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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sitting Down to a Medieval Banquet

If you've ever been to Medieval Times or Exacalibur's Tournament of Kings in Las Vegas, you probably decided it was more money than it was worth and you did it once and that was enough. The food isn't all that great and you have to (get to) eat with your hands. Though the show is fun, it can be pretty hokey. I'll admit, I love such cheesy activities whether I'm at home or on vacation – though I'm more willing to pay for it on vacation  but agree that they can be expensive unless you can get a really good deal online. 

Last time in Vegas, we received free tickets to Tournament of Kings. Had we not, we probably would not have paid the price and it had put us off these dinner and a show things, though I was still willing to spend money to go to something similar in London. The problem? Tickets were upwards of $80 per person. With the price of everything on this trip costing more than anywhere else, I had given up hope on getting to do it this trip as well. Fortunately, I had signed up for all the daily deal sites that offer deals in London and happened to see one for the Medieval Banquet that was 51% off! I couldn't turn that down, especially since dinner out would cost almost as much...and I would have to entertain myself!

Even though I was excited to experience what it might be like to be a member of the King's court, I had little hope that the food would be any good. We figured it would be some kitschy fun and an interesting way to spend an evening. Let me tell you, it was so much better than we ever expected. It took us a while to find the actual "dungeon", but after asking for directions from a nearby business, we found it and descended into a Medieval "castle". It was definitely not anything I thought you'd find in the middle of London next to the docks. 

You have the opportunity to rent costumes to make your evening even more fun. We decided to skip that and were shown to our table where we sat between a nice couple from Kent (he did dress up) two girls from America who were living and working in the city. We had fantastic conversation (does this ever happen???) and then the food started to come. Cauldrons of piping hot soup and large loaves of bread were set on the table, along with pitchers of water and "grog". While we dug into this first course, they explained the rules of the banquet. You should address your waitress as wench and do so in a loud, booming voice if you need anything and she isn't standing near the table, how to participate in a toast and when you like something, you should pound on the table vigorously, hoping your silverware  yes! there are forks and knives here – doesn't fly onto the floor.

You get to drink your soup from a bowl. Amazingly, it is a really good veggie broth. Next, comes the salad. Nobody really knew what to expect, and I wish I got photos, because it consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, pickled carrots and cucumbers and slices of liverwurst. Interesting! I'm sure most of you are cringing at your screen, but I loooooooove liverwurst. Eric does not, so I traded him for my tomatoes. I liked the authenticity of the salad, because in the middle ages, you would not get served a Caesar or chop salad. It was rustic and really delicious. This is when the entertainment started. 

Unlike at Medieval Times, there are no jousting knights or horses. The banquet room has low-ceiling alcoves where each group of tables were situated and you wouldn't eat a meal while watching something that takes place outside. No, you would get jugglers and singers and the like, so that is what they had. A very bendy girl did some contortioning, hula hooping tricks and ribbon-twirling while the King and Queen sang, old timey instruments were played a guy juggled and a lady dressed as a unicorn danced. The entertainers would rotate, so everyone had a chance to easily see everything. 

The main course came after much fanfare and they had thoroughly embarrassed some "volunteers" by making them engage in a little dance with the performers. What came was some of the juiciest chicken I've gotten anywhere and platters of roasted root veggies that were amazing. Since coming back, I've been making my own version for many dinners. This is when the sword fighting began. Some excitement for the main course! Dessert did not disappoint either. A lovely apple pie with soft crust and cream came. Though we were all pretty full by then, we managed to enjoy every last bite. 

The courses came in long enough intervals that you had time to digest and hang out, but not feel like you were waiting forever for the next one to show up. After the food, there was a small dance party, turning the banquet room into a little disco with modern music. We danced a little and then spent some time talking to the folks at our table and getting to know some lovely older ladies at the next table. The four of them were celebrating their friend's birthday. Three of them had been friends for 65 years! I really hated to leave, since the night was so much fun, but alas, all good things must come to an end and tomorrow was another day of seeing the city, so we wandered back to the Underground station and back to our flat to get ready for it.

I'm really happy we took the chance on what we thought would be totally hokey, because it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Have you been to the Medieval Banquet or want to go? Subscribe to London deals on KGB Deals. They even have special meals if you're a vegetarian, so don't let that stop you from considering it. For more info, check out their website.

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