How times have changed since the days of Henry VIII, expertly prepared cuisine just isn’t sufficient for the refined British palate. They expect to be royally entertained, they see food as theatre; so it was with some irony we were dispatched to investigate the wildly successfully phenomenon that is the Medieval Banquet. It’s situated right in the heart of St Katherine’s Dock in the shadow of the Tower of London. The feast takes place inside Ivory House which was built in 1858, interestingly it is the only original warehouse still standing in the area today. It used to house luxury imports like perfume, wine, shells and of course ivory.
Early arrival is recommended, as there is much food, fun and frolics throughout the evening. You are addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lady” on entering which should be the norm at all respectable dining establishments. You are then taught the fastest way to get service is to shout “WENCH” at the top of your lungs. Thankfully fastidious political correctness wasn’t invented back in those days.
As befitting a royal occasion, the entertainment was plentiful and of the spectacular variety: there is a highly talented contortonist twisting her body around a hoop, court “jester” juggling upside down on a headstand with 5 pins and another with a baffling card trick which meant he would always know which cards you have picked out of the pack and in what order. The evening climaxes with a spectacular sword fight. Presiding over the action, is King Henry VIII on his throne who will happily take photos with you.
If this does not galvanise your spirits, then surely a visit to their costume department will. You can purchase a standard crown for £5 or if you are the joker in the party, maybe a jester’s hat for £10? Costume hire is at £10 each with plenty of options for all shapes and sizes. It’s also a great opportunity for bonding with fellow courtesans.
The meal consists of a hearty soup and bread to begin with, the main course is a heartwarming roast chicken with gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables and is finished off with a delightful dessert. It might seem marginally plain in the 21st century, but remember this would have been served to the lords and ladies of high society back in the days of King Henry VIII. For those of a thirsty disposition, the fantastic news is they will top up your glasses of house wine and jugs of ale, as long as you remember to shut out “WENCH” at no extra charge.
When the entertainment has finished and the food is eaten, that isn’t the end of the celebrations; the venue transforms into a disco with full disco lights and tunes to get your body moving and start the calories burning. The jesters and wenches don’t retreat to their quarters but show great customer service by dancing with you all night. Expect plenty of circular dancing and hand holding.
For a night that has hearty food, great entertainment, customer service fit for a king and all in an iconic location, medieval banquet should be very high on your agenda.