A Medieval Banquet with the Earl of Thomond:
At Bunratty Castle in County Clare we had an opportunity to experience a medieval banquet. Ah, but weren’t they all carnivores during that time and should non-meat eaters like us attend a medieval banquet? Our tour director convinced us that an evening at Bunratty Castle is an event not to be missed and that some fine food will be arranged for us.
Welcome to Bunratty Castle
As we make our way to the castle gate, a lone piper welcomes guests with bagpipe music. We cross the drawbridge to the castle entrance and are greeted by the Castle staff, resplendent in medieval costume. The Earl’s butler greets us with “Welcome milord” and “welcome milady” – yes, this evening we are the guests of the Earl of Thomond, a man with a reputation for lavish entertainment and fine hospitality.
The evening begins with a mead reception in the Great Hall of Bunratty Castle and as we drink our mead, we are entertained with some medieval and traditional Irish music.
Next we proceed to the large Banquet Hall filled with rows of tables and benches. Our entrée is a spiced parsnip soup which is poured out of a jug. But, before each course is served to the guests, the butler first tastes it to ensure that it is not poisonous and then the Earl of Thomond has to taste the food first to ensure that he is satisfied with it. The Earl of Thomond tonight happens to be a member from our group.
By this time, some are wondering when the cutlery is arriving. We’re reminded that there is no cutlery because this is a medieval banquet.
So, we slurp the tasty soup straight from the bowl and there is nice damper to go with it. For starters, platters of spare ribs done with honey and mustard sauce are placed on the tables and again you tear into the spare ribs with your hands. The main course is breasts of chicken with apple and mead sauce served with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. This is followed by dessert which is a fruit of the forest mousse on a biscuit base.
We have the vegetarian option which is a slice of melon for entrée, followed by a vegetarian tart.
Wine is included with the meal, but there aren’t many takers as both the red and white are pretty undrinkable. Tony asks to buy a beer, but they didn’t have any.
While the meal is taking place, the Castle staff provide musical entertainment. It seems that to work in the castle you have to multi-task as some of them help in serving the food and then join in providing the entertainment as well.
Touristy But Popular
Although the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet is an event staged for tourists, it is nevertheless very popular and gets booked out. The vegetarian meal is rather light on for the €59 charged and the wine certainly needs improvement, but food aside, the medieval banquet is an opportunity to experience Bunratty Castle in the evening, enjoy some Irish folk music and get a hint of what life might have been like when the Earls of Thomond were in residence, although a very sanitized version of it.