Pre-gig plans are a shambles for the most part. What begins as a reservation for pizza, soon morphs into a panic about time, and ends in a family bag of crisps at a bus stop. But it doesn’t have to be like this. With a bit of pre-planning, and composure over how long it actually takes somebody to scan your ticket, you can be eating and drinking somewhere sort of comfortable, and sort of cool, at the very least.
To help prevent any more pre or post-gig meal deals, we’ve put together this guide to all the best places to eat and drink in and around all the places where you’ll be seeing gigs in London.
DALSTON - Shacklewell arms, earth, THE VICTORIA
Okay, we hear you. Suggesting Earth Hackney’s resident restaurant? Inspired guys, cheers. But unlike a lot of other gig kitchens that are armed with only a deep fat fryer and a multipack of Walkers, Earth Kitchen is actually an excellent restaurant. This all day spot serves a changing menu of seasonal, hearty dishes like braised squid, a bacon and rarebit toastie, and a ginger pudding you’ll merilly inhale before heading into the gig.
A few plates of meat, a couple of fresh salads, and some bread - there you go, jobs a good’un. This cheap and cheerful Turkish spot is perfect for grazing on some tasty food with a couple of mates and is just up the road from Earth. You’ll be full and totally ready to jump around with a few hundred strangers in no time, but if you’re looking for post-gig eats then you should know that this place is open until 12 during the week and 1am at weekends.
Eating an entire pizza in the twelve minutes you’ve got before the band starts is never a good idea. But a slice? A single glorious, reasonably priced slice is arguably one of the most ideally portioned pre-gig meals going. And that’s exactly what Voodoo Ray’s serves. You can choose amongst options ranging from a margherita to a stilton and cumberland sausage full 10inch pizza situation, and if you’re looking for somewhere to head after the gig, they’re open late and, importantly, there also serve beer and frozen margaritas.
soho - THE SOCIAL, borderline, 100 club, Ronnie Scott’s
It turns out that when you pretend to know a band, people don’t know that you’re pretending, and out of the goodness of their heart, book a gig ticket for you. Sh*t. You now have to spend two hours of your life guess singing lyrics and saying ‘oh I love this one’ at five minute intervals. Head to lively Peruvian spot Casita Andina beforehand for some excellent Peruvian classics - it’s the kind of place that’ll get you in the mood for fun, even deceptive what-a-great-chorus fun. If you swing by after the gig for a final round of pisco cocktails and tamales, we really wouldn’t judge you.
You agreed to this gig back when you felt young and full of energy, you know, about three weeks ago. Don’t worry, no matter how tired you are the hip hop blasting from the speakers at this loud and proud restaurant on Frith Street will wake you right up. They serve inventive takes on Asian classics - think chilli crab bombs and black cod tacos - and although their small plates can stack up, it’s the perfect place for a pre-gig group hang over sake or a round of okinawa gin negronis.
Riddle us this: what’s better than a restaurant with £5 cocktails to peak your pre-drinking potential? A restaurant with £5 cocktails and some excellent steak available, that’s what. Blacklock is a laidback steak joint on Great Windmill Street with the option to go for their £20 ‘all in’ set menu or share some of their beef dripping chips and their cheese and pickle bites to the table.
shepherd’s bush empire
Bush Hall Dining Rooms is a casual diner that you can imagine Penny Lane from Almost Famous waltzing into for a buttermilk chicken burger and a big old beer. The walls are covered in old school, black and white gig posters and although this place is part of the Bush Hall music venue, anyone is welcome. It’s casual, cool, pretty affordable, and serves some very decent comfort food and their cocktails are two for £12.
A super relaxed, super easy, neighbourhood Thai, Esarn Kheaw is an excellent choice for a relaxed and tasty pre or post gig meal (it closes at 11pm). It’s a perfect spot to pre-book for a few people and share a load of northern Thai food. And it’s under a ten-minute walk from the Empire.
So it’s not exactly a formal, sit down, would-you-like-still-or-sparkling sir sort of place, but Mr. Falafel does easily one the best falafel wraps in London. It’s quick, delicious, and very cost-effective. Plus, there’s a halloumi option which is always good. You won’t be able to drink here so it’s just a pop in to fill up before wandering over for the gig.
Kentish town and camden - KOKO, The Roundhouse, the forum
E. Mono is one of those places that north Londoners tend to speak about in hushed tones and wide eyes. It’s one of the city’s great kebab shops, and that is not a slight. Not in any way. Wraps are under a tenner, or skewers with salads and chips are just over. It’s fresh, tasty, and filling. It’s everything you need and want if you’re planning on having a few drinks. So much so that you’ll probably be back the day after.
You’ve just spent the last two hours shouting, sweating, and swigging on overpriced drinks. What you need now is something to soak it all up, away from the crowds. Head to Bengal Lancer for a classic curry in a calmer environment than the one you’ve spent your evening in.
The O2 isn’t exactly the ideal environment for a pre-event meal. Once you’re there, you’re there. It’s the Alcatraz of gig locations. Hence we recommend you stop off at Canary Wharf on the way, and head to Giant Robot. This street food behemoth has everything you could possibly need in food and drink terms - from burgers to buns to a tonne of bars - before jumping on the Jubilee line to North Greenwich.
London Bridge is also a logical option to stop off at on the way if you don’t want to be eating soggy chips for a tenner once you get to North Greenwich. O’ver is a Neopolitan pizza place that’s just a twenty minute journey away. It’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhere that’s both relaxed, sophisticated, and relatively central to meet your crew before the concert. And it’s a great choice if you’re with family or kids. Plus they make a cracking spritz.
The jewel in London’s Bridge’s crown, apart from the bridge itself, Padella’s recent introduction of digital queuing makes this a far more convenient place to go pre-gig that it used to be. Especially if there’s just a couple of you. Head over after work, put your name down, grab a pint, and prepare for an inexpensive dinner that’s almost certainly more worthy of your time than whatever or whoever you shelled out all that dough to see.
Pop Brixton is the original location for these chicken burger specialists. This is an easy option if you’re looking for something casual, filling, and good when travelling in numbers. Dirty fries with bacon and ranch are also great, but we recommend getting them to share if you want to avoid needing nap-time in the stalls.
If you’re going on a sappy romantic gig date at the Academy, then you may as well go the whole hog and head to the Shrub and Shutter for some small plates and cocktails beforehand. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something a little more intimate before an evening of swaying in each other’s arms, falling asleep on the bus home, and arguing about whose fault it is when you wake up in the middle of nowhere.
Another go-to option in the extremely conveniently placed Pop Brixton, Franzina Trattoria makes delicious tagliatelle in a load of different sauces. If the days of a burger and a couple of cans on the street are long behind you, then this is the perfect ‘grown-up choice’. It’s reasonably priced, tasty, and has a rather inviting wine list as well.
the Royal albert hall
Da Mario is one of those old school Italian restaurants where the welcome is loud, and the portions are hearty. It works whether you’re in a big or a small group, and there’s enough pizza and pasta on the menu for everyone to be happy. It’s a ten minute walk from the Royal Albert Hall, so you might avoid the crowds, but best to be safe and book.
You’ve just got a text from your mum to remind you that you’re going to the Royal Albert Hall together tonight, remember? You know, those tickets she bought two years ago. Don’t you remember? Don’t worry, book Dozo Sushi, and pretend you’re far more together than you appear while treating her to some good quality sushi, rolls and maybe even a bottle of prosecco.
Not in the mood to relive your childhood with a tub of Pizza Express dough balls and three pints of garlic butter? Head to Rocca di Papa instead. This homely Italian has got a nice buzz to it, and while the food might be basic, it’s also satisfying. It’s hard to go wrong with this choice, regardless of who you’re with. Just make sure you book, because lots of other people will have had the same thought.
Ally Pally may feel like it’s in the arse-end of nowhere once you’re there, but it’s got the perfect pre-gig spot to get your night started. Max’s is the kind of place where you have so much fun you could well end up missing whatever you’ve bought tickets for. The sandwiches are big, the drinks flow, and the atmosphere is as friendly as they come. And, if you do still want to go to the gig, just jump on the W3 and you’ll be at the Palace in around 15 minutes.
There is surely no better way to get going for a gig than by making a pilgrimage to the pub. The Faltering Fullback does good Thai food as well. Try to get there early as it does tend to fill up quick, especially on a nice day (there’s a lovely garden as well). But once you do settle in, pad Thai and pints are the perfect preparation.
If you don’t like the idea of spending over the odds on a hot dog the size of your arm that’s probably been made out of someone’s arm, then don’t settle for food in the stadium or arena. Here’s the play: take the Jubilee line, get off at Kilburn, and go to Spicy Basil. This unassuming Thai restaurant make delicious curry, noodles, and all sorts. It does get pretty hectic, so book if you can.
You’re about to go to a huge space with thousands of other people with little to no regard for personal space and whether or not you want to keep your outfit dry. Why not get things going at a slightly slower pace with some frittura and pizza at Quartieri on Kilburn High Road? The pizza is good, the wine list reasonable, and the atmosphere relaxed. Then you can jump on the tube for your ten minute journey to Wembley.
shoreditch - village underground, the old blue last, xoyo
A hot and nourishing bowl of pho isn’t ideal pre-gig food if you’re intending to jump around, but the great thing about Sông Quê is that they do tonnes of other good stuff as well. You can roll into here with as many or as few people as you like, then order some summer rolls, crispy squid, and some pork bun noodles. And some beers.
You’ve had a few drinks. Well you’ve had more than a few drinks. You’ve had so many drinks you’re listening to the warm up band on Spotify from your phone and you’re trying to convince everyone ‘they’re gonna be big’. Good thing Sodo Pizza are at the George and Vulture. Get one of these down you - we’re partial to the squash and feta one - and get your head together before you start DMing the warm up about their burgeoning talent.
Butchies is the perfect grab and go chicken ‘sandwich’ spot for you to fill up on something tasty and delicious before completely ignoring anything good for your body for the next few hours. They do an ‘OG Meal’ which gets your an original sandwich, fries and a drink for under a tenner. Alternatively you can be like us and grab a seat, get some wings, cheese fries and a pitcher of beer as well.