Best restaurants in London's theatres
The answer to curtain call indigestion? Applaud these rarely reviewed stars: the choicest in-theatre cafes/restaurants to minimise mid-production tummy rumble
Mesmerising stage-set worthy views across the river to St Paul's, a glamorous yet welcoming interior, and mouthwatering menus by chef Allan Pickett that scrupulously use the best, locally sourced British ingredients – The Swan at The Globe has it all. As Shakespeare quipped 'sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.'
The pre-theatre menu is an edit of the glorious a la carte menu rather than the rather tawdry offering of cheaper cuts often offered by cynical restaurateurs turning tables rapidly before curtain call. Pickett has long been renowned for this terrine prowess and his current pork and pistachio terrine with gooseberry is thrillingly good. After a chilly walk across the wobbly bridge, a hearty, deeply flavoursome braised rib of beef with spinach and heritage carrots is immensely welcoming. Vegetarians are well catered for too. Potato dumplings with crispy parsnips, chestnuts and red amaranth is an equally appealing main dish. Finish with rice pudding with plum compote and gingerbread crunch.
Service at the Swan is exceptionally sweet, swift and cheerful. Frankly, The Swan is far too appealing a restaurant to only visit when going to a play, and for Christmas, they have an impressive repertoire of vegan dishes as well.
3 course pre-theatre menu: £27.50 per person
A brilliant collaboration with Fergus Henderson (of St John fame) makes a visit to The Bridge Theatre hugely appealing, regardless of what's being performed on stage.
It's open for coffee, lunch, tea and early simple supper/snacks. Think St John's revelatory doughnuts freshly made in Bermondsey for elevenses or eccles cake with Lancashire cheese, lamb neck and barley broth. Fergus Henderson has devised some choice sandwich combinations too, made on their superb bread: roast pumpkin with shallots and goat's cheese is just one example. Wines are also selected by the legendary restaurant, including St John's own label.
Best of all is a pre-ordered interval treat of warm madeleines with a glass of Pineau des Charentes.
Light meal: £15 excluding drinks
For lovers of history, Wilton Music Hall is an exceptionally special treat. Restored sensitively, it maintains much of its original architecture and detail, especially with the elaborately carved bar. Since 1859, the building has been home to stars of music hall and variety.
Superb pizzas are the core of the menu devised by Winner of BBC Masterchef Natalie who runs The Gatherers both within Wilton Music Hall and as an outside catering business. The unusual, ultra savoury anchovy tapenade and gremolata, and the mushroom combination are among the best pizzas to be experienced in London. The chocolate brownie is good as well.
Pizza and a glass of wine: £20
From a much loved Shoreditch institution – Rochelle Canteen's additional central London home in the impressive Nash building of the ICA is frequented by both an arty crowd and serious foodies who go mad for Margot Henderson superlative, ultra-seasonal food. The overflowing pies are superbly generous, as is the simply cooked yet phenomenally flavourful brill baked with lentils and fennel. Even the taramasalata is the best ever.
Be sure to try the lemon tart that equals if not surpasses Marco Pierre White's legendary White Heat tart.
There are cool cocktails too and a decent wine list. And for a speedier snack, there's the mezzanine canteen with a choice of sandwiches, cheese scones and more in a separate bar/cafe.
Dinner with drinks: £100 for two
It's good enough to make a play about and what many restaurateurs surely dream of. Andrew Lloyd-Weber went to Naughty Piglet's modest yet superb modern British bistro in Brixton and was so impressed by the food that he commissioned a restaurant in his new theatre.
It may not have quite the atmosphere of the cosy original, yet with its dark wood and copper is sleek and very now. The menu is just as alluring; full of interesting flavours and textures. Expect dishes such as fresh crab matched with finely shredded white cabbage rifled with chopped peanuts and yuzu, or slow-cooked glazed pork belly with white miso on the side, as well as brilliant brill partnered by an exceptionally silky buttery sauce. The creme caramel has just the right wobble and lusciousness. Steer carefully on the natural wines, and be sure to taste before committing....
Dinner for two with wine: £120
Recently reopened, the stunning Battersea Arts Centre is an iconic Grade II listed building on Lavender Hill with a stunning marble staircase and Victorian mosaic floor. Scratch Bar has a wood-burning fire with quirky up-cycled furniture, and is cosily candlelit in the evenings.
The menu is simple and appealing with a Middle Eastern slant in the evenings: expect sumac flatbread with hummus, fattoush, charred broccoli and labneh. At lunch there is homemade soup, frittata or quiche.
Supper for two including wine: £40
It's annual alternative panto may be sold out with standing room only, but The Tabernacle Bar & Kitchen is still a great option to escape from the Notting Hill crowds, especially when you're in the mood for jerk chicken and other West Indian specialities.
There's a good choice of salt fish fritters, plantain chips, salt and pepper squid, followed by Escovitch fish and Creole lamb, as well as that fiery jerk.
At weekends, The Tabernacle also offer a brunch menu with Caribbean inflections.
Two course meal with drinks for two: £60
The vaulted cafe/dining room of The Royal Court reflects the culinary zeitgeist with a somewhat bizarre mix of 70s throwbacks, like baked camembert, and vegan salads with cauliflower, pomegranate and tofu, alongside buttermilk chicken burgers....Still, the food is well-prepared, reasonably priced and saves that last minute race for curtain up.
Supper for two including drinks: £35
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