At the beginning of the month, the bloke and I made our way to St. Katherine's Docks after work on a Friday evening to attend the Medieval Banquet. I know that there are a few medieval banquet concepts around the world, but I have never been to one before. Of course, the theme is medieval, so fancy dress and knights and jesters are expected. This medieval banquet is located in St. Katherine's Docks, next to the Tower of London. It is located in the converted warehouse cellars at the docks.
We arrived early because we work in (or on the fringe) of the City of London, and they opened at 7:30 in the evening. I found this quite late, and I would have loved to have arrived earlier and had drinks. (I also feel that this is a little late to have a meal.) Medieval-inspired cocktails would have been nice. Alas, they do not open early and one must wait until 7:30 (on the Friday evening). Two suits of armour are outside the entrance, so many were using these as photogaph opportunities.
Once inside, we were warmly greeted by ladies and men dressed in medieval dress and shown to our seats. Each archway contains two rows of seats, and we were extremely lucky to have one of the best seats in the venue. We were sat at the front, opposite the king and in the middle of the venue. I was able to get many great photographs.
The voucher that I had to use included two tickets and a bottle of Prosecco to share. However, alcoholic drinks throughout the evening are free and I do not go overboard on drinks, but a bottle of Prosecco is always nice. I did try some white wine, and it did taste better than I expected a "free" drink would taste. It was quite nice. The staff made sure that were had plenty (to help aid a good time) and that we were entertained to have a good time.
Fancy dress is available to hire, and there were some really nice outfits - at least for the girls. I did not dress up, however. Goblets and other accessories could also be purchased. I do recommend for those who attend to dress up and "get into" the experience. If possible, also go with a slightly larger group (more than two) as I feel that this is an attraction to be shared with a few close friends.
Our seats were opposite to the "King"! I thought that he was going to be very "kingly" and hence intimidating, but he was actually friendly and allowed people to take photographs with him. He was dressed like Henry VIII. He gave a small speech to commence the banquet and entertainment.
The "wenches" (this is what we were expected to call them, and we were encouraged to shout that term out at them in order to be served more alcohol) appeared to bring us bread in baskets and soup. The soup was a vegetable or pumpkin, and it did have a nice flavour. Spoons were not provided, so we had to mop up the soup with the bread or drink from the soup bowl.
The entertainment followed as we tucked in. Acrobatics, jugglers, and singing was the entertainment. Several medieval primarily English songs were sung, and these dated from the late 1200s until the 16th century. Greensleves was one of these, of course.
The queen (or lady) also sang along with the king or on her own, and another girl played the violin.
Each archway in the Medieval Banquet were treated to each act or a different medieval song so that everyone could enjoy the entertainment.
Our starters arrived, and everyone tucked into a mixture of pates, cheese, salad, and cold meat. I found the cheddar cheese to taste delicious.
While we shared and consumed the starter with others on the table, we watched the entertainers. One acrobat used hoops and a ribbon and also managed to contort her body around a hoop suspended in air.
Of course, more singing followed. Each time, some of the entertainers changed dress.
Eventually, the food arrived. There was a piece of chicken for everyone. Luckily the people who sat next to us had eaten previously and did not mind that I had one of the chicken breasts. Vegetables were plentiful, and these included a mixture of broccoli, carrot, and swede. A bowl of new potatoes was also provided. Food was plentiful.
The entertainment commenced after we had finished our meals, and more singing and acrobatics followed while we waited for an then ate our desserts. The dessert on offer was apple pie with custard, and this did taste good. During this entertainment, we drank and obtained a goblet for a small cost. This goblet included a free cocktail, which was quite strong. I am glad that I did not have to drink this.
After the majority of us had finished our desserts, the knights came on to fight. Each archway had their own knight, and they tried to get our support.
The singing followed and ended the evening. Afterwards, the wenches grabbed us all up from the tables so that we could participate in the entertainment, which included dancing around the room to music. The evening did not end there, but the venue was turned into a nightclub and continued to serve guests until 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening. Actually, as we had a long way to get back to Basingstoke, we left straight after and before we got pulled onto the dancefloor.
Overall, this was a fun night out. I expected a little more entertainment and more role-playing from the different actors and direction from the "king". Of course, the medieval banquet is a little cheesy, but that is to be expected. After a few drinks, this does not matter anyway. The idea is to have fun and to participate. Those attending in groups dressing up and participating will get more out of this.