Is there a more heart-sinking combination of words than “pre-theatre menu”? Dishes chosen with an eye on expediency rather than excitement, served at either breakneck speed or a sweaty-palms slow pace as the clock ticks down to curtain up. For an altogether more convenient, imaginative and delicious option either in the West End or near one of London’s standout off-Broadway theatres, try one of these instead.Read More
Where to Eat Before and After the Theatre in London
The best options in the West End, as well as picks for London’s stellar cast of “off-Broadway” theatres
1. Bar Crispin
London W1B 5PY, UK
A stone’s throw from the Palladium but distinct from the chaos of Carnaby Street and Kingly Court, the new venture from the team behind Shoreditch’s Crispin is a casually charming spot. The menu ranges confidently from snacks (Neal’s Yard cheeses with Bermondsey honeycomb) to more substantial mains (Welsh lamb with black lime and salsa verde), while sommelier Alex Price has put together a list of 150 low-intervention bottles from small producers. It closes at midnight.
2. Bocca di Lupo
They call it the Sicilian Workers Lunch, but Bocca di Lupo’s spectacularly good value set menu (just £12.50 for a starter, main and salad, or £22.50 for all of the above plus a dessert, a glass of wine and coffee) is actually served until 6 p.m. That means it makes the ideal supper before strolling around the corner to a show at the Apollo, the Lyric or the Sondheim. It changes daily but might feature the likes of panelle, rigatoni alla norma and a ricotta and pistachio cannolo.
3. Food House
London W1D 5QH, UK
Now on Gerrard Street, this student favourite has plenty of space for post-theatre groups and portions of 30 toothsome pork dumplings for less than £20. Sichuan cuisine is well represented with red oil noodles, crisp-fried chilli seabass (scored so it blossoms during cooking) and hotpots, while the Northern Chinese section of the menu is full of belt noodles, lamb and skewers.
4. El Pastor Soho
Helpfully for theatregoers, the evening service at Harts Group’s grand two-storey Soho taqueria on Brewer Street runs from 5 p.m. all the way through to 1:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Make a pre-show pitstop for totopos and lageritas, or make a night of it with a crispy duck taco sharing plate and a carafe of mezcal. With 150 covers and reliably prompt service, there’s very little risk of having to wait around.
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5. The 10 Cases
The best seats in the house at The 10 Cases are outside on Endell Street. The Bistrot à Vin element of the operation serves modern European fare for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday: think crudités and aioli, then onglet with frites and smoked oyster hollandaise. As for the wines, there are only ever 10 white and 10 reds on offer (as the name suggests), but the list changes all the time to keep things interesting.
If a group trip to the West End is on the cards, this original branch of the Sichuan specialist on Leicester Street is an unbeatable option — pick from a list of hot pot ingredients then share the results. The sizzling seabass in numbing chilli oil (a house special) is spectacular, as are the beef with vermicelli-fine shredded potatoes and the chicken skewers.
7. The Wolseley
An all-day offering like the Woleseley’s comes into its own before or after a trip to the theatre. No second-best set menu here, or tense waits for inclusive puddings nobody really wanted at 5:45 p.m.: just confidently executed bistro classics with Mitteleuropean flourishes, from bagels and Welsh rarebit and a crisp green salad all the way through to oysters and caviar. From Monday to Saturday last orders are 11pm.
Spring’s early evening set menu (served between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) isn’t specifically a pre-theatre one, but is does admirable double duty as one. It’s produce-driven and the focus is on helping the kitchen to minimise waste: so there might be pan con tomate, fishcakes with sweetcorn puree, grilled onions and chilli, and a cheesecake with ginger caramel, all for £25 in the storied surroundings of Somerset House.
9. The Anchor & Hope
Handy for Vics young and old s as well as the famous one on the South Bank, The Anchor and Hope on The Cut has been a destination in its own right ever since it opened nearly 20 years ago. It opens at 5:45 p.m. for dinner, and for a light bite before or after the theatre one could do a lot worse than minty creamed tomatoes on toast, or pork pie-inspired terrine with mustardy gribiche.
10. Tofu Vegan
A minute’s walk down Upper Street from the Almeida, this entirely vegan newcomer with close links to Xi’an Impression and Xi’an Biang Biang will be a hit regardless of dietary requirements. The silken tofu, made daily in house, steals the show in various guises (most notably the classic mapo tofu or the shimmering doufu hua), while the kitchen’s mastery of Chinese mock meats is deliciously demonstrated in dishes like the Chongqing ‘chicken’ on a bed of chillis. Go hungry.
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11. Antepliler Kunefe
London N4 1AG, UK
Pro tip: have a snack before a show at the Arcola, then afterwards hop on the bus north to Green Lanes for dessert at Antepliler Kunefe, lauded as one of the best single-dish restaurants in London with good reason. The almost indecently rich and sweet kunefe itself is enormous, fried and topped with consummate skill. Just add clotted cream and a pot of tea.
12. Pizzeria Rustica
No evening at The Orange Tree theatre in Richmond is complete without a trip to locals’ favourite Pizzeria Rustica. There’s no reinventing of the (dough) wheel here, just traditional recipes executed impeccably, with strong showings in the pasta and risotto section of the menu too. The negronis clock in at under £8, and there’s an excellent Italian-inflected gin-and-tonic selection.
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After a visit to The Bush theatre, simply cross the road for dinner at Albertine, which stays open until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Cheese and charcuterie boards with homemade chutney and pickles are crying out to be paired with something lightly chilled from the 150-strong wine list, or linger over the larger plates by candlelight.
14. The Sea, The Sea
Its new Hackney sibling might be getting all the attention, but the original branch of this Portuguese-inflected seafood bar on Chelsea’s Pavillion Road is still going strong – and perfectly placed for The Royal Court. Order a ‘Sea Negroni’ and take a seat at Leo Carreira’s dining counter for smart small plates: crab, kohlrabi and meadowsweet oil, perhaps, or a mackerel roll with hazelnut miso.
15. Market Place Peckham
This food hall on Rye Lane, a 15 minute walk from Theatre Peckham, is nothing like the model that was dominant in central London before the pandemic. Rather, it showcases local traders: there’s suya from Muazu’s, injera at Addis taste and sweet treats from Chef Churros, just to start with. It closes earlyish (7 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the day), so go beforehand.
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