Sometimes going to the theatre is good. Sometimes it’s not so good. Sometimes it’s a painstaking endurance test that goes to pot when you shout ‘WHY WON’T HE JUST MELT’ at a levitating snowman as your children sob around you. Thanks dad. Whatever it is, you’re always concerned about the food situation. Are you eating before? Are you going for a set? What’s open after?
This guide covers everything you need. From pre-game mood setters and set menus, to quick and satisfying grab-and-gos after the show.
for theatres FROM soho down to trafalgar square
If the prospect of two and a half hours of Les Mis is making you feel, well, miserable, make sure you fill up at Bocca Di Lupo beforehand. It’s one of London’s best Italian restaurants, plus they do a different £10 dish every day. That means, theoretically of course, you could have a side of, say, pappardelle or risotto, and still be paying less than £20. It’s delicious. And, with any luck, you’ll nod off during the Paris Uprising.
Brasserie Zedel is London’s quintessential set menu or prix fixe restaurant. You can get three decent courses of classic brasserie food in a room that looks fit for a king, queen, or several thousand tourists. A lot of people have this idea, and we recommend booking ahead, but it’s a lovely place to start your evening.
If you’re looking for something more vegetable-led, then Nopi is the place to go. It offers an excellent pre-theatre menu till 6:30pm during the week, and if you go with a friend you can get all six dishes on offer and share them between you. It comes in at about £25 a head, so, unless you spend a tenner on a packet of minstrels later on, it makes for a pretty reasonable night,
What did you do last night? Oh, we had a guinea fowl pie and some pear tart in an art gallery. Then we went to the Pinter to see a piece about an Instagram cat that became self-aware. It. Was. Fan-tastic. Does that sound ridiculous? Or ridiculously brilliant? It’s clearly the latter. Make time for Rochelle at the ICA beforehand and you can be both full, and full of it.
Despite a late lunch and your extremely surreptitious crisp-eating-via-jacket-pocket throughout loud musical numbers, you’ve still left the theatre hungry. Finish your evening in the style it deserves by heading to J. Sheekey. You can get their classic fish pie with a glass of wine for under £20 up until midnight. Because eating at a white clothed table is a lot better than eating from your grubby pocket.
You’ve genuinely gone on holidays shorter than that. A kid in front of you went to the toilet with his mum at the interval and came back smelling of fags with a voice three octaves lower. You can’t remember your last meal. You are starving. Don’t worry, Good Friend Chicken is just minutes away. This little Taiwanese fried chicken shop is your saviour. Grab some popcorn chicken and cover it in plum and chilli seasoning before you wither away.
for theatres near covent garden and the strand
If you’re looking for a restaurant that will smile warmly at your family rendition of hakuna matata, don’t come to Frenchie. This French brasserie is fun, but it’s adults-out-to-play type fun. The pre/post theatre £30 set is your best bet, as things aren’t cheap here. But a bacon scone, some foie gras, a beef cheek, and banoffee to finish, is our kind of circle of life.
You’ve woken up from an extremely operatic nap, and aside from learning that baritones really send you off, you’ve also realised that it’s late and you’re hungry. Wander down the Charing Cross Road to Lanzhou Noodle Bar, a hand-pulled noodle spot that’s open until 2am during the week, and even later on weekends. It’s a basic but brilliant noodle bar serving up no-nonsense bowls of beef brisket noodle soup, dan dan noodles, and more.
The Delaunay’s location on the corner of Drury Lane makes it a prime pre- and post-theatre spot. Plus it does a cannily named ‘menu rapide’ where you can get one of their (glorious) tarte flambées with a salad and a proper drink for just £13.50. We kind of see that as something just to tide you over, so split a burger or sandwich as well, and you’ll be happy.
When you’re looking for good spots, Henrietta Street is probably Covent Garden’s most restaurant-heavy stretch, and it’s where you’ll find Cora Pearl as well. This classy, modern British offers a pre and post theatre menu at £20 for two courses, or £25 for three, with options like their excellent fish stew on the menu. Whatever you go for, just make sure to get a side of chips-cum-confit-Jenga-blocks as well.
for theatres around the south bank and bankside
Nothing says I’m-excited-but-also-want-to-anaesthetise-myself-ever-so-slightly than organising to go to the pub before a show. The Anchor and 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.
If a couple of hours of Macbeth has got everyone in your group seeing daggers, sate their blood lust by heading to Caso do Frango. This piri-piri place is Nando’s done good. You can get big plates of chicken, hand cut fries and salads on the side, plus an excellent choice of drinks. There’s no toil and no trouble here.
Yamagoya is a casual ramen spot across the road from the Young Vic and two minutes away from the Old. Their signature pork ramen is a perfect filler post-show, or nap-inducer beforehand, and it’s under a tenner as well. Other than meat and vegetable broths, there are donburi bowls and small plates available, as well as Asahi on tap.
for sadler’s wells and other theatres near 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 killer sandwiches, salads, and pastries that are baked in house, before switching into a candlelit, lardo on toast, and wine serving den in the evening.
Okay, 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 £25. If you’re looking for 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, does it? It’s a good thing you’re watching, rather than performing said dance. Get all of this, plus an excellent atmosphere at Moro.