Leith’s Dramatic Dining

Menus for the Festival 2017 include the delicious seasonal options available at the acclaimed restaurants, as well as picnics and afternoon teas, all created by the Festival’s official caterers, Leith’s. Executive Chef Julian Wilson has introduced exciting new dishes to the perennial favourites, using some of the fantastic seasonal produce which can be found locally, such as Sussex beef and Kentish strawberries.

We caught up with Julian to find out what delights audiences can enjoy this summer:

‘My team and I enjoy spending time creating the menus for each Glyndebourne Festival – discussing which dishes we absolutely must keep on, as well as introducing new flavours. This is as true in 2017 as it was in 1983 when Leith’s first catered at Glyndebourne.’ ‘Culinary constants at Glyndebourne include seasonal local ingredients as we are spoilt for choice in Sussex from asparagus to strawberries, from mackerel to High Weald Dairy feta; and dishes such as the ever-popular Summer Pudding – and not forgetting our renowned picnics.’

‘This year, we’ll be introducing revivals of beef Wellington and Paris-Brest, as well as a delicious and slightly spicy curried risotto with lobster, followed by popcorn panna cotta – both in our Middle and Over Wallop restaurant.’

Setting the scene:

  • Each Festival, the 350-strong Leith’s at Glyndebourne team serves over 35,000 covers across three restaurants, as well as preparing 15,000 afternoon teas and 7,000 picnics over three months.
  • Leith’s will be catering at Glyndebourne for their 34th consecutive Festival in 2017.

The main attraction:

  • Leith’s serves three courses, coffee and chocolates for around 600 diners daily - all in just over an hour.
  • 43 stunning Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the eye-catching Middle & Over Wallop restaurant.
  • When dining at Glyndebourne began, in the mid-1930s, patrons were told that they could ‘if they wished, be waited on by their own servants. This is requested less these days.
  • The youngest waiter in 2016 was 16 and the oldest waitress 75.
  • One colleague has worked each summer since 1964.
  • Dining al fresco is a feature for many. Leith’s picnics team are found, late at night post-performance, armed with head-torches, still catering to their diners’ needs. There is however, now a midnight curfew.

The show itself:

This year’s dishes, created by Leith’s executive chef Julian Wilson, include:

Amalfi lemon mousse, hung honey yoghurt, compressed citric cucumber, financier, cucumber and lemon verbena sorbet (Middle and Over Wallop 3 Aug to 27 Aug menu)

Beef tenderloin, Sussex asparagus, black beluga lentils, goat’s cheese dressing, buttered new potatoes
(Middle and Over Wallop – 4th July to 2nd August)

Warm Golden Cross goat's cheese, smoked tomato cheese straw, Waldorf salad, quince aioli
(Mildmay – 3rd August to 27th August)

  • Summer pudding is the most popular dessert served at Glyndebourne, with over 4,000 prepared each season.
  • 2.5 tonnes of Kentish strawberries used each year at Glyndebourne, part of a commitment by Leith’s to source local ingredients.
  • Over 10,000 glasses of Glyndebourne’s own label Champagne, a Premier Cru from the Monmarthe family, are served each year.
  • Over 10,000 pots of tea are made in Mildmay Tearooms. This year, these will include a chamomile tea grown especially for the Festival by Pure Tisanes, from West Sussex and teas from the Rare Tea Company, from Malawi and China.

Post-performance:

  • After the 1,200 opera-goers leave the grounds, a massive clean-up operation swings into gear. Three restaurants are re-laid, the grounds are cleared of hundreds of tables and chairs, and waste is collected, where possible, for recycling.
  • Early the next morning, the Courtyard Restaurant opens to feed the scores of back of house staff who will have worked through the night to change a stage set. Unsurprisingly, breakfasts are popular and last until mid-morning.
  • Our porters return with the first chefs ready to receive deliveries from 7am. The magnificent lawns and are swept for any last remaining bottles, before the gardeners mow the acres of beautifully manicured grass, ready for the evening’s new visitors.

And the show goes on!