Where can you dine with King Henry VIII in attendance? At the Medieval Banquet in St. Katherine's Dock, near the Tower of London. Enjoy a feast with live entertainment from King Henry's court. Plus you get to dress up too!
I wrote the bulk of this review in 2009 and since the show has changed I returned for a second visit in 2011.
As I went on a Saturday night last time, I decided to return for the earlier show on a Sunday which is popular with families.
Staff were very welcoming and happy which helps in the slightly surreal setting. Before the show we were entertained with magic tricks and all the ladies swooned over our 'knight' who was rather handsome.
The food is simple but fitting for the occasion. There's bread to break and share with soup brought to the table in a large pot for you to serve yourself. After a salad of cold meats and cheeses the main meal is chicken, again brought to the table in a large pot, plus roast potatoes and mixed root vegetables. Vegetarians got a goats cheese and roast vegetable dish which was large and tasty. Dessert was a large fruit pie served by your 'wench'.
It would be good to explain there are no soup spoons provided as many sat looking confused. And there's no time to waste as you need to eat up quickly as the tables are cleared promptly and the show goes on.
I like the entertainment - it's a high standard - but I wasn't really sure what was going on. Henry VIII is there, yet not introduced, and it may be good to have a storyteller explain the show to guests. Nevertheless, I loved banging the tables instead of clapping, and the many acts we saw were fantastic culminating in our knight sword fighting for our honor.
The food is basic but you'll drink and laugh a lot. The disco at the end was a bonus and most people got up for a boogie. The volume is high and is has a wedding party feel but my advice is to not question what's happening and check your inhibitions with your coat. We laughed and hugged strangers when we left and that makes a good night for me.
PreconceptionsThe Medieval Banquet has been running for over 30 years but I still knew few people who had tried it. I asked around and these were the common preconceptions:
Nothing for vegetarians
Wrong: I'm vegetarian and can report veggie options are always available.
Lots of bone throwing
Wrong: It's true in medieval times the floor was used for waste but, thankfully, I can report the guests here are more civilized.
Poor quality food
Wrong: The menu changes regularly and the food is actually of a particularly high standard so the focus is not just on the entertainment (and getting drunk); you do receive a tasty meal too.
Poor quality entertainment
Wrong: The entertainers are superb. Your 'serving wench' (waitress) will also do choreographed dance routines throughout the evening.
Poor quality wine and beer
Wrong: The wine and beer and was extremely drinkable and is free throughout your meal.
Venue is a dank basement
Wrong: The vaulted cellar of the Ivory House has been refurbished and is not damp, doesn't smell, or any of these concerns.
What To ExpectSo now you know what not to expect, let's get onto to what does happen on a night at a Medieval Banquet.
The venue is within St. Katherine's Docks which is an actual marina opposite the Tower of London. Ivory House dates back to the 16th century when this was the main shipping port in London and the cellars were used to store goods such as teas, wine, sugar, and ivory. These refurbished vaulted cellars are perfect for long tables with bench seating for banquet dining, and there can be over 400 guests on some nights.
Do get there early as you'll want time to be seated and choose a costume. Yes, you get to dress up in medieval-style clothes for a charge! Quite frankly, you've come this far so don't get shy now. If you really can't be persuaded to play along then note the dress code is smart/casual, with no jeans or trainers.
The inclusive wine and beer is available at the start time but there is a cash bar if you can't wait. It can be good to use this pre time to say hello to the people on your table as once the entertainment starts, there will be too much going on to chat.
Each vault is allocated a 'serving wench' - her words, not mine - who is your main waitress and who also performs choreographed dance routines throughout the evening. She brings the drinks orders but do note you will not get a wine glass.
A Theatrical EveningFrom here on in it's entertainment all the way. You get to welcome Henry VIII and two of his wives who sing beautifully, and a Beefeater expertly comperes the evening. You are expected to clap, bang the tables, and stamp your feet so do pay attention.
I hope you checked your inhibitions at the cloakroom along with your 'normal' clothes as you may well be getting more involved than you first thought. Each vault has a 'lord' and 'lady' chosen by the serving wench and they have to stand up and join in the show from time to time. It's noisy, and sometimes quite mad, but very entertaining. Expect to see jesters, wandering minstrels, fighting knights, and dancing wenches. The songs are based on traditional folk tunes and some you may recognize so feel free to sing along.
There's real ceremony about the food arriving as the waitresses line up outside then bring in huge trays as guests applaud. I've never seen that in a standard restaurant! Once in the room, food is served quickly, and you'll need to pass plates down the table to help those at the far end.
There are four courses and you may well be serving yourself soup from large pots placed along the table and ripping bread from a large loaf and passing along the line. I loved the fact we all sat waiting patiently when soup was brought as we didn't have a spoon but we were then reminded this was a medieval banquet and we should slurp from the bowl!
I only heard complimentary comments about the food which I thought was of a very high standard. My friends' roast Chicken covered in their special honey and barbecue sauce went down very well and we had a brief time to chat to those seated near us as we served each other vegetables from a large serving dish on the table. This communal time was good to ground yourself from the surreal evening.
After the show, there is music and dancing, and they also suggest taking a two minute walk to Tower Bridge and enjoy a panoramic view of London by night.
A Medieval Banquet is great fun with excellent food and entertainment; and you get to dress up. You'll be laughing and grinning for days after. It's worth every penny, don't miss out.
Booking: Tel: 020 7480 5353 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: The Medieval Banquet, Ivory House, St Katharine's Dock, London E1W 1BP
Official Website: www.medievalbanquet.com
Book online with Viator (Buy Direct).
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.