“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers,” says a servant in Romeo and Juliet, from within the confines of the Rose Theatre at Blenheim.
And with entry to The Shakespearian Village included as part of the ticket price, the food needs to be top notch too.
Catering for 60,000- 80,000 expected guests this summer might sound like a big undertaking, but Oxford Fine Dining has already got it down to a fine art, having ventured into the streeet food market.
Hence Sue Randall and Sean Ducie of Oxford Fine Dining are as calm as a millpond when we meet to discuss the Herculean task of bringing delicious street food and dining to the Elizabethan-hungry crowds.
Admittedly the pair have a lot of experience under their belts, catering for colleges and events across the county for 12 years now, albeit in a more formal setting.
Keen to add a more ’casual’ dining style to their repertoire, they put their heads together and came up with Fine Feasts idea for Blenheim, which includes a ‘posh dogs’ station and a more general menu.
You can sit down for a plate of squid and chips with lime and sriracha mayonnaise and a glass of bubbly, or a pint with an aged shorthorn beef burger.
Vegans and vegetarians will want to try the vegan sausage with fried onions and mustard mayonnaise , the lentil and chickpea dahl (with or without sour cream), or my favourite ‘dirty chips with cheese, jalapeños, guacamole and sour cream’ (with or without bbq beef brisket).
“It’s our twist on street food,” Sean tells me proudly, “so simple but tasty.”
“The care and presentation that goes into each dish is still paramount to us, while needing to be slick and fast at the same time, because people do not want to wait for their food.”
And the good news is, that while the Rose Theatre punters are a captive audience, the rest of us can pop in and dine whenever we want. “We are keen to get it out there that this is for everyone, especially the locals,” Sue tells me.
“Plus, we are using local ingredients and suppliers, from Aldens butchers to UAE coffee in Witney, and have recruited out staff from local schools and colleges, so we have a great team. It’s been really great teaching them the ropes.”
And yet despite Sue and Sean’s palpable excitement, it is still a risk.
Sue shrugs: “Absolutely. If it rains all summer it will change everything, but we had a frenetic first weekend and once the schools break up and the summer holidays start it will be carnage,” she laughs, “so more than anything it’s about getting the balance right.”
“The atmosphere here in the village is already amazing and it’s great watching that steady stream of people coming over the bridge all day. Plus the Blenheim staff all come here to eat now,” she adds.
“It’s completely different to what we are used to but we wanted to show our versatility, that’s why we’ve taken this on.
“People don’t know what to expect, so we love surprising them, although I’m not sure how many more sausages I can eat,” Sean laughs. “After 62 days of this I’ll probably never want to see another sausage again as long as I live.”
Fine Feasts is open from 11am until 9pm. blenheimpalace.com