I’ve always been fascinated by history, particularly by the Wars of the Roses and the treacherous double-dealing between the Houses of York and Lancaster, so I was very excited to be invited to experience a medieval banquet at Warwick Castle.
Originally established in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle is most famous as the seat of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Known as the Kingmaker, Neville infamously switched sides multiple times during the Wars of the Roses, supporting first York and then Lancaster, until he was eventually defeated at the Battle of Barnet.
We arrived at Warwick Castle on the eve of the ill-fated Battle of Barnet ready to eat, drink and make merry before the army marches south. Having visited the castle previously, we felt very privileged to enter after closing time and really appreciated the beauty of the empty grounds on a gorgeous summer’s evening.
Our experience began at the Coach House restaurant, where we were given two drinks tokens and a pork and sage pie each. There was a choice of red or white wine, bottled beer or soft drinks, all served in novelty heavy goblets. For an event which costs £60 per person, I did find the use of drinks tokens and restriction of canapés to one per person a little stingy.
Relaxing in the sunshine, listening to medieval music duo The Sounds of Time and meeting Meg and Peg (the castle gossips), we certainly knew we were in for a unique evening.
After a short walk around the grounds, we entered the main castle via the impressive drawbridge, complete with two portcullis and murder holes. Our next stop was the Kingmaker Attraction – a Warwick Castle staple which details preparations for the Battle of Barnet. First time visitors might be disappointed, as we were walked through a swift pace and there was little time to stop and appreciate the original historical details and murals hidden throughout the attraction.
Dinner was served in the Undercroft, a cosy room lit with lanterns and flickering candles. Our host, Sir Richard Rannulph, took to the stage amid much cheering and enthusiastic banging on tables, to rally the troops with his battle cry: “A Warwick, A Warwick!”
Sir Richard also announced the first course, but even he couldn’t resist a grimace at the incongruous falafel and frittata. These little savoury balls had a pleasant flavour, but were quite dry and definitely benefited from the addition of sweet chilli sauce. For an evening which strived for an authentic atmosphere, the choice of starters felt rather odd.
In between courses, we were entertained by The Sounds of Time and their medieval twist on interactive, cabaret songs. The two musicians were tireless, serenading us throughout the entire banquet and making us feel as though we had stepped back in time.
The main course was much more appropriate for a medieval banquet; an enormous chicken, ham and leek pie. The meat was tender and juicy, but the pastry was a dark due to the amount of time it would take to cook a pie of this size. This was accompanied by roast potatoes (unfortunately not crispy) and mixed vegetables.
A medieval magician had been entertaining the tables throughout the evening with clever sleight of hand tricks, and he took to the stage after the main course had been served. Unfortunately, his magic act was quite poor and his often sexist jokes made me quite uncomfortable.
I enjoyed the dessert; a spiced cake and poached pear which felt more typical of a medieval banquet. This was rounded off with castle-shaped shortbread biscuits, which was a lovely novelty bonus.
The serving staff were all very friendly and attentive, offering second helpings and keeping the wine and ale flowing liberally. Perhaps due to the high volume of guests, there were a few oversights – we were left to share a water goblet between two all evening and my coffee order never materialised. The food was served banquet style at one end of the table, and we passed the dishes down to the other end, a system which caused confusion amongst some guests.
The entertainment was of varying quality. Aside from the magician’s questionable sense of humour, the actors playing Meg and Peg were very warm and friendly but occasionally struggled with improvising in character. Sir Richard Rannulph was excellent; bold, charismatic and quick-witted, he carried the evening and really encouraged the guests to participate in the medieval revelry.
Overall, our Kingmaker’s Banquet at Warwick Castle was an undeniably unique and enjoyable experience. We were caught up in the atmosphere, practicing our battle cries, banging the tables and singing medieval songs in unison. For a premium priced event, I would generally expect a higher quality of food and service. It would be perfect for a large birthday party or hen do with a difference, and I would definitely recommend visiting Warwick Castle in the day before the banquet to see more of this wonderful historic building.
More information about themed banquets at Warwick Castle can be found here.
I was kindly invited to Warwick Castle to attend the Kingmaker’s Banquet free of charge, but as ever this review is my own opinion.