Prince William and Princess Kate were transported back to the colorful sights and exquisite smells of Indian cuisine when they joined Queen Elizabeth at a Buckingham Palace party to celebrate cultural ties on Monday.
The royal couple, who visited the country for a memorable tour last April, helped host the bash marking the launch of U.K.-India Year of Culture 2017.
Also at the reception, which celebrates the cultural ties during the year of the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, was Prince Philip, Prince Edward and Princess Eugenie.
Kate — in a dress by Erdem and earrings by Indian designer Anita Dongre, who was also invited —chatted with guests from the worlds of performing arts, fashion, food, literature and sports. Earlier, dancers filled the grand entrance while a highlight of the evening was a special Indian-themed menu of canapes prepared by royal chefs working alongside chefs from Veeraswamy, the U.K.’s oldest Indian restaurant.
Under the guidance of the Queen’s royal chef Mark Flanagan and Uday from Veeraswamy, the menu featured British and Indian cuisine — from Yorkshire rhubarb Creme Brûlée to Raj Puri and a Tandoori Prawn Cocktail. The trays of 5,000 delicious delights were created by a team of 15 palace staff and five from the restaurant.
“It has been quite a difficult challenge capturing all the flavors in one small bite but we are happy with what we have achieved,” Uday told reporters.
Mark Flanagan added, “We have been planning to menu with Uday and the team for six weeks — it really is the best of both cultures.”
Also on hand to enjoy the spicy nibbles were Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar and his model/actress wife Neha Kapur, British-Indian actress Ayesha Dharker, Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev, were there as was former England footballer Rio Ferdinand, sitar player Anoushka Shankar – daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar – and her husband, director Joe Wright.
Items from previous royal visits to India and Indian gifts and manuscripts from the Royal Library were also on display. Laid out in the palace Picture Gallery was a display of priceless artifacts from the Royal Collection, including a shawl woven by Gandhi on his loom as a wedding present for then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947. The shawl has the words Jai Hind — Hail India — in the center and was accompanied by a note from Gandhi, addressed to Lord Mountbatten, then Viceroy of India, which said: ‘The little thing is made out of doubled yarn of my own spinning . . . please give the bride and the bridegroom this with my blessing with the wish that they would have a log and happy life of service of man . . . Yours sincerely, MK “
There was also a garland that was given to the Queen to welcome her to India in 1961, the first by a reigning monarch for 50 years and the first time since the country’s independence.
Earlier in the day, the Band of the Grenadier Guards played a selection of Indian-themed music during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, including soundtracks from the movie Slumdog Millionaire.