Lunch at Middle Temple, London

Fancy eating lunch in the finest Elizabethan room in London? Then lunch at Middle Temple is for you.

Royal Portraits, Charles I, James I, James II, William II and Queen Anne in Middle Temple Hall
Middle Temple Hall

What is Middle Temple?

Bear with me, we will get to lunch but first a bit of background about Middle Temple. Step through a narrow archway off the Strand and you enter the Temple. A maze of narrow streets, the preserve of knights and lawyers. An area steeped in history and beloved by film crews.

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court in London. Before barristers can be “Called to the Bar” they need to study in Inns. In general they will spend their working lives in the Chambers that cluster around the narrow alleyways.

Middle Temple gatehouse

Inside Middle Temple Hall

At the heart of Middle Temple is the Middle Temple Hall. Generally reckoned to be the finest Elizabethan hall surviving in London. It is massive. 101 feet long and 41 feet wide. The wood-panelled walls and stained-glass windows are awash with the coats of arms of notable lawyers. Walking in is how I imagine walking into the Hogwarts dining room would be. It was here that Twelfth Night had its earliest recorded performance with Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare both in attendance.

What is a Hammerbeam Roof?

Double Hammerbeam roof Middle Temple Hall
Double Hammerbeam roof

A magnificent double hammerbeam roof tops the hall off. What is a double hammerbeam and how does it differ from a single Hammerbeam? I hear you cry. Deep breath … A hammerbeam is when a roof beam does not go all the way across a roof but is supported by mini beams jutting out from the wall. These support the roof’s weight on a far smaller area and enable a wider roof span. A double hammerbeam is where there are two layers of these short beams. Those who know about these things reckon that the double hammerbeam roof is the most spectacular achievement of English Medieval carpenter, so pretty special. To see the largest Hammerbeam roof in Europe take a look at my Palace of Westminster post.

Queen Elizabeth I table at Middle Temple Hall, made from a single oak tree cut from Windsor Great Park
Queen Elizabeth I table

When Queen Elizabeth I gave permission for the Hall to be built in 1562, she not only signed the relevant pieces of paper she also gave a gift. A very large oak tree was selected from the forest at Windsor and then floated down the Thames. Not much of a present you might think, but three planks of wood were hewn from the tree and used to make a 29 foot long table that is still in the great hall and still used today.

To enter the main hall you have to pass through a massive ornately carved wooden screen. It looks solid and ancient. The screen was constructed in 1574 but was shattered during the Blitz. All the pieces were collected together and once the war was over work started on putting them all back together. I imagine that it must have been a particularly tricky jigsaw puzzle. To look at it today it is hard to imagine that it was damaged in anyway.

Lunch at Middle Temple

Middle Temple Hall, London with tables laid for lunch
Lunch time at Middle Temple Hall

Finally, lunch. During law term weekdays, the Middle Temple Hall is a very posh works canteen. Members of Middle Temple, who are all barristers and tend to work in the chambers surrounding the hall itself are able to just wander in to eat lunch. You and I can join them, but we need to book. You could just have soup and a salad but the Carvery and puddings are always very tempting. If you lunch on a Friday fish is the star of the menu. Dress is formal but not starched, clean neat jeans are allowed but trainers, shorts, T-shirts, ripped or dirty clothing are not. Whooshing round on your broomstick and pretending that you are at Hogwarts is not encouraged.

Coffee at Middle Temple

If you are not in the mood for a big lunch or are visiting outside the legal term time you can still grab a coffee and snack at the Garden Room on Middle Temple Lane. As the name implies you can sit out in the beautiful Middle Temple gardens when the weather permits.

Middle Temple Tour

There is more to the Middle Temple than just the Middle Temple Hall. If you have at least 10 like minded friends you can book a tour that takes in the Hall and the Bench Apartments.

Queen’s Room, Middle Temple

Queen Mother portrait, Queen's Room Middle Temple
Queen Mother portrait

Whilst the other rooms that you see on the tour are not as vast, they are all quite ornate. The Queen’s Room was named for the Queen Mother who was called to the Bar in this room. No, that doesn’t mean that the Queen Mum was a barrister in her spare time, it means that she was a Royal Bencher. Her portait hangs on the wall, alongside other prominent members.

Parliament Chamber, Middle Temple

Queen Elizabeth I stained glass window Middle Temple
Queen Elizabeth I stained glass

Film buffs may like to know that this is very spot where Mr Darcy proposed to Bridget Jones. I looked very hard for Mr Darcy but he was nowhere to be seen. Big windows over look the gardens but it is not the rose beds that catch your eye but the stained glass memorials to Elizabeth I and other monarchs.

Parliament Room, Middle Temple, London
Coffee bell

The dining table has a large ship’s bell attached to it. Traditionally members ring the bell to indicate that they are ready for coffee. I’m wondering if we installed such a bell at Cultural Wednesday towers whether anybody would bring me coffee or if I would still have to walk to the kitchen myself?

Middle Temple in the Movies

Middle Temple and the narrow cobbled streets that surround it are catnip to film makers. Look carefully and you may recognise the setting for Shakespeare in Love, Pirates of the Caribbean or, of course, Bridget Jones. Sherlock Holmes has also paced around noticing tiny clues invisible to mere mortals.

Visiting Middle Temple: Need to Know

Just turning up and hoping to get into Middle Temple won’t work before you visit you need to:

  • Email events@middletemple.org.uk to book tours.
  • You need a minimum of ten people to book a tour
  • Tours cost £12 per head
  • Tours take about an hour
  • Lunch in Middle Temple Hall has to be booked
  • Lunch is only available Monday – Friday from noon – 2pm during one of the four legal terms. Hilary: mid January – Easter, Easter: Easter – end of May, Trinity: beginning June – end July and Michaelmas: beginning October – Christmas. For exact dates check the Middle Temple website
  • Garden Room open all year Monday – Friday 9am – 8pm

Whilst you are wandering around the Temple area, make sure you visit the Temple Church, once home to the Knights Templars.

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Middle Temple invited me for the tour and lunch, all opinions are my own.

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46 Comments

  1. March 18, 2018 / 1:07 am

    Funny, I’d always thought all the Inns of Court were off limits to the public too. That dining hall looks very grand – reminds me of the Oxbridge colleges.

  2. March 18, 2018 / 5:56 am

    Hi Catherine, what a spectacular building. It definately has an essence on Hogwarts about it. Putting it back together must have been a bit of a head scratcher though.

    xx

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:56 am

      Like a giant three dimensional jigsaw!

  3. March 18, 2018 / 7:28 am

    Wow! What an amazing place to visit. I bet you didn’t know what to look at first. #MySundayPhoto

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:55 am

      My eyes and camera were out on stalks!

  4. March 18, 2018 / 7:43 am

    Well Catherine, this is something I now wish to do! it’s funny these spaces in London that you don’t imagine are open to the public but are. Middle Temple looks amazing and you have educated me about the Hammerbeam Roof! That must have been one ginormous oak tree too. #mysundayphoto

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:54 am

      Can you imagine the tree being floated down the Thames, I wonder how long the journey took?

  5. March 18, 2018 / 7:43 am

    I didn’t realise you could visit Middle Temple either. What an absolutely beautiful building – that wood panelling and ceiling are stunning #MySundayPhoto

  6. March 18, 2018 / 8:38 am

    I love exploring history through buildings like this. What an amazing place and that table, WoW! #mysundayphoto

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:49 am

      Just think of the people who have eaten on it ….. Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake and more recently Diana
      , Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II. The stories it could tell

  7. March 18, 2018 / 8:56 am

    What a stunning building, it would be so much fun to dine there and take in the history x

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:45 am

      I want to go back with a gaggle of friends!

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:43 am

      The narrow cobbled streets that surround it call out to be photographed as well

  8. March 18, 2018 / 9:49 am

    What a stunning place, I’d love to check it out myself! #MySundayPhoto

    • March 18, 2018 / 9:58 am

      Fitting in with the law terms adds an extra dimension of trick Ines to planning a visit

  9. March 18, 2018 / 10:47 am

    It’s amazing to think how old it is. Really stunning and a rare place to visit. #MySundayPhoto

    • March 18, 2018 / 10:52 am

      If only walls could talk …..

  10. bavariansojourn
    March 18, 2018 / 10:55 am

    Wow, I had no idea you could visit either. I worked close by for many years too (kicks self)… What a fascinating history! (:

  11. March 18, 2018 / 11:08 am

    What a stunning building and that ceiling is just amazing. It looks so similar to a Grand hall my friend got married in. I’m going to have to ask her where it was :)

    • March 18, 2018 / 11:14 am

      You can hire it for weddings and so maybe …..

  12. March 18, 2018 / 11:31 am

    That’s absolutely beautiful – all that history!

  13. Julie Cordiner
    March 18, 2018 / 12:04 pm

    Thank you so much for these tips Catherine – it is resulting in a long list of places I want to visit! What a wonderful place this is.

  14. March 18, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    It looks so interesting and full of history. I have never been there. I may have to make a visit. Thanks for sharing! #mysundayphoto

  15. March 18, 2018 / 10:20 pm

    Wow the double hammerbeam ceiling is just amazing in your photo. I’d love to see it in real life!

  16. March 20, 2018 / 9:27 am

    How lucky! I’d love to visit one day!! #mondayescapes

    • March 20, 2018 / 9:29 am

      I can’t wait to take the teens for lunch …. trying to find a day when they are off school and the legal term is still on

  17. March 20, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    What an amazing building, and that ceiling is fabulous (I never did know what hammerbeam ceilings were) – I had always assumed it would be off limits to the general public as well. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping and revealing the truth!

    • March 20, 2018 / 11:31 pm

      The “truth”must be told!

    • March 22, 2018 / 7:26 pm

      Same here ….. hence the short lecture on how to make your own hammerbeam roof!

  18. March 21, 2018 / 11:16 am

    What a fabulous building. I had no idea you could go inside, let alone have lunch! Have files away with all my things to do in London #CityTripping

    • March 22, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      If your to visit file is anything like mine it will be bulging!

  19. March 21, 2018 / 12:21 pm

    very Harry Potter like:) #citytripping

    • March 22, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      Indeed, find it hard to believe that wasn’t used as an HP location

  20. Clare Thomson
    March 22, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    OK Catherine, I NEED to do this and I also need to get on your email lists!! I’ve already written the phone number down in my notebook. This is on my London wishlist for this year. Thank you so very much for inspiring me on #FarawayFiles

    • March 22, 2018 / 7:21 pm

      Next time something interesting pops up I’ll see if you free too!

  21. March 23, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Catherine, this place looks amazing! Thanks so much for featuring it. What a spectacular day out, and a great place to take those budding barristers too! #farawayfiles

  22. March 24, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    What a great thing to find out about! 25 quid is a bit pricy for a workday lunch, true, but not bad for surroundings like that, especially if you get to ring for more coffee. Cool!

  23. March 24, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    Next time I’m in London we should meet up there for lunch and pretend it’s Hogwarts! You know you want to ;)

  24. March 26, 2018 / 5:37 am

    What a wonderful day out! I love everything about this, the table, the history, the Pirates of the Caribbean mention… I do envy the amount of amazing history available to those of you who live in London! Definitely putting this on my list for next time I’m in town. #farawayfiles

  25. Beth
    March 29, 2018 / 12:07 pm

    I’ve heard about this but never took advantage of previous opportunities to tour. Your photos and explanation have me completely intrigued. The main hall immediately reminded me of Hampton Court Palace’s Great Hall, they are magnificent and it is amazing they have survived all these millennia. #farawayfiles

    • March 29, 2018 / 12:18 pm

      It is one of those ‘if only walls could talk’ buildings!

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