A Medieval Banquet at St Katharine Docks
Where can you dine with King Henry VIII watching over you? At the Medieval Banquet in St Katharine Docks, near the historic Tower of London. We have heard many reviews of the experience as it has been around for over 30 years, so we went along yesterday to check out the hype.
Descending into a vaulted cellar in a surreal setting, people are encouraged to dress up. On passing the slightly moody King, guests are ushered by a “wench” to their table, laid with bread, apples and a jug of ale or wine. If there is anything else diners need, then they have permission to shout “wench!” at the top of their lungs, not the most normal of dinner experiences.
The food is simple, rather reflecting the occasion and traditional historic times. There’s bread to break and share with soup brought to the table in a cauldron pot. No spoons, leaving people looking a little confused, but guests continue to slurp at their bowls as they are expected to do. After a salad of cold meats and cheeses, the main meal is roast chicken accompanied with roast potatoes and mixed root vegetables. You have to dig in deep in the cauldron for the rest of that gravy, which we distributed between us. Dessert was spiced fruit compote made up of apricots and sultanas with whipped cream.
The entertainment comes in-between courses in the main cellar area. Melodies of medieval music and songs are sung by your king, queen, swordsmen and wenches. A rather talented hula-hoop performance, acrobats bending in all shapes and sizes and dancers twirl around on cloud nine to create a spectacle.
On occasions, guests are hailed to join in with some festive jeering, banging on tables and dancing (even if there is not enough space) you end up clamouring over other guests, but who cares? It’s all part of the fun. Unfortunately, there is no storyteller or narrative to the experience; something that is missed. The final act culminates in a roaring sword fight by knights, representing each house.
The disco at the end feels more like a wedding party than keeping to history as modern-day tunes loudly fill the cellar. It would have been more enjoyable with traditional medieval dancing, maybe even teaching the guests a few steps to heighten the experience. At this point we headed for our coats, hailed this as a one-off experience, but at £49.95 a head, that’s exactly what it is. Go along for the frivolity of medieval fun, no expectations and even better if you can find some money-saving deals.