LDNGuide

Where To Eat Before Or After The Theatre

The best restaurants when an Angus Steakhouse just won't do.
Where To Eat Before Or After The Theatre image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Sometimes going to the theatre is good. Sometimes it’s not so good. Sometimes it’s an endurance test that ends when you shout ‘WHY WON’T HE JUST MELT’ at a levitating snowman as children sob around you. Whatever it is, you’re always concerned about the food situation. Will you eat before? What about a set menu? Is there anywhere open after? This guide covers everything you need pre- and post-theatre.

Soho To Trafalgar Square

photo credit: Bocca Di Lupo

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Soho

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If the prospect of two and a half hours of Les Mis is making you feel, well, miserable, fill up at Bocca Di Lupo beforehand. It’s one of London’s best Italian restaurants, and their pre- or post-theatre menu means that you can get a starter, main, and salad for £18. Throw in £6 for dessert and an espresso. It’s delicious. And, with any luck, you’ll stay awake during the Paris Uprising.

The George is a decadent pub-restaurant in the middle of Fitzrovia. The upstairs dining room is a hideout for anyone looking for classy takes on scampi, steak, sausages and mash, and the like. And the downstairs pub has a similar but pared-back menu of properly done classics: a ploughman’s, fish and chips, and a gooey black pudding scotch egg. Come here after catching some moody courtroom drama and pretend you're Ralph Fiennes stewing over a pint and some pork scratchings.

Despite your genius plan that involves crisp eating via jacket pocket throughout loud musical numbers, chances are you’re still going to leave the theatre hungry. Plan ahead and go for a big lunch at seafood spot J. Sheekey. You can get their classic fish pie with a glass of wine, or opt for the £33 two-course set menu—your choice of starter, main, or dessert—that runs until 4:45pm. Because eating at a white-clothed table is a lot better than eating from your grubby pocket.

Covent Garden To The Strand

You’ve been dragged along to see Harry Potter And The Cursed Child with your magic-obsessed cousin you only see twice a year—and now, you deserve a reward. Grasso is an Italian-American spot in Soho that makes a penne alla vodka that can turn a bad night around. It’s open from 12pm, so you can head there before your show, too. The crispy, face-sized chicken parm is juicy enough to make you forget you’ve got three hours of wizarding “fun” ahead.

Nothing quite makes us work up an appetite like a whodunnit. Especially when it involves EastEnders alumni. Vasiniko, an Italian restaurant on Burleigh Street, is one of our favourite spots for a two-hour post-matinee debrief alongside some of London’s best pizzas. The rich, basil-infused tomato sauce means that you absolutely cannot leave without trying the Neapolitan-style margherita. There are Amalfi-inspired lemon tiles behind the bar, cosy booths for groups, and a pistachio tiramisu that you should get involved in, too.

Cafe TPT is an all-people, all-occasions, all-dependably-delicious choice in Chinatown that’s open until 12am on the weekends. So if you’re looking for an all-rounder, the Chinese spot is where to head. The honey-glazed char siu pork is a favourite, piled on top of rice with some cursory (but appreciated) steamed cabbage underneath. It’s juicy, and generous in flavour and portion.

This Indo-Chinese restaurant has an almost cult-like following of lamb chop-yielding enthusiasts claiming that Fatt Pundit’s chops are some of the best in London. And we can confirm that they are indeed meaty, tender, and a cause we can 100% get behind—but that’s not all that’s impressive. The menu is split into vegetarian, seafood, and meat dishes, meaning it’s great for a group of meat lovers, your vegetarian friend, or for a solo monkfish curry.

The South Bank And Southwark

You’re never quite sure what you’re getting with theatre-adjacent restaurants. But given Lasdun’s lineage (it’s from the Marksman folks), you’re guaranteed comforting, swish British food in this stylish restaurant inside the National Theatre. The Brutalist lines and textures of this restaurant give it an Orwellian feel but, pre-theatre, it’s full of a relatively soft crowd humming and happy. Keep to the classics—those delicious buns, pies to share, a lush brown butter and custard tart—and you’ll be happy.

Nothing says I’m-excited-but-also-want-to-anaesthetise-myself-ever-so-slightly better than organising to go to the pub before a show. The Anchor & Hope isn’t any old boozer though. This Southwark pub serves some of the best food that can be bought alongside a pint of bitter. The food is sort of British-European—think potted shrimp and spinach gnocchi. The only problem you’ll have is leaving on time.

Seabird is a sunny holiday masquerading as a Southwark rooftop, serving the kind of huge lobster dishes and cocktails you save for vacations or celebrations. It also happens to be one of our all-time favourite seafood places to eat oysters in London, especially if you’re getting involved in the Louët-Feissers. Plus, throwing back half a dozen oysters on a rooftop is what you’ll inevitably be craving after watching a musical based on a sunny Greek island.

Borough And Tower Bridge

The food at Gunpowder is an innovative take on traditional Indian dishes—spicy rasam soup, for example, comes in a shot glass, and keema mince is packed into an incredible little crunchy savoury doughnut. Their Tower Bridge location, around the corner from the Bridge Theatre, has plenty of big indoor booths and outdoor space if you're going for a matinee. 

Bar Douro is a charming little Portuguese spot housed in one of the old railway arches on Southwark Bridge Road. The classics should definitely be on your table—ibérico, garlic prawns, the sausage croquettes, more ibérico—but they’ve also got dishes like octopus rice and onglet to get involved in. Perfect for a pre-theatre drink and a snack  that won’t cause a regrettable nap in the stalls midway through Act 2.

Handmade pasta restaurants are 10 a penny in London these days and, like free wifi, they aren’t all reliable. But Legare is. It’s a small, simple, and Ikea-ish space in Tower Bridge making chewy oriecchette with lardons and breadcrumbs, and a bowl of gnocchi with mushrooms that, if it were the ‘90s, we’d make a mixtape illustrated with felt-tipped hearts for. It’s a short walk from Bridge Theatre and the children’s theatre Unicorn Theatre.

Sadler’s Wells And Angel

Quality Wines is the shop, wine bar, and small plates restaurant attached to the Quality Chop House next door. All it’s missing is a sleeping bag or two and, quite frankly, we’d be there 24/7. It’s open during the day serving salads and pastries that are baked in-house, before switching into a candlelit, lardo-on-toast, wine-serving den in the evening. Which means whether you pop in for a running-late pre-theatre snack, or a romantic dinner after three hours of ballet, Quality Wines is perfect.

So The Eagle in Farringdon might not offer a set menu, but it does offer some of London’s finest pub food at a very good price. The menu changes daily, but come for things like clam chowder or a whole grilled fish, plus a dessert, and still get change from £30. If you’re looking for a one-dish wonder, then their beastly Portuguese bifana steak sandwich is the thing to get.

Nothing says you’re ready for a bit of interpretative dance than a meal of grilled squid, lamb fattee (a delicious mound of rice, chickpeas, aubergine, and sauces), and a trifle to finish off. It’s a good thing you’re watching, rather than performing, said dance. Get all of this plus an excellent atmosphere at Moro, a North African-Spanish spot on Exmouth Market.

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