Royal Ascot is the quintessentially British racing event of the season. The prestigious equestrian fixture, held annually, is a treasured tradition that combines the thrill of racing with high fashion, fine dining, and lively entertainment. This year, Royal Ascot 2023 promises to be another unforgettable occasion. Here, we delve into the highlights of the week, the exquisite bars and restaurants on offer, and the ever-important dress code that defines this most glamorous of affairs.
Royal Ascot, founded by Queen Anne in 1711, is Britain’s most popular race meeting. Welcoming around 300,000 visitors over five days in June, the event boasts an undeniable aura of racing prestige and fervent elegance.
Each day of the week begins with the Royal Procession, although 2023 will be the first year the event is held since the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. With The King yet to confirm his attendance, no doubt the tradition of arriving along the track in horse-drawn landaus will be fulfilled by accompanying Members of the Royal Family. Key days during the race week include the Opening Day, Ladies’ Day, and the climactic final day, which features the prestigious Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Ascot Opening Day, immortalised by the Lerner and Loewe musical, “My Fair Lady,” is a spectacle of fashion and tradition. The dress code is an essential facet of Royal Ascot’s allure. In the Royal Enclosure, men are required to wear a full morning suit with a waistcoat and a black or grey top hat. Ladies must don elegant dresses and hats with a minimum base of four inches. In recent years, Royal Ascot fashion has entered a new era, with ladies encouraged to swap their traditional race-day dresses and head-turning hats for sharply-tailored suits. The sleek ensembles, which could be seen on royal guests like the Princess of Wales, demonstrate how Royal Ascot fashion has evolved over time, adapting to the trends of each era. However certain rules remain unwavering; outfits must be worn with a matching jacket or top. Each section has its own set of sartorial guidelines, of course.
Regardless of the evolutions in fashion, one thing remains constant: dressing to the nines is always in fashion at Ascot.
Over the course of five days, attendees will consume 56,000 bottles of champagne, 44,000 bottles of wine, 21,000 jugs of Pimm’s, and 60,000 finger sandwiches. Royal Ascot is, after all, a celebration of British culture and a testament to the nation’s love for horses, racing, and high fashion.
To fully enjoy the Royal Ascot experience, guests have a plethora of exquisite bars and restaurants to choose from, each offering a unique atmosphere and delectable menu. The Parade Ring Restaurant, for example, offers a fine dining experience with stunning views of the racecourse and the Royal Procession. Meanwhile, the elegant Wyndham Club located in the delightful Royal Enclosure Gardens is a short stroll to the Winners’ Enclosure. The Veranda is located at the superb vantage point of the winning post on the inside of the track; this exclusive restaurant combines private indoor tables with flexible outdoor seating to overlook the panorama of Royal Ascot.
This year, Tom Barnes – Executive Head Chef at three Michelin-starred L’Enclume and one Michelin-starred Rogan & Co – returns to Royal Ascot with his exceptional six-course tasting menu in The Old Press Room. An inviting restaurant full of charm and character, and a perfect venue in which to enjoy outstanding food for the ultimate Fine Dining experience.
The sixth-floor Panoramic Restaurant also promises an afternoon of gastronomic delight, as two Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc OBE returns as chef-in-residence for Royal Ascot 2023.
The Sandringham is a striking orangery-inspired structure, nestled in a sunny corner of Lavender Courtyard, just a short stroll from the trackside and the beautiful Royal Enclosure Gardens. An ideal spot for a relaxed yet vibrant day at the Royal Meeting.
Guide to attending:
- Acquiring Tickets: The first step is to secure tickets for the Royal Enclosure, the most exclusive and sought-after area at Ascot. While obtaining tickets is by invitation only, members of reputable racing clubs are welcome. Alternatively, you can opt for the Queen Anne Enclosure or Village Enclosure tickets, which are still impressive and offer a taste of the Royal Ascot experience.
- Dress Code: Some would say that Royal Ascot is as much about fashion as it is about horse racing. Adhering to the dress code is essential. For men, morning dress is required, including a black or grey morning coat, waistcoat, tie (not a cravat), and black shoes. Women must wear a dress, jumpsuit or skirt suit of modest length with straps of at least one inch in width. Hats or fascinators are mandatory.
- Transportation: If you’re planning on staying on the sauce, a chauffeur or traditional horse-drawn carriage might be the order of the day. If you’re planning on following tradition, you’ll want to load an ornate 12-seater dining table into a horse box with obligatory candelabras. Be sure to plan your arrival time in accordance with the Royal Procession, which takes place at 2 pm daily.
- Dining and Socialising: Reserve a table in advance at one of the exclusive restaurants within the Royal Enclosure. These fine-dining establishments require reservations and have strict dress codes. Alternatively, you can enjoy a lavish picnic on the lawns, complete with caviar and champagne.
- Betting Etiquette: Be sure to familiarise yourself with the race card and betting options. The tote is the official betting system of the Royal Ascot, and placing a bet with a bookmaker is a quintessential part of the experience. However, remember to bet within your means and maintain ‘some’ decorum when celebrating your wins.
- The Royal Procession: The Royal Procession is a highlight of the event, with the Royal Family arriving in horse-drawn carriages to signal the start of the races. Ensure you have a prime spot to witness this regal tradition, and don’t forget to show your respect by standing during the procession.
- Enjoy the Races: Finally, immerse yourself in the thrill of the races. There are six races each day, so do try to pace yourself and enjoy the electric atmosphere.
As Royal Ascot 2023 approaches, anticipation builds for yet another remarkable week of racing, fashion, and celebration. From the thrilling races and the dazzling fashion to the delightful dining experiences, Royal Ascot is a truly unique event that’s not to be missed.