private school lunches

Pâté, duck and scallops: Ex-private school kids tell us their poshest school lunches

They put your ham sandwiches to shame

Lunch at school was easily the most enjoyable time of the day. You were either tucking into your packed lunch of ham sandwiches, Wotsits, Babybels and maybe a Wagon Wheel if you were lucky, or you were heading straight to the canteen to get a slice of pizza and beans.

But for the private school kids of the world, lunch was like dining at a Michelin stared restaurant everyday. In fact Tatler even gives out an award for the best school lunches. This year’s winner was the girls’ boarding school Benenden, and in the review of the school’s food Tatler compared their lunches to the food of chef Ottolenghi and rattled off a list of the standard food the girls eat, which includes: “bowls of edamame beans, sushi rice with beetroot and roasted vegetables and skate fillets with tomatoes and caper berries – all finished off with the most delicious brownies.”

The food is so boujie they even have a Twitter account dedicated to the food they serve the kids. A quick scroll through the account reveals the girls dine on a variety of salads, ciabatta, Jammie Dodger blondies, sea bass, blood oranges, artisan bread, antipasti, dragonfruit and the poshest meal ever – scallops. Yes whilst you’re tucking into a tuna sandwich, the girls at Benenden are having scallops for lunch.

However do all private school kids eat like this? We asked a number of ex-private day and boarding school pupils what their experience of school lunches were like. And whilst no one else was having scallops, the standard of food was still pretty good from having roast lamb to afternoon tea to pâté and smoked salmon, these private school meals will make you want to weep into your crusty sandwich.

These are the poshest school meals private school kids had for lunch:

Smoked salmon and pâté

“I had some interesting food but also some really nice food. I remember toasted bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. A cheeseboard and crackers with pâté. Stir fry. A board with various continental ham. Lasagne. Chinese with prawn crackers.”


Moules Frites

“The food was actually really good, there were loads of stations including a stir fry station that did pan-fried fish in front of you and I remember we had moules frites sometimes.”


A pesto pasta bar

“We had a head chef who previously worked for Knorr and then he came to my school. We would have roast lamb, salmon with various things and we also had a pesto pasta bar, because the girls demanded pesto pasta.”


Always three options for dessert

“I remember stuffed pepper and gnocchi as a lunch option, and always three options for dessert (including pear crumble!!).

“We had ‘formals’ every once in a while, and I remember white wine as an option. It was for years 11s and year 13s, so a bit like a ‘leavers dinner’. Our parents had to sign a form agreeing for us to have wine, it was pretty strange.”


Duck breast and a Mr. Whippy machine

“We had the best spreads for every single meal. Breakfast on weekdays was full English breakfast, with croissants, breads, jams, etc. All the good stuff. We had coffee machines with options from espressos to mochas and cappuccinos, which was such a nice perk! Lunch was always lovely, with meat, veggie, and vegan options. Everything was made from scratch, and it was self-service so we could have as much as we liked. The salad bar always had a range of things, from basic leaves and dressings, to eggs, avocados, bacon lardons, etc.

“Dessert was usually really nice, and the most popular were always tiramisu and apple crumble. They actually had staff giving out those desserts because they were so popular. Wednesday lunch was always a roast dinner with all the trimmings – best day of the week! Dinner was also just as great, with varied options from barbecue, to duck breast, to pizza.

“They tried to vary the cuisines, so sometimes we’d get Asian themed, or Italian (which was different pastas and sauces). One of the best parts was the ice cream machine. From our first break around 10am through till dinner, we could use a Mr Whippy style machine. They had the cones there by the machine, and I would usually add ice cream to my desserts. Even the teachers would be queuing up there at break times. They also brought out biscuits and snacks for us to munch on over our fancy coffees.”


Fancy match teas

“We did have incredibly fancy ‘match teas’. All my state school would give you was a packet of crisps and maybe a doughnut.

“But my boarding school put on like a full cream tea with four different cakes, scones and mini sandwiches. I was never in sports teams but I would peer in the windows and be incredibly jealous.”


A three course meal every lunch time

“We didn’t every have anything particularly posh but there was an array of options. There was soup, bread, two different main meal options and starter options.

“There would be things like prawns, different salads, different chicken dishes like crispy chicken and different forms of french bread.”


Themed days with a noodle bar

“I remember the school evidently spend a lot on marketing so there would be themed days. So we had this one day where this whole new noodle bar appeared. They’d do fortune cookies and serve them in take out boxes.”


Chicken pesto mozzarella Wellington

“We are in the dining rooms in our houses and everything was in dishes on the table which is pretty fancy. We would go to our table and the dishes would already be put out and then we’d say grace before sitting.

“Everyone’s favourite was probably chicken pesto Wellington with mozzarella inside. We also used to get afternoon tea every day which was things like homemade scotch eggs and jam tarts after school.

“The quality was pretty insane! Also for breakfast you could either have the cooked breakfast or fresh fruit and there was a cereal bar.”


Chicken caesar salad

“Our lunches weren’t really all that posh but I do remember there being a weird craze for the chicken caesar salad which is quite boujie to be fair.”


A wok station

“We had different stations for salads, woks and normal meals. The wok station was something different everyday like stir fry, curries or omelette.”


Bet your Dairylea Dunkers aren’t looking so great now.

* Some names have been changed.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

You can only call yourself a posh girl if you do at least 47/55 of these things

You can only call yourself a posh girl if you own these 38 things

Ranked: The worst meals given to students by their unis whilst in isolation