In the post-work, pre-show rush, it's all too easy to succumb to fast, quick, and sometimes crap food. When it comes to pottering around the West End against the clock, there are some exceptional places to duck into for a pint and a bite, or something more sophisticated. We've put together a list of favourites, from our own experience and from suggestions made by our Facebook followers.
Great for: matinee, pre-theatre, post-theatre, after-show drinks
The vibe: chic underground beaux-arts eatery
Formerly The Regent Palace Hotel, the venue thankfully retained its absolutely gorgeous interior, boasting high ceilings, beaux/deco fixtures, mirrors and white marble. Now a Parisian brasserie, fixed price set menus are available all day, every day, in addition to some competitively priced daily specials, including escalope and confit duck. If time allows, art deco aficionados should sneak inside the Bar American to check out the original 1920 wood panelling while sipping on a retro tipple.
Great For: matinee, pre-theatre
Cuisine: fine French dining
The vibe: idyllic date/redemption spot (because you forgot the anniversary last year)
Mecca of romance, Clos Maggiore is a much-feted destination for lovers across the capital. With a magical mix of low lighting, white tablecloths, wood panels, full-length windows and fairy-light-adorned conservatory, it’s no surprise that Clos witnesses at least one proposal a week (although we don’t have the statistics for the subsequent Yes/No/wine in the face). The menu is seasonal, and offers indulgent delights such as Maine lobster and roasted Iberico black pig rib. Did we mention the 2,000 strong wine list? We did? Oh Good.
Clos Maggiore, 33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD, 020 7379 9696
Pre-Theatre Menu (check for availability):
Two Courses for £15.50 / £19.50 with ½ Bottle of Wine
Three Courses for £19.50 / £23.50 with ½ Bottle of Wine
The Northall @ Corinthia Hotel London
Great for: pre-theatre, post-theatre, after-show drinks
The vibe: opulent Victorian setting
A breathtakingly grand and glamorous venue, the Northhall enjoys views of the Thames and nearby Whitehall Gardens and is perfect if you’re taking in a show at the Playhouse Theatre (currently showing Spamalot, NI! NI!) across the road. Friendly and knowledgeable service ensures a relaxed atmosphere, and the ground floor bar is our top-tip for an intimate drinkie after the final curtain. The set menu will set you back £30, and comes with a glass of Champagne.
Great for: pre-theatre, early week post-theatre, after-show drinks
The vibe: keeping it casual and cool, New York Style
Expect exposed brickwork, white-topped tables and an innate love of the theatre in this subterranean dwelling, which has long been popular with those from both sides of the boards — as established actors, aspiring artists and show lovers all converge for a slice of Stateside cuisine. Enjoy Reubens and gooey brownies, washed down with a Brandy Alexander. Also a ‘secret burger vendor’, they cook up a mighty fine patty, if you want to get stuck straight into London’s never-ending meat trend.
Great for: pre-theatre, post-theatre
The vibe: accessible old-school elegance
This Grade II listed Georgian townhouse serves up some lush oysters, generations-old homemade stroganoff and is a must for those wanting to dip into a classy London venue, rich in history (Kettner’s was opened by Auguste Kettner, Napoleon III’s chef) without the stuffy formality. Impeccable service, creatively curated desserts and lashings of champagne makes it a firm favourite.
One Leicester Street
Great for: pre-theatre, after-show drinks
Cuisine: modern British
The vibe: contemporary and stylish purveyors of meat and offaly bits
Head Chef Tom Harris still overseas the kitchen at the former site of the Michelin-starred St John’s, offering deliciously simple British treats such as oysters to rival Kettner's, devilled pig skin set on cod roe (think really posh pork scratchings) and dreamy desserts. It has a reasonable set menu starting at £16, which changes daily. Those partial to quality cocktails, created in-house, should take advantage of the 6-7pm martini hour.
Great for: large group outings, pre-theatre, after-show drinks
Cuisine: modern Italian/Spanish
The vibe: popular tapas bar in the heart of theatreland
Situated opposite Drury Lane Theatre stands the youngest sibling of the Salt Yard venture. This low-lit, two story eatery comes complete with a long bar, and an open grill for rustling up their mouth-watering Ibérico pork, imported from Spain. Large parties of 7 or more can opt for the set menus for a selection of sharers, while those on the go can imbibe a cheeky half-pint before Curtin-up. Alternatively, grab one of box window seats if you want to indulge in some people watching on the streets below.
The Savoy Grill
Great for: pre-theatre, after-show drinks (American Bar)
The vibe: historic Hollywood hangout
Swearmeister General Gordon Ramsey presides over the iconic Savoy Grill, a structure steeped in history, having seen the likes of Churchhill, Wilde and Monroe, to name but a few. An art deco overload of Swarovski chandeliers, and gold-leaf-backed tortoiseshell Lucite walls awaits, as well as some seriously carnivorous roasts, braises and pies. We also suggest swinging by the equally famous American bar – sheer bliss.
The Portrait Gallery Restaurant
Great for: weekend pre-theatre
Cuisine: modern British
The vibe: laid-back and arty
For beautiful panoramic views of the city, without the nosebleed-inducing bill, the Portrait Gallery houses a Searcys restaurant and bar, with a contemporary set menu available Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Head chef and Swedish native Katarina Todosijevic serves up delicious classic British dishes such Eton mess and smoked haddock to patrons overlooking Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament.
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE, 020 7312 2490
Theatre menu £17.50/£20.50, Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 5:30-6:30 pm
Bob Bob Ricard
Great for: weekday matinee, post-theatre lounging
Cuisine: classic English and Russian
The vibe: luxurious art deco
Not strictly a ‘pre-theatre’ venue and deviating away from ‘set menu’ options, this is the perfect venue for some indulgent and unrushed late night glamour. If you yearn for an equally decedent pre-matinee treat, there’s an express lunch menu.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James St, Soho, W1F 9DF, 0203 145 1000
Great for: matinee, pre-theatre, post theatre
The vibe: fast fuss-free fare in central Soho
The Stockpot sits towards the end of Old Compton Street, kitted out with 1960’s décor and open-fronted in the summer heat, and is another cheeky entry without a set menu. You voted it as one of your favourite places to pop by and with good reason – its cheap, hearty and filling food has theatre-goers all over it in the pre-theatre window.
The Stockpot, 18 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TN, 020 7287 1066
All images courtesy of the named restaurants, but article written independently.