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Top 10 Best Pre-Theatre Dinners in London

Picture of Top 10 Best Pre-Theatre Dinners in London

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me you ears … if you’d like to know which London restaurants to eat at pre-theatre. Covent Garden and its environs house some of London’s finest theatres and performance areas, the Royal Opera House being the jewel in the crown. It’s rather unfortunate therefore that the tourist saturation has led to endless, rather grim, chain restaurants springing up; providing tasteless and unappealing food. This has made dining in the West End somewhat of a gamble.

This is all the more true when looking for a pre-theatre restaurant. A good pre-theatre is somewhere with reliable and tasty food that doesn’t cost the earth. This guide is the definitive selection of pre-theatre restaurants to set you up for a dramatic evening.

Image courtesy of Flickr user llamnudds.

Image of aqua nueva

Bar / Restaurant

Tapas are perfect for a pre-theatre bite; not too filling if you're eating early and haven't worked up much of an appetite yet, but easy to order more of if you think you're going to need sustaining right through the second act. Elegant Spanish restaurant and rooftop terrace bar, aqua nueva, opposite the London Palladium in Soho, has a magnificent tapas bar - no reservations required - where chefs produce dishes before your eyes for a little bit of theatre before the theatre, including dishes from the land, from the sea and vegetarian. Also check out the Sorolla menu which offers four plates and a cocktail for £29pp; three savoury and one sweet; served from 6-7pm daily.

Image of Sticks'n'Sushi

West End

Sticks'n'sushi Japanese restaurant in Covent Garden offers diners traditional sushi and yakitori sticks from the grill made to order. Signature dishes include beef tataki (fillet of beef, smoked cheese, Yuzu dressing and soy roasted almonds), hotate kataifi (scallops in kataifi with miso aioli and trout row) plus a selection of chicken, pork, beef, lamb and vegetable yakitori skewers, freshly grills over hot coals. The cocktail list comprises a great number of Japanese ingredients and techniques such as the shohito, a Japanese twist on the classic using fine Japanese shochu with ginger, raspberry or passionfruit. This snazzy restaurant is just metres from the main Covent Garden piazza too.

Image of Clos Maggiore

West End

This King Street landmark offers one of the finest pre-theatre menus in London. The restaurant - deserving of a Michelin star - offers three courses for around £20 or 2 courses and half a bottle of wine for the same price. For this, you get stunning Mediterranean food in one of London's most romantic and impressive dining rooms. I have never had soup as good and the rabbit is to die for. Don't even think about reading the mammoth wine list pre-theatre as you will miss the first Act.

Image of Mon Plaisir

West End

This Monmouth Street restaurant is as French as it gets, even down to the surly waiting staff. The pre-theatre menu is short but changes regularly. It has never let me down and the bill is never alarming. Offering fresh, excellently cooked food, Mon Plaisir is perfect for pre-theatre dining. Others clearly think so as it's packed from the minute it opens; creating a great atmosphere despite being so early. Also, only a minute from the Donmar Warehouse (in my mind London's finest theatre).

Image of Thai Square Trafalgar Square

West End
Bar / Restaurant / Club

The flagship restaurant for Thai Square in Trafalgar Square is renowned for tasty Thai dishes served with efficiency and precision making it one of the better options to consider for pre-theatre dining given its close proximity to many of the leading theatres in the West End. They offer a 3-course menu starting from £15.95 per person including an assortment of starters, a choice of main courses including their world-famous green curry and a coconut ice cream with mango sauce to finish off. The restaurant does get extremely busy so a booking is highly recommended.

Image of Balthazar

West End

Balthazar London is in the heart of the West End. This is as close to the New York original restaurant as you can get without the need for wings. The same classic bistrot cuisine, wine, and chirpy service has been put in place though, and Balthazar London has the egalitarian appeal of a brasserie; breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, it's all here. As in NY, Balthazar London boulangerie offers a selection of artisan breads, pastries, sandwiches and salads too. A venue for everyone really.

Image of Tuttons Brasserie

West End
Bar / Restaurant

I didn't find Tuttons overly inspiring from the outside; looking a little dated. The whole experience inside was, however, excellent for pre-theatre. The food is a mixture of Modern European that comes out quickly and is always well executed. Adding in attentive service and very reasonable prices you can't really go wrong. There isn't much of wow factor here, but it sets you up nicely for an evening at the theatre.

Image of Augustus Harris

West End
Bar / Restaurant

Augustus Harris in Covent Garden is inspired by the bàcari of Venice, serving cicheti and bar snacks alongside wine and cocktails in the evening, and wine and Italian produce during the day. The restaurant is set over two floors and can accommodate 35 covers. The interior features a curved copper bar and wooden shelves laden with olive oil, wine, pasta, biscotti and other dry goods. There is an all-Italian wine list and classic cocktails including; americanos, negronis, bellinis and the spritz. Crostini include capocollo with artichoke, porcetta with taleggio and herbs, and mackerel with pickled red onion.

Image of Belgo Centraal

West End

Situated just off Neal Street, Belgo Centraal cracks out an eclectic mix of food, centring on Belgian classics. This noisy and lively underground restaurant is often bewilderingly busy at all times of the day. The moules frites were extremely enjoyable and, for the price, were a bargain. It attracts a youthful crowd and I would definitely suggest booking. It boasts a huge selection of European beers, I wouldn't suggest trying all of them pre-theatre though.

Image of Indigo Restaurant

West End
Restaurant / Hotel

Right in the heart of Theatreland, Indigo is a relaxed, informal restaurant housed within the award-winning One Aldwych Hotel boasting a creative, contemporary European menu full of light and healthy options. It's the decadent dessert menu, however, that reveals a more experimental side to Indigo. The Saturday Afternoon Tea are a proven hit with West End theatre-goers too so maybe a sandwich or two with a glass of champagne before the show?

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