Party like it’s 1535…
The BBC made me very happy indeed when they commissioned Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for a six-part mini-series. I’ve long been a Tudor nerd but the positive response to the series has made me suspect that I’m not alone – there seem to be others out there fascinated by codpieces, half-moon hoods and the violent rages of a podgy, smelly old king. Now that the excellent mini-series is drawing to a close, I’m looking for something to fill the Tudor void. Given where I work, it seems inevitable that I’m going to try to do it with food, doesn’t it?
Here’s a rundown of some Tudorific dining destinations to help you transition back to life without a codpiece-clad Damian Lewis. These venues promise superb food in stunning and historic surroundings.
Great Fosters in Surrey
Egham’s Great Fosters dates back to 1550, when it was built as a royal hunting lodge. It’s now a stunning hotel with 50 acres of spectacular gardens and parkland and wonderful dining options in the Estate Grill. The menu is modern British and European, with emphasis placed on using fresh home-grown produce (most of the salad and vegetables used are grown in the Great Fosters garden). Look forward to starters like garden parsnips with goat’s curd, walnut praline and pickle, and main courses like the Butcher’s Block; a sharing dish comprising estate-reared pig, caramelised apple and gravy. Glorious puddings like baked lemon cream with blackberries, rosemary and meringue are the perfect way to round off a meal – make sure you take a stroll through the grounds before you leave, too.
Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent ten blissful days at Thornbury Castle as part of their honeymoon tour, and it’s easy to see why it would appeal to a couple so in love (before it all went so horribly wrong…). The grounds are beautiful and the castle really is something to behold – it truly is a romantic venue. Even now it retains many of its original Tudor features, including oriel windows, chimneys and arrowslits. The menu includes treats like scallops with black pudding, foie gras and game terrine and Uley Fields lamb. The puddings are to die for. For a really memorable evening, dine in the castle dungeon by candlelight, or visit for an elegant afternoon tea.
Tudors Restaurant & Bar in St Albans
Tudors Restaurant & Bar dates back to 1470, and the team are well-regarded as being experts on all things Tudor – they’ve even featured on Channel 5 showcasing their reworked versions of traditional Tudor recipes. The atmospheric dining room is an unforgettable spot in which to enjoy the impressive seasonal menus – try a starter of double-baked Stilton soufflé with caramelised pear before sampling one of the homemade water crust pies for your main course. Sunday roasts are always popular – after all, what’s better than a slap-up meal enjoyed in historic surroundings?
The King Henry VIII in Hever, Kent
Hever Castle is somewhat of a mecca for Tudor buffs, given that the idyllic castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The King Henry VIII is a charming English pub situated across from the entrance to the castle. Though the current building dates from 1647, a pub has stood on the site since 1597 – it might be a bit younger than some of the entries on this list, but its proximity to Hever Castle certainly makes it worth a mention, particularly when you consider the top-notch traditional food on offer, the beer garden and the cosy fires in winter.
Tudor Barn Eltham in Eltham
Tudor Barn Eltham is a picture-perfect example of Tudor architecture, housed in a restored Grade II* listed 16th-Century building. The property originally belonged to Margaret More, Thomas More’s beloved daughter, and her husband William Roper. Originally a country mansion set in 13 acres of gardens, Tudor Barn Eltham is now a stunning venue, whether for weddings or a meal out for a special occasion. Start with home-smoked goose breast with roasted chicory, raspberry vinaigrette and peppered tuille, then tuck into a perfectly cooked fillet of sea bass with saffron-braised potatoes and squid ink sauce. Delectable desserts include a pistachio parfait with pistachio brittle.
If dining in authentic Tudor surroundings isn’t enough for you, why not go all-out and attend a Tudor banquet, complete with entertainment and costumes?
Kentwell Hall offers an authentic set-up for a Tudor banquet. The Great Hall is filled with oak tables laid with pewter platters and Tudor-style knives and spoons – no modern-day forks allowed. By candlelight, guests are served by pages and maids in authentic dress, and they can look forward to food prepared from real Tudor recipes – prepare to feast like a king.
Trerice is one of the South West’s loveliest National Trust sites. It was the 16th-Century home of Sir John Arundell, so is a great option for authentic Tudor dining. Imagine the year is 1573 and look forward to an evening of entertainment, comedy and song, as well as a cracking banquet.
Party like it’s 1595 and Sir John Lumley has invited you to dine at Lumley Castle for an unforgettable evening of feasting. Drink mead from a goblet and tuck into five courses while the costumed banquet maids entertain you with sketches and songs.