All Men Must Dine, set up by HBO, serves up medieval banquet inspired by the show and food mentioned in the book
The seven deadly sins get a pretty good showing on Game of Thrones. If one character isn’t poisoning another in the name of envy or greed, they are almost certainly engaged in some lust-fuelled activity, often with a sibling. But at the Game of Thrones pop-up restaurant, in London for three days, the sin at the heart of the whole affair is unadulterated gluttony.
As one of the first guests to be ushered in to the opulent dining hall and confronted with a banquet table decorated with overflowing platters of fruit, feathers and a real-life human contortionist, one thing swiftly became clear: this whole affair was a monument to culinary excess. We were also warned there may be a couple of potential assassins or Dothraki whores in our midst, but in the world of Westeros such things are really par for the course.
The lavish, immersive restaurant, called All Men Must Dine, has been set up by HBO to mark the release of season four of the popular fantasy drama on DVD. Open from 13 to 15 February, the selected diners (winners of a Sky competition) temporarily leave behind their ordinary identities to become the elite lords, ladies and princes privy to the clandestine meeting of the Small Council in King’s Landing.
Slightly reluctantly embracing my regal new persona as Lady Hannah of Beyond The Wall, I took my seat at the table on Thursday night – easier said than done when you have to carefully avoid the limbs of the female contortionist on one side and the feathers of a taxidermied peacock on the other.
Nonetheless, the medieval authenticity of the banquet’s ambience was truly impeccable, helped by the flickering candlelight and group of serenading lute players – though their novelty wore off quite quickly on the sixth rendition of the Game of Thrones theme song.
This was not to be a feast for the faint-hearted, nor one that tolerated any modern food fussiness. Vegetarians, vegans, fruitarians, those intolerant to wheat, dairy, insects or food doused in flames and dry ice were not welcome at this table.
The first of the six courses, which overall featured around 15 different dishes each symbolising a significant moment in series four, was a spiced pigeon, dried fruit and almond pie (to honour the murder of King Joffrey), accompanied by a dandelion salad and a poached veal tongue, a dish to symbolise the lies of Tyrion Lannister.
And while in my shamefully sporadic watching of Game of Thrones I’ve never had any hankering to sample what a dragon’s egg might taste like, when it is made of a buttery pastry shell filled with ham hock, prunes, apple and sage, it is actually pretty tasty. Quickly abandoning my medieval cutlery (turns out that third prong on a modern fork is quite essential) I dived in, hands first, with medieval gusto.
If the tongue was a little on the slimy side (a tad too tongue-like) everything else was fragrant and delicious. Even small loaves of spiced bread, so heavy they more closely resembled small leaden weapons than edible foodstuffs, proved worthy of the intense jaw work they required to chew.
As more courses followed, each handed to the diner with an explanatory handwritten scroll and several served in a flourish of smoke and fire, our silver platters began to overflow with everything from glazed eel to quail stuffed with apricots, almonds and sultanas, stuffed vine leaves and even fried locusts, which tasted like a mouthful of dust.
As we approached the fifth course, all the eating had begun to prove exhausting and by the time the whole suckling pig was brought to the table – unnervingly pierced upright on a stake and subsequently set alight in a pyre of herbs – I started to worry my usually never-ending appetite would let me down.
But, in the true spirit of Man v. Food, I persevered, spurred on by the friendly friars. Even the presence of a comedy singing ukelele duo, usually enough to ruin absolutely any occasion, proved strangely likeable, helped along by the free-flowing tankards of wine.
By the time dessert was served, we had all become so used to the unorthodox presentation of medieval delicacies that the bone filled with bone marrow custard and laced with red cherry sauce hardly caused a single raised eyebrow. Indeed, it even turned out to be a bizarre highlight of the banquet – though, as head chef Jamie Hazeel admitted afterwards, had been the course “most fraught with difficulties”.
Speaking about how he had come up with the elaborate menu, Hazeel said it had taken six weeks of research and experimentation.
“We took our inspiration from three different places,” he said. “Firstly, the image one has of medieval food, the drama of how it’s served and evocative dishes like piles of quail, a whole sucking pig and pigeon pie, that we thought were important, atmospherically to include.”
“The second source of inspiration was food that was actually mentioned in the book, such as the veal tongue which we served with oldtown mustard, which was our conception of something that was actually mentioned in the book.”
“And then the most important source of inspiration was just from different events that happened during season four of the show and celebrating those through the dishes we created,” Hazeel said.
“We are massive fans of the show, so it was a huge amount of fun.”