One scoop chicken salad on lettuce leaf.

Four round crackers.

Four carrot sticks.

One radish.

Lemon tarts.

Lunch at the Executive Mansion is not, as Gov. Charles S. Robb told his guests last week, "a major feast."

Once the mansion's new music system (which Robb and his wife have given to the state) was lowered and the white-jacketed butlers were out of the room, the conversation over the magnolia blossoms on the table seemed to bear out that, in this governor's administration, the meal may be the message.

For nearly two hours it was Robb, the conservative philosopher, who laid out the coming thrust of his 18-month-old administration for a group of Northern Virginia editors. What he is proposing to do, he said, is to shake and then reshape the state's government as it has not been "since Harry Byrd Senior" was governor in the 1920s.

That is a dramatic promise coming from a governor whose rhetoric is as conservative and as well qualified as any of his predecessors.

But it is something Robb has long promised: "the fundamental reexamination of the role of state government" he often discussed in his 1981 campaign and berated the press for ignoring.

Now that he is preparing his first two-year budget for the General Assembly, it is a promise that Robb intends to move on, and his meeting with the editors last week was just the first of five such regional lunches at which he will be seeking support for what could become some very controversial and painful changes in state spending.

For all its reputation as a conservative state, Virginia state bureaucracy grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s under the administrations of seemingly conservative governors. The truth, said Robb aides, is that growth was largely financed by inflation and massive amounts of federal aid.

Now those days are over. With the Reagan administration in Washington and inflation under better control, the Robb administration finds itself faced with a shrinking state tax revenue base. Tax cuts enacted in recent years by the conservative assembly are only adding to those problems.

What's more, this is an election year for all 140 members of the legislature. A tax increase stands virtually no chance of winning approval, the governor said, adding his cautious "I never say 'never' " to the possibility of higher taxes.

But Robb, the candidate, made campaign promises to give education, for example, a higher priority. Where, then, can he find the money?

His answer has been a concept he calls "level funding."

This is the directive he has given his cabinet secretaries to force the state's agencies to prepare their coming budgets with the assumption that, excluding basically salaries, they should expect no increase in state monies in the coming biennium. This should affect only about 3 percent of the state's biennial budget. But with a total bottom line of about $14 billion, the 3 percent should enable Robb to address his priorities.

Will Virginia's bureaucrats, accustomed to a hierarchy resistant to change, go along? "In most cases . . . ," Robb said, "they said, 'Yes, even if we don't like the idea.' . . . Most said, 'We'll do it if everyone else is doing it together'--which I think is crucial."

For the doubters, the governor's firing of Corrections Director Raymond K. Procunier, who tried to insist his department should be exempted, was proof that Robb is serious.

Others plunged into the trimming.

It has been, said Human Resources Secretary Joseph L. Fisher, the former Northern Virginia congressman, "a real challenge and, in a certain, grisly way, I'm enjoying it." (Fisher's department is already cutting state Medicaid payments by $120 million, and he warned the editors that some of his agencies are likely to begin charging the public for many environmental permits that are now provided free.)

The process--Robb described it as "ratcheting down, squeezing a little bit and then ratcheting and squeezing a little bit more"--is perhaps not that novel to those used to the federal budget. But here in the old capital of the Confederacy, where Robb's predecessors often won office by running against someone (often the populist Henry E. Howell of Norfolk) rather than for something new, it is a direct confrontation with the status quo.

There is no certainty of success for Robb in all of this. The General Assembly, which must enact his budget next year, will be overwhelmingly Democratic, but it is as capable of playing pork barrel politics--and as inclined to--as any legislature.

The difference is that, for the first time perhaps since Gov. Mills E. Godwin proposed building the community college system in the 1960s, the legislature will be confronted by a governor with a program and a budget that puts the state's money behind his campaign rhetoric. It is, to many, refreshing politics and a welcome idea for Virginia.