Wedding menu ideas from the UK's top chefs
These culinary experts share their top tips for an unforgettable wedding menu
Wedding menu ideas from the pros
Carole Hamilton consults some of the culinary world’s top talent for wedding menu ideas that will make your wedding reception deliciously memorable…
Adam Smith | Coworth Park, Surrey
Wedding menus tend not to be seasonal as they are planned so far in advance. I would suggest speaking directly with the chef at your venue as the best places will create something bespoke for you; it makes it more exciting for us to do something different!
Dietary requirements are a hot topic and should be considered, especially if they apply to a large number of your guests; the same applies for different cooking preferences. While you want to make sure your wedding suits you, it’s good to think about these things at planning stage to try and keep as many people happy as possible too.
For a spring starter, I would suggest our gin-cured salmon with citrus fruits. It’s my favourite – simple and fresh, plus appealing to the eye so it has the wow-factor. For the main course I would go for slow-cooked short rib of beef; it’s rich and melt-in-the-mouth, colourful served with carrots but also wholesome, so it ticks all the boxes. And for dessert, our Signature Chocolate, which we have created in partnership with chocolatiers Valrhona, in a chocolate mousse with a Blue Mountain coffee mousse.
Gin-cured salmon with citrus fruits, avocado and coriander
Slow-cooked short rib of beef with Old Winchester crust, potato puree and heritage carrots
Chocolate mousse with a Blue Mountain coffee mousse, hazelnuts and salted caramel
Raymond Blanc | Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
Finding the perfect place for your special day can feel like a mission, but from the moment we meet our couples, we do our very best to ensure we listen to your every wish to allow us to create the most memorable day.
We are very proud of our kitchen gardens which supply much of our fresh produce that will feature at our weddings – no less than 90 types of vegetables and over 70 varieties of herbs. The kitchen brigade and I work closely with my team of gardeners to ensure that we plant and grow the best varieties for the Le Manoir menu.
My greatest tip for a modern wedding is you must work with the seasons when it comes to ideas for your wedding menu. Spring is the season for asparagus so for a starter I would suggest my classic dish, L’Asperge. This is a hen’s egg, fresh asparagus and morel sabayon. It is light and delicate – a perfect way to start a meal. A beautifully presented and delicate starter with subtle flavours is always a sign that the meal ahead will be one to remember.
For a main course, I would make L’agneau de Lait. This is milk-fed Pyrenean lamb complemented with spring vegetables. The lamb brings the flavour and the spring vegetables lift the dish – this dish means serious business.
Throughout my life, I have always adored desserts. To me, they represent the perfect chance to win the heart and soul of your guests – a dessert is the last dish of a celebration – in this case your wedding. I would create La Fraise. This is gariguette strawberries, meadowsweet and custard mousse. This dessert gives you a boost and will let you continue the party – it will leave your guests with a cheeky smile!
L’Asperge: a hen’s egg, fresh asparagus and morel
L’Agneau de Last with spring vegetables
La Fraise: gariguette strawberries, meadowsweet and custard mousse
Paul Leonard | The Forest Side, Lake District
The most important things to consider are seasonality and simplicity. There’s no point getting carried away – it’s important that you like the menu, but if you’re feeding a room of more than 40 people, the food needs to be universally liked. Ingredients like salmon and beef are perfect. Lower your costs by using lesser cuts of meat – they take more care and longer to cook, but any good kitchen will be able to turn them into something delicious.
Slow-cooked beef cheek works brilliantly instead of fillet. Keep the plates simple – I tend to choose one key ingredient (the protein) and pair it with two or three flavours. Asparagus and wild garlic in spring, for instance, or hogget from down the road with foraged mushrooms and a root vegetable in winter.
For a starter I would go for organic salmon, cured and smoked at Forest Side, garden pickles and brown butter. You can’t go wrong with salmon – everyone likes it and it has the luxury, celebratory connotations perfect for a wedding meal. We smoke and cure ours in-house and serve with ingredients we’ve pickled from the garden over the year.
Beef is always a winner, so for the main, aged rump cap of Cumbrian beef, smoked potato and alliums from the field and garden. The rump cap is a cheaper cut of meat, but cooked well can be incredibly tender. This dish consists of a familiar flavour combo that’s well liked – beef, potato, and onions – but elevates it to make it that little bit more special.
For me, it has to be chocolate for a wedding day dessert so I would recommend chocolate parfait, buckthorn and sheep’s yoghurt. We make this parfait with sheep’s yoghurt from down the road and garnish it with baby sorrel leaves from the garden to make it suitably pretty. It’s the perfect ingredient-driven yet relatable dish.
Organic salmon (smoked at Forest Side), garden pickles and brown butter
Aged rump cap of Cumbrian beef, smoked potato and alliums from the field and garden
Chocolate parfait, buckthorn and sheep’s yoghurt
Oli Martin | Hipping Hall, Yorkshire
Something I always make sure we do when catering a wedding is sit down with the bride and groom myself. Coming up with wedding menu ideas should be an enjoyable, collaborative process – we had a couple recently whose favourite dessert is a Millionaire’s shortbread from M&S, and we had fun working with them to come up with a refined version for their big day.
It’s always important to be realistic and think about your guests too though – you may have a really special memory of eating steak tartare together, but your great grandma probably isn’t going to want to tuck into a plate of raw beef!
For a starter, duck liver parfait rhubarb chutney and toasted brioche. A dish like a parfait is perfect to start – it’s traditional and keeps everyone happy. You can then mix it up with the chutney, going for something alternative and seasonal like rhubarb.
For the main it’s important to go for a protein most people will like, such as beef so I would suggest barbecued ribeye and dauphinoise potatoes. You can then dress it up with more celebratory sides like a truffle sauce or seasonal asparagus.
Stick to classic flavours like chocolate and salted caramel for the dessert – guaranteed crowd pleasers – which is needed given
how divisive wedding cake is! One of my own favourites is salted caramel chocolate sphere with mandarin sorbet and milk chocolate mousse.
Duck liver parfait with rhubarb chutney and toasted brioche
Barbecued ribeye, dauphinoise potatoes, and truffle sauce or seasonal asparagus
Salted caramel chocolate sphere, mandarin sorbet and milk chocolate mousse
Tom Kemble | South Lodge, Sussex
When it comes to wedding food, my advice would be to keep it simple and focus on excellent seasonal produce. My wife and I got married on the Jurassic coast in Dorset where we asked the chef to utilise the best of local produce. This meant lots of seafood: dayboat line-caught sea bass and crab both featured on our menu. In terms of sides, sharing dishes are a great way to encourage guests to interact as well as easing the pressure on the kitchen so the chefs can concentrate on cooking a piece of fish or meat beautifully.
A light and delicious starter such as juniper-smoked salmon with pickled cucumber relish, crème fraiche and an apple-and-dill vinagrette.Three mains are good to suit different dietary requirements; 40-day-aged beef rump with wild garlic salsa verde. Baked cod (fish-only eaters) and a pot-roasted spiced cauliflower (vegetarian). All served with steamed British asparagus with seaweed butter, Jersey royals with espelette butter and charred gem lettuce, bagna cauda and parmesan. Dessert has to be a chocolate mousse, milk gelato, sable and whey caramel.
Juniper-smoked salmon with pickled cucumber relish, crème fraiche and an apple-and-dill vinagrette
40-day-aged beef rump with wild garlic salsa verde
Chocolate mousse, milk gelato, sable and whey caramel
Chris King | The Langham, London
Great wedding food should be straight-forward, easy to enjoy and full of flavour. It’s not about the chef or the venue; your wedding is just that, your wedding. When you’re choosing your menu I recommend you go for dishes you both love to eat, things that remind you of good times or a place you’ve been – and be sure it’s something you think your guests will love too; now is not the time for surprises!
My menu is full of trusted crowd pleasers; English asparagus, Dorset crab salad, buckwheat cracker. This is fresh, light, seasonal and as English as it gets – a perfect start to a celebration. Roast Cotswold White chicken, sweet onion and thyme tart with morel mushroom ragoût. Beef was always the go to wedding option and chicken the poor relation, but with 10% of the carbon footprint of beef it makes sense to choose a well-raised chicken and make it the star of the menu. We’re even starting to see plant-based main menus with maybe a chicken option as the alternative for those with ‘dietary requirements’. To finish, profiteroles, hazelnut gianduja and lemon. Because profiteroles are profiteroles!
English asparagus, Dorset crab salad and buckwheat cracker
Roast Cotswold White chicken, sweet onion and thyme tart, morel mushroom ragoût
Profiteroles, hazelnut gianduja and lemon
Mike Francis | The Scarlet, Cornwall
When choosing your big day food, always try and go for a seasonal menu that fits around your wedding day as the produce will be at its best and at a better price so won’t blow your budget. My wedding menu ideas would be meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan options for starters and main course with the option of three desserts, one being chocolate if you are going go for a formal meal.
When it comes to the challenge of dietary requirements, people know what they can and can’t eat and most kitchens can cater for dietaries, so go ahead and pick what you would like to eat on your special day. For evening food I will always go for a small buffet that people can pick at throughout the night and if you have anything left in your budget a hog roast is always a winner.
For a light and refreshing starter I would suggest sea trout mi-cuit, cornish crab salad, avocado and strawberry sauce vierge. My celebration of pork always goes down well – pork belly, loin and braised cheek served with mashed potato, roast apple and smoked bacon jam. To finish the meal, a dark chocolate cremeux, coffee macaroon, prune and whiskey ice cream. This is an indulgent chocolate dessert with the whiskey to cut through the richness of the cremeux.
Sea trout mi-cuit, cornish crab salad, avocado and strawberry sauce vierge
Pork belly, loin and braised cheek served with mashed potato, roast apple and smoked bacon jam
Chocolate cremeux, coffee macaroon, prune and whiskey ice cream
FURTHER READING: How to choose your wedding wine