In the age of Netflix, it’s hard to find the motivation to go to the cinema. Why spend good money on sitting in an uncomfortably sticky seat, stale popcorn and misshapen lump of greasy matter — “hotdog” — in hand, when Killing Eve and a wheel of brie sit at home? Terrible cinemas with even worse food are inexplicably common and depressingly popular: for those who want more, there are a few rare London cinemas across the capital where the food and drink on offer are worth the price of admission.Read More
Where to Eat in Front of the Big Screen in London
Luxurious at-seat dining, local ice cream sandwiches, a striking sweetshop, and more
ArtHouse Crouch End
The Arthouse has an authentic charm that is rare in a city filled with identikit independent cinema artifice. This entrance has a cafe and bar demanding an early arrival to any film, a warm unpretentious space to nestle in. Admire the fresh flowers on each mismatched table and tuck into a big hunk of lemon drizzle cake or a pasteis de nata; pair with a soothing oat milk flat white or, better yet, something stronger from the well-appointed bar.
The original: this Hampstead cinema, with its large domed screen, is the jewel in the group’s crown. There is a competent selection of pizzas & burgers that can be ordered directly to the sofas, but the real highlight is dessert. BYO (build, not bring) sundaes come in jars — of course — while rich double chocolate cookie dough is baked to order.
This local gem is run by an extremely enthusiastic team whose creativity & energy make the Rio a vibrant and dynamic community hub; this is strongly reflected in the food on offer. The largely vegan selection includes locally-made vegetable samosas and onion bhajis, vegan almond and dark chocolate brownies, Hackney pirates cookies, and flavoured popcorn frequently themed to accompany the film being shown. Dairy sneaks in to the frozen selection from Hackney Gelato and Happy Endings: ice cream sandwiches include salted caramel miso parfait in a chocolate guinness cake, and blood orange and white chocolate parfait with a negroni reduction between chocolate biscuits.
A well-rounded cinema worthy of spending an entire evening. Pizzas, Rinkoff’s pastries, Pieminster pies and hotdogs made with perfect bratwurst are all sourced locally, and served by a friendly and charming team. The vegan pizzas are on par with the very best, and the cocktails in the upstairs bar are excellent. All food and drink can be served to at-seat, so feel free to munch away while enjoying the film. Everything is, too, an absolute bargain.
Barbican Cinema 1
Being in this brutalist architecture masterpiece feels like starring in a Fritz Lang film, so make the most of it by arriving early and departing late. Before heading to one of the grand art deco screens, head to the elegant & romantic Osteria for candlelit seasonal Italian cuisine with view over the fountains, Bonfire for smoky bbq chicken wings, and burgers stacked high with a cornucopia of toppings, or Beech Street cafe for a strawberry Eton mess crêpe. A quick post-film nightcap at the Martini bar is essential, to maximise the film noir elegance of the evening. Or afternoon.
Stepping into the Electric cinema is a joyful & surreal experience. Once settled into one of the large leather seats, all wrapped up in a cashmere blanket either tuck into the wares of the old fashioned sweet shop in the foyer or order something more substantial to your seat. The pulled pork sandwich with crunchy saurkraut in a large sweet, soft charcoal brioche is comfort food of the highest order, while nachos come slathered with a smoky chipotle salsa and topped with sharp pickled jalapeños. Those craving something sweet shouldn’t pass on one of the made to order ice-cream sandwiches, two freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with a generous scoop of vanilla in between.
Curzon Mondrian London
The candlelit blue velvet lounge attached to this weekend-only cinema demands an early arrival, for drinks, snacks or meals that are brought straight to seat. Light and crispy mozzarella sticks arrive in a tiny copper frying basket with spicy barbecue dipping sauce; the signature hotdog comes in a rich toasted brioche, piled high with green kraut, sriracha, smoked mustard, bacon crumbs and crispy shallots, all arranged in bite sized pieces on a modish wooden board.
Olympic Studios is a members club, cinema and restaurant, set on an idyllic Barnes street straight out of Richard Curtis’ London. Serving the cinema is a blindingly bright yellow-striped sweet shop selling rustle free bags of old school pick ’n’ mix, alongside cakes, homemade ice cream and carafes of wine. Pre or post film, visit the adjoining modern European restaurant: with the light and crispy courgette flowers stuffed with milky ricotta are a particular highlight.
East Dulwich Picturehouse & Cafe
This bright and polished branch of the Picturehouse chain doubles as a great brunch spot. The buzzing all-day cafe prides itself on the local provenance of its dishes, with locally-sourced meat, herbs grown on site, and an extensive wine list showcasing several English wines. The snack bar is also a cut above, a lovely selection of artisanal treats displayed around large bunches of fresh flowers.