Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Wenches, Wine and Wimples

On Saturday night a group of us drove up to St Katherine's Dock in London to take a trip back in time to 1529.

The Medieval Banquet is certainly an experience!  We were there for a friends 30th birthday.  We arrived ridiculously early and holed up for cocktails in The Living Room next door to start with, after ogling the boats and privately owned yachts moored along the wharf.
While wandering along the dock we had an extensive debate about which boats we would own.  Merits that had to be weighed up included prettiness, scale, water-to-feet-dangling-distance and of course which ones had the best (ie. rudest) names. 

After a single round of drinks and paying the eye watering bill (seriously?  Gin doesn't increase that much in price between London and Kent!) we made our way back to the Medieval Banquet.  If we weren't sure we were in the right place before we were certain now as we followed knights, a couple of monks, some ladies in royal gowns, Robin Hood, a cardinal and oddly enough a batman.

I don't know why Batman was at a medieval banquet. 
We gave our booking reference and descended the staircase to the main hall underground.  Tapestries, candelabras, wrought iron chandeliers, bunting, swords, suits of armour, flagstone floors, pewter crockery and wenches running wild all helped to bring that 'ye olde worlde' feeling to life.  All that was missing was the old straw lining the floor and the pigs rooting in a corner while dogs gnawed on half chewed bones.
I have no idea what this place was before the banquet moved in but I would guess it used to be old underground store rooms running by the river.  Amazing atmosphere and absolutely huge. We were seated in the Tower.  Slightly ominous.
Birthday girl ran off to get her costume for the night and then ran off to get a cuddle from the king.  The rest of us were in layman's clothing.  It was so hot downstairs that the thought of wearing velvet made me a bit queasy. 
The place was full of large parties including a significant number of stag do's.  It gets loud and raucous.  Our waitress came to our table and delivered big jugs of ale and pitchers of wine and juice.  She also gave us our instructions for the night.  If we needed something we were to shout 'Wench!' as loudly as we could.  If we liked a performance we were to bang on the tables with our fists.  As I said,  it got noisy!
You could tell our table was less than comfortable with bellowing 'Wench' at some poor girl.  I think the best phrase that came out was 'umm...excuse me, Miss Wench, if it's not too much trouble could we get some more ale when you have a moment"! 

Once you were seated the entertainment started.  Between each course you had a series of singers, jugglers, acrobats and dancers.
We had Sir Edred (left) fighting for our tables honour (or lack thereof)!  I have absolutely no idea who won in the end but I do seem to remember the other knight being flat on his back more times than Sir Edred was so I'm claiming that as a Tower victory.
There was a large capoeira party in who decided before dessert that the medieval music wasn't really getting the party started.  The bongo drums came out, the chanting got going and before you could say 'off with their heads' the entire place had erupted into a full blown latina festival.  It did make you smile but had the unfortunate effect of delaying dessert.

I get grumpy when people keep dessert from me.

Overall the food and drink were ok - to be honest you don't really come here for a fine dining experience and with a good 200 odd people all being fed the same meal it was never going to be brilliant quality!

Soup first, (vegetable of some description, impossible to identify).  It was bought to the table in a cauldron.  You used a pewter ladle to serve yourselves and ripped great hunks of fresh baked bread to dunk in it.  If you still had soup in your bowl after the bread mopping you picked it up and drank the soup straight from the bowl.  No spoons allowed!
Next there was a cheese, cured meats, salad and pate platter.  Again you used your hand and dove in.  Pate was a little greasy and salty and needed more bread but the cheese and cured meats were nice!
Finally another cauldron arrived, this one full of roast chicken and roasted winter vegetables.  You did get cutlery this time!  Mr M bellowed for more chicken and it was bought to him in true Henry VIII style.

Dessert was an apple and cinnamon cross between a cake and a tart.   The lighting was really red all through dinner which made it a little hard to see what you were eating - this is also why the photo's with food in look so red!

Unlimited ale and wine was also included with our entry although again it's not the best quality ale and wine!  It did taste a little watered down (which would be authentic!). 
At £50 a head the experience is a little pricey - I think it is cheaper mid week and be prepared for a LOT of hen and stag parties at the weekend.  It is a giggle though and the entertainment and setting makes for a very different night out! 

No comments:

Post a Comment