A Midsummer Night's Feast @ The Montagu - Review
Head down to appropriately-named The Montagu this summer for a taste of Shakespearean fine dining, with some surprising additions...To mark the 450th anniversary of that old playwriting cad William Shakespeare, The Montagu restaurant in Hyatt Churchill hotel is putting on a Midsummer Night's Feast every Thursday throughout the summer. With the promise of themed food, wine and surprise performances, we went along to see if we could eat and drink ourselves 'out of our five senses', as the man himself would have wanted. Things started well as we were seated by staff in Elizabethan attire and swiftly given our first drink of the evening - a tankard of 'Loves Labour's Won', complete with guinea fowl feather quill. A combination of nettle-infused malmsey, mead and Irish whisky, it tasted similar to heavily spiced mulled wine, while the tankard aspect made me feel like a less fat, less murderous version of Henry VIII. The decor was subtle, with most of the theme coming from the costumed staff, the hearts cut out from Shakesperian plays on the table, and the lute player in the corner strumming Greensleeves. I was slightly apprehensive about the promise of Elizabethan food, questioning whether they would go as far as expecting us to eat a roasted wild boar with just a spoon (no forks in Elizabethan England, unfortunately).
Fortunately for everyone involved, full cutlery was available, and the menu had been adapted to modern tastes and modern laws - might be a bit tricky to serve swan these days. We both started with the fish assiete, a smorgasbord of pate and smoked fish, accompanied by the world's tiniest baked potato. Next up was a salt-crusted Sea Bass, which was subtle and delicious if you heeded the advice NOT to eat the salted casing, and what I can only describe as the best Beef Wellington I've ever had.
It was so rare (at my request) that I half expected it to get up and walk off the table. Encased in flaky pastry and surrounded by a robust pate, it managed to be both tender and punchy. I could honestly talk about this Beef Wellington for hours, along with a myriad of facial expressions and wild gesticulations, but no one really wants that so I'll just say that it was bloody great.
During the course of the meal, the music would occasionally stop as an actor disguised as a diner would leap up and begin to act out a famous scene from one of the Bard's many works. Initially terrifying, this soon became very entertaining as they leaped around the room, acting their little hearts out and performing directly to various flattered guests.
If that wasn't enough, we were given a magnetic poetry board and a selection of words to play with between courses, in order to channel our recently-inspired creative sides (and potentially win a free afternoon tea). While we made a valiant attempt, including lines such as 'to infinity and belong', somehow the prize eluded us. We finished by sharing a generous cheese platter and a strawberry and gooseberry fool, along with another glass of red.
All in all, it was a brilliant and amusing evening. Shakespeare would certainly have approved.
'A Midsummer Night's Feast is on every Thursday until July 31st. Tickets are £35 pp.
The Montagu, Hyatt Regency Churchill, 30 Portland Square, London, W1H 7 BH