New Pub Review: The Understudy At National Theatre

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 43 months ago
New Pub Review: The Understudy At National Theatre

We've found your new favourite weekend afternoons pub. We really have. The Understudy is one of the first results of the National Theatre's renovations, and it's a craft beer bar with views of the Thames. Just the concept made us so happy we could spit, and the reality turns out to be pretty peachy too.

First things first: no, the range isn't as extensive as somewhere like the Old Red Cow or Craft Beer Co's rapidly expanding empire. The range on draft is heavy on the Meantime (we're pinning the next day's hangover firmly on Yakima Red) but they're concentrating on London breweries. Currently, you can find beers from Redchurch Brewery, Five Points Brewing Co, Fourpure and a fine Saison from Brew By Numbers. There's also plenty of bottles and cans (again, Fourpure) in the fridge, alongside cider and Gosnells London Mead. Prices aren't outrageous considering the location and hipster appeal of good beer: we got two pints for £9.50.

It's been open less than a week and when we visited it was, shall we say, not busy — but this meant staff were more than happy to indulge us as we had a taster of nearly everything on tap. The decor is basic wood and simple seating with the occasional sofa, but the real draw is the floor to ceiling window looking out onto the river.

If the South Bank lacked anything, it was a relaxed bar selling decent beer; the BFI bar does well on the drink front but is always too full of Guardian Soulmates first dates to properly kick-back in. Plus, The Understudy's open longer: until midnight Monday-Thursday, 1am Fridays and Saturdays and 11pm Sundays. But we think the perfect time for this bar will be a weekend afternoon, watching the sun go down over a leisurely pint or three. Visit it now before everyone cottons on.

The Understudy is next to the new Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre, South Bank. Opening times Monday-Thursday 12pm-12am, Fridays and Saturdays 12pm-1am and Sundays 12pm-11pm. Official opening is 21 October.

See also: The 10 Best Craft Beer Pubs In London or the best places in London for Waterside Drinking And Dining. And don't forget to check out our ever-expanding pub database, with London's best pubs arranged by area.

Last Updated 16 October 2014


No real ale and a pint over a fiver. Won't be back in a hurry.

Acton Dave

You serious that there no real ale? Why not?


There is somewhere you can get a drink on the Southbank after 11pm? That is a wow.


I went on Friday and felt like I was visiting a completely different bar to the one described in this review. Living locally, I was excited at the prospect of a craft beer bar that I could easily walk to (other than the Rake), but this barely qualifies.

You get a clear sense that this isn't a bar that was opened by someone who loves beer, but someone who recognises that craft beer is trendy and that they can cynically make lots of money out of doing a bad job of selling good beer. No beer menus were available, and staff knowledge seemed minimal, so there was very little information on what was available (which, it turned out, was a very small selection). I ordered a Brew By Numbers Saison, one of my favourite local brews, which was (rather bafflingly) served in a mug, with no head, and tasted dreadful. Instead of being the refreshing, summery, carbonated beer that it is when served at the brewery, it was completely flat and tasted nothing it it's supposed to. The next day I woke up with a splitting headache despite having drank very little indeed. In hindsight, I should have returned it.

The shame is that given its location, it won't even need to be good. I'm sure it'll be a huge success despite itself.


Went there about a week ago, thought it was pretty good, great interior with chunky comfy woods, great location too, theyve done a good job here refurbishing it. Totally concur with the main review. Only thing i'd say is that they shouldve made it slightly bigger because in the winter when its cold, they wont have the outdoor space for people to over-spill into.

Grant M33

Overpriced and crap service