwall).

Highlights of the menu include the selection include a 'fraisier' - a French classic made with strawberries and cream

Everything has been through a series of Palace tastings and the prices have been designed to match local cafés and tearooms.

All the proceeds from the summer opening - which generated £8.2 million last year - will be ploughed back into the Royal Collection. But staff insist that revenue is not the driving force behind this café. 'Over the years, we have done a lot of market research about our visitor experience and the only recurring complaint has been the lack of somewhere to sit down and have a cup of tea,' says Ms McGourty. With no available space inside - all the big rooms are on the tourist trail - the Palace has gone for this alfresco solution. 'The average visitor spends an hour and a half on the tour but if they want to rush through it in 20 minutes and spend all afternoon drinking tea, that's up to them.'

This summer, the tourists may actually spend longer on the tour.

Since the Golden Jubilee of 2002, the Royal Collection has made a point of adding a one-off exhibition each year devoted to a different aspect of royal life.

This summer sees the most ambitious yet: a series of displays covering the Queen's entire year. It includes the Queen's procession for the State Opening of Parliament with a mannequin wearing her 18-foot Robe of State and some faintly creepy dummies dressed as heralds, pages and other attendants.

The curators have also raided the royal wardrobes for a selection of dresses and Royal Ascot hats.

The Jewel House at the Tower of London has been plundered, too, for several pieces of royal regalia.

Other displays feature the Queen's saddle, her famous Vladimir tiara and recent gifts including a cricket bat signed by legend Brian Lara.

As the recession bites, the curators and retail staff have to keep upping their game.

Since it started in 1993, the summer opening of the Palace has become a fixture on the national tourism scene and a mainstay of the Royal Collection, one of the greatest art collections in the world.

Because it gets no grants or subsidies and cannot sell anything, it must rely on the paying public. Residences like Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace generate the bulk of its £34million revenues through ticket sales and merchandise.

In the royal gift shops, there is always a steady appetite for grander items like fine bone china featuring the Queen's coat of arms. But the Royal Collection has also had big hits with more light-hearted products such as Guardsman pyjamas for children and liver flavoured royal dog biscuits.

There may also be some furtive souvenir-hunting in the new cafe. Because this is a temporary structure (it comes down in October), there are no washing-up facilities.

That means that all the special issue pale blue cups and plates - decorated with the Crown - are disposable.

'Last year, people were not just taking away their cups and their ice cream tubs but even our trays,' says Charles Boyd, director of the catering firm, with a laugh. 'If it's got a crown on it, people want it, although we would quite like to hang on to the trays.' Britain's Hyacinth Buckets may have other ideas.

So, the Palace will not have to worry too much about recycling its rubbish as the punters are likely to walk off with most of it. But some people can get a bit obsessive about royal mementoes. Just a few years ago, a well-known television presenter was disciplined for stealing an ashtray and a tissue box holder from a Buckingham Palace reception.

I just hope that it doesn't get too messy when people start trying to smuggle out their fraisiers, their scones and their seafood salads without actually eating them.

Some things you may not have known about Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is The Queen's official London residence, but St. James's Palace is the ceremonial Royal residence. Even today foreign ambassadors are formally accredited to 'the Court of St. James's'.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.

The site where Buckingham Palace now stands was originally a mulberry garden planted by King James I (reigned 1603-25) to rear silkworms. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong kind of mulberry bush, and silk production never took off in Britain.

Buckingham Palace gets its name from an eighteenth-century Tory politician. John Sheffield, 3rd Earl of Mulgrave and Marquess of Normanby, was created Duke of Buckingham in 1703. He built Buckingham House for himself as a grand London home.

In 1761, George III bought Buckingham House for his wife, Queen Charlotte, to use as a comfortable family home close to St James's Palace. Buckingham House became known as the Queen's House, and 14 of George III's 15 children were born there.

Buckingham House was transformed into Buckingham Palace in the 1820s by the architect John Nash for George IV. But the first monarch to use Buckingham Palace as their official residence was Queen Victoria, who moved there in 1837. The previous monarch - William IV - had preferred to live at Clarence House and to use St. James's Palace for State functions. Victoria was the niece of both George IV and William IV.

Electricity was first installed in the Ball Room of Buckingham Palace in 1883, and between 1883 and 1887 electricity was extended throughout the Palace. Today there are over 40,000 light bulbs in the Palace.

The only monarch to be born and die at Buckingham Palace was Edward VII (born 1841, died 1910). William IV was also born at Buckingham House. The Queen gave birth to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace. Notice of Royal births and deaths is attached to the railings at Buckingham Palace for members of the public to read. This custom is still followed - even in the age of mass media, when Royal births and deaths are also announced on the Royal web site.

During the Second World War, Buckingham Palace suffered nine direct bomb hits. On several occasions King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in the Palace and narrowly escaped being killed. One person did die during the wartime bombing: PC Steve Robertson, a policeman on duty at the Palace, was killed by flying debris on 8 March 1941 when the north side of the Palace was wrecked. A plaque inside the garden commemorates his heroism.

There are more than 350 clocks and watches in Buckingham Palace, one of the largest collections of working clocks anywhere. Two full-time horological conservators wind them up every week and keep them in good working order.

More than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as The Queen's guests at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties. The Buckingham Palace kitchen is able to serve a sit-down meal to as many as 600 people at a time. Since 1993, the State Rooms of the Palace have also been open to members of the public to visit during August and September, while The Queen is not in residence.

One regular ritual which most tourists do not see is the daily 'dragging' of the gravel on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. It is cleaned and combed using mechanical equipment first thing daily - even on Christmas Day. Later in the day two more inspections take place just in case there is any rubbish to clear away. This helps to ensure that the forecourt always looks spick and span.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jul 25th, 2010 at 12:56 PM..