Eating food and seeing a movie immediately afterwards (or vice-versa) is a time-honoured tradition. Whether you’re on a date, slobbing with your mate, or getting some quality alone time, it’s important that you don’t end up starving and having to resort to £10 popcorn and an illicit smuggled-in bag of Minstrels. Below, we’ve selected great restaurants near some of London’s favourite old, new, and comfortable cinemas. So even if the film is terrible, your night is still salvageable.
Lexi - Kensal Rise
The Syrian chicken spot is 15 minute or so walk from north London’s loveliest independent cinema and, believe us, you’ll want to work up an appetite (or alternatively walk dinner off) such is the no nonsense nature of their delicious made-to-order crunchy chicken. It’s a casual, laidback kind of place, but make no mistake - their juicy whole chicken broasted (which takes 30 minutes to make) paired with chipped potatoes and a tub of toum is not to be underestimated.
Genesis Cinema - Whitechapel
The Genesis has a notoriously excellent and thorough security guard who laughs in the face of rustling bags and contraband Haribo. However, we’re pretty sure a back pocket tikka roll from Shalamar would sneak through if you power walk fast enough. Either way, Shalamar’s a brilliant option pre or post cinema here. The Pakistani restaurant doesn’t try to be anything fancy, but it does try and succeed in make delicious and low-cost samosas, rolls, curries, and more.
Sushinoen is a short bus ride or 20 minute walk from the Genesis, and this Japanese restaurant is a crowdpleaser that suits pretty much any and every situation. Be it a quick solo katsu curry before watching a questionable Legally Blonde reboot, or a full sashimi spread after powering through some po-faced Oscar-bait together. There’s a little outside patio as well if the weather’s right.
Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus
If you’re not going to a 9pm showing at any of the cinemas around Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus before heading to Café TPT for a late-night debrief alongside char siu pork on rice then, quite frankly, you are going to the cinema in the wrong way. The Cantonese canteen is one of the last vestiges of late-night Chinatown and you’ll find it full of hungry or stumbling singletons and duos who are in dire need of sustenance. Be it roasted meats or, if you’re looking to nap in the cinema whilst Ben Afflec grimaces at something, the whopper, cheesy bechamel-covered, Macau-style baked pork chop.
For a casual and classy option around central - presumably after you’ve gone to Curzon Soho or to see something 70mm at the Prince Charles - then Ducksoup is an ever reliable lunch or dinner hangout. The restaurant and wine bar currently has a set menu thing going on, with dishes like Sardinian gnocchi with San Marzano tomatoes or green bean and onion fritters with burnt chilli yoghurt. It’s date night done right.
The Ritzy - Brixton
With Chishuru, you always know that one part of your evening is going to be completely fantastic and you certainly can’t guarantee that with Nic Cage’s latest performance. The modern West African restaurant is a hop and a skip from one of London’s finest cinemas in the shape of the Ritzy, but we should probably say that the cinema is around the corner from one of London’s most exciting restaurants. Ekuru, goat ayamase, and plantain and baobab ice cream are all essentials here.
Okan is a reasonably priced and more than reasonably tasty option in Brixton Village that ticks every box. You can get donburi, okonomiyaki and hefty plates of yakisoba for £10 or under here, alongside some dangerously gluggable plum wine. Combined with its buzzy location in the middle of the market and the open kitchen inside, it makes for a low-cost, high-enjoyment casual meal.
Screen on the Green - Angel
As your powers of deduction have no doubt worked out, Tanakatsu is best known for its katsu dishes. The modern Japanese ‘diner’ (it’s a nice, casual, restaurant) is ten minutes away from both The Screen on the Green and VUE, but far enough away from the hustle of Upper Street to feel secluded. All katsu is around the £12-15 mark and it’s reliably tasty fare. The sushi is decent too and it suits midweek date night down to a tee.
The Electric - Notting Hill
This may read lazy but the best nights at the cinema are lazy. So if you’re going to get all horizontal on one of the Electric’s big sofa setups, then you’ll probably want to swing by the diner for a meal before going full Jabba the Hutt. Spare ribs, steak tartare, and a must-order prawn and chicken katsu burger are all on the menu. Plus they do discounts if you’re seeing certain films.
There’s no guarantee you’re going to like the film you’re seeing but, we think, there’s a reasonable guarantee you’re going to like Mr Bao. In fact, anyone that doesn’t like their peerless shiitake mushroom bao with a side of sweet potato chips, fried chicken, and a cold pint of Asahi for under £20 is pretty weird in our books. The Taiwanese restaurant is a neighbourhood favourite for good reason and it’s a wander away from Peckhamplex.
Persepolis’ tasting menu is a whirlwind of delicious vegan and vegetarian Persian-inspired food. There’s meze, featuring both falafels and Wotsits, there’s a black honey ice cream sundae, and there’s a whole load of unexpected bits in between. If that doesn’t sound good enough, it’s £20 per head.
The Rio - Dalston
As far as two-part evenings go, a film at the Rio and dinner at Mangal II is very much up there. The Turkish restaurant has gone from strength to strength since shaking things up and once you try the handmade mushroom manti, you’ll understand why. Bits and bobs on the menu change regularly, but you can still expect to find kofte, doner and the always-essential grilled onion salad on the menu. Just, done a little differently.
Andu is a homely Ethopian café in Dalston where the only decision to make is to go alone or with a friend. The reason being: the sampler platter is the only thing on the menu and you order it for one or for two. Large or larger, basically. Either way, you’ll be eating moreishly spiced yesimir wot (lentil stew), crunchy gomen (greens) and a load of other bits to be mopped up with perfectly tart injera bread or rice.
There is only one place you need to know about around Bloomsbury pre or post seeing Keanu Reeves do absolutely anything for his dog, and that place is Master Wei. The Xi’anese restaurant is somewhere you can (and we have) eaten multiple times per day. The biang biang noodles are always delicious and welcome, as is a bowl of the ‘cold’ liangpi noodles. FYI, it’s only a ten minute walk away from the Curzon.
Rich Mix - Shoreditch
There is good cinema food (salt and vinegar crisps mixed with M&Ms, two McDonalds double cheeseburgers) and then there is great cinema food: a salt beef beigel with pickle and mustard and a chocolate slice from Beigel Bake. London’s most famous bagel shop is around the corner from Rich Mix and it would truly be rude not to.
The Sichuan restaurant off Hanbury Street is worth knowing about if you’re looking for somewhere a little less likely to be packed to the rafters before or after the cinema. Their twice-cooked pork in chilli oil has seen us get through many an evening and, if you’re feeling unexpectedly emotional at having paid money you earned to watch something by the ‘director’ M. Night Shyamalan, then the steamed buns will soak up your tears.