"Panto with a four course meal"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the ‘Medieval Banquet’ taking place at St Katharine’s Dock. Would it be a four course meal of authentic delights from the medieval area, with bronze and/or wooden eating utensils and in a specially decorated dungeon-style dining area? Or would there simply be a load of people wandering around in costume? As it turned out, a bit of both.
We walked down the steps into a dimly lit cellar lined with long tables at which people sat. Girls marched to and fro in ‘wench’ outfits, whilst men in Beefeater costumes paced around. Once seated we noticed how our table was mostly made up of tourists, many of whom were children. We skipped to the bar to buy a bottle of Rose wine only to realise later that an unlimited number of jugs of beer and wine would be brought to the tables throughout the evening. Oh well.
The show began with an actor portraying Henry VIII and a musician performing on an acoustic guitar; in the meantime we were treated to our first course, a dish of charcuterie which contained pate, cold beef, salami, smoked cheese, and salad (vegetarian options are available upon request). Large trays arrived which were shared amongst the diners.
Whilst we appeased our hunger, a display akin to pantomime was taking place in front of us. Old Henry teased the crowd and the wenches danced around him and encouraged the audience to put their hands in the air/shout/dance. I managed to avoid doing any of these things by conveniently stuffing my face every time we were requested to perform an action. Everyone around us - in particular the young ones - was having a whale of a time however.
The next course was a vegetable soup delivered in cauldrons. Orange in colour, we spied carrot and tomato flavours, as well as a creamy aftertaste. The satisfying flavour led us to having seconds, whilst we noted how a few of our neighbours were actually wearing costumes as they ate, in particular a group of lads to our left who appeared to be on a celebration of some kind.
Having downed most of our Rose my companion politely asked one of the girls for some white wine. Once it arrived he was told that next time he must shout ‘wench!’ at her in order to get her attention, but he was being let off for the time being. Our cynicism meant that we were not taking part in the interactive element of the experience (we were just hungry) but there were many who were.
A mock fight took place followed by some clever juggling and a performance of ‘Greensleeves’; meanwhile our main course arrived, once again in black cauldrons. Large pieces of roasted chicken in a ‘traditional medieval sauce’ sat atop each other in the witches’ vessels. The sauce seemed to be a honey glaze while the meat was mottled with black pepper; it was juicy and comforting to the bite. It was accompanied by roasted potatoes, carrots and turnips, even if potatoes weren’t actually around in medieval times (they arrived in Europe in the 16th century, courtesy of explorers returning from South America).
By now quite full, we waited patiently for dessert while the show ended. An apple-filled flan with pieces of gelatinous fruit and thick pastry was consumed eagerly despite being on the verge of exploding. It was now around 10pm and a ‘disco’ was to take place until midnight for revellers to carry on partying. As The Ting Tings ‘That’s Not My Name’ came on – a slightly unusual ending for a medieval evening? – we staggered back up the stairs towards the Tower of London.
This theatrical dinner costs £45, and costumes can be hired for an additional charge. The standard of the food is good, and if you’re into dramatics and audience participation of this kind you’re bound to have a great time. A little like panto with a four course meal.
Leila reviewed The Medieval Banquet on Thu 08 Apr 2010