Feasting with Henry VIII and his royal subjects was not how I ever envisioned spending an evening. But a couple of weeks ago, in the historic area of St Katharine Docks , we did just that. A four course meal, unlimited red wine and ale, and entertainment fit for a king awaited us at the Medieval Banquet.
We were led underground, past coats of armour and a wall lined with swords, into the depths of the Banquet, where rows upon rows of long tables were waiting to be filled. We took our seats next to where all the action would be, hoping that the other people joining our table were in the mood for a fun evening.
As the place started to come alive with more guests, the noblemen and women wandered around talking to visitors, asking us which distant land we had come from and bidding us a good evening.
Most of the other guests came in large groups for a birthday, hen or stag night – the perfect place for a big celebration. People excitedly scanned the rows of fancy dress outfits like big kids, wanting to hire some medieval attire for the occasion. I suggested I get a crown and Mr Ayla a jester hat but for some reason he didn’t seem too keen on the idea (I have no idea why – he’d make the perfect jester and we all know that I’m a Disney princess under cover), so we satisfied ourselves instead by giggling at all the other guests who were kitting themselves out.
There were a few rules for the evening and the fear of being beheaded by the very serious looking Henry VIII made sure we followed them.
Firstly, when we needed our jugs of wine or mead topped up, we were to shout out “Wench!” Admittedly, I felt a bit too rude to do this so gladly left it to the other gentlemen at the table who, after a couple of glasses, were perfectly happy to shout out at the wenches. Secondly, we were to show our appreciation by banging our fists on the table; and, lastly, no throwing food. Clearly the health and safety here is a tad more up to date than it was in medieval times.
Not only are the tables communal but so is the food, and we passed the first course – a big bowl of creamy vegetable soup – around the table each filling up our individual bowls. Realising that we wouldn’t be getting any spoons, we tore off chunks of bread from the big loaves to mop up as much of the soup as we could and the rest we drank straight out of the bowl. This banquet really was medieval and it’s the one place you don’t need to be ashamed about bad table manners!
Course after course continued arriving in front of us – cheese and meat platters, chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables and, finally, a deliciously warm fruit pie with cream.
I did think that having to dish up our food from the same serving bowls as total strangers might be a bit awkward but there was always plenty to go round and the wenches were happy to fill our bowls up if we needed more.
I’m not sure if we’re just lucky in these situations or if it’s just down to both of us being genuinely friendly people (yes, we really are just that nice) but we always meet some great people on these sorts of adventures. We were joined with some like-minded travellers from New Zealand who we shared stories and drank wine with all night.
Between each course we were entertained by jugglers and acrobats, troubadours and minstrels (or poets and singers to your 21st century ears), all performing impressive stunts and tricks that completely held our attention until the next round of food appeared in front of us.
After copious amounts of food and wine, everyone cheered uproariously as two knights battled it out in a sword fight, and when the dancing wenches dragged people up to join in the celebrations, we laughed in surprise as the music took a slight detour from the medieval theme and suddenly switched from Greensleeves to Rihanna. After all that wine we were ready for a dance to end off the most fun night out we’ve had in ages.
Have you been or would you like to go to the Medieval Banquet or any other themed evening like this one? Let me know in the comments below or at:
Big thanks to The Medieval Banquet who hosted our night. Despite all the wine (and the sore head the next morning), our entertaining evening of festivities is one I won’t be forgetting any time soon!