London’s West End is very popular with tourists and Londoners alike, taking in parts of Soho, Leicester Square, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, The Strand, Aldwych, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Shaftesbury Avenue. London’s famous West End theatres - such as Her Majesty’s Theatre, Apollo Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, Vaudeville Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, Theatre Royal, Fortune Theatre, Royal Opera House, Playhouse Theatre, and Criterion Theatre - collectively live in the area known as Theatreland (plus the Apollo and St James Theatres in Victoria). For many an evening at one of London’s theatres is preceded by a quick yet enjoyable restaurant meal. Finding such a restaurant can be an arduous task, especially with so many available options. Here then are the best restaurants for a spot of pre-theatre dining.
Soho / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Spanish
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 aqua nueva, opposite the London Palladium and a short hop from Shaftesbury Avenue, has a magnificent tapas bar - no reservations required - where chefs produce dishes before your eyes for a little bit of theatre before the theatre. Check the website for the regularly-changing pre-theatre menu, served in the restaurant, too.
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Modern European
A (precious) stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus, DSTRKT is a slick restaurant with bar and nightclub thrown in for good measure. You might worry that anywhere trying to be all things to all people is bound to fail, but the restaurant area is carefully sectioned off and the bar transforms into a club the later/boozier the evening gets. The food is tasty, modern and British; the bar plenty big (in this scenario, size is important) and DSTRKT is roomy enough to throw some serious shapes while also providing seated sanctuary for those ducking out of the way of said shapes. And, hey, if it's good enough for the latest public spat in Made in Chelsea, it's good enough for the rest of us, yar?
Victoria / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: African
A stones throw from Victoria Station and, importantly, the Apollo Theatre and St James Theatre, Bbar London boasts South African inspired dishes. The burgers are top notch too - classic cheese & bacon served on a toasted brioche bun, with lettuce, beef tomato, caramelised onions, gherkins, mayonnaise and bbar relish should do the trick. Immerse yourself in stylish surroundings, enjoying sumptuous, simple food, but don't get so comfortable that you miss the start of the show!
Rainforest Cafe London
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
Rainforest Cafe is a tropical hideaway in the heart of the West End. This unusual restaurant recreates the sights and sounds of the Amazon Rainforest with the help of stunning special effects such as thunder and lightning storms, tropical rain showers and cascading waterfalls. The restaurant is also home to a cast of astounding, lifelike, animatronic inhabitants including chattering gorillas, a menacing jaguar and our trumpeting elephants. Rainforest Cafe offers a varied menu of American and tropical cuisine made from the freshest ingredients. Combine this imaginative food with the magical scenery and you have a great time out for the whole family.
Mayfair / Restaurant / Cuisine: Indian
Veeraswamy is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the UK; possibly the world. It is a London institution. Ideally located for visitors to London in the heart of the West End, close to Theatreland, fashionable shopping areas, and the rest of the entertainment district. It's also the perfect lunch venue with a light airy room located on the 1st floor overlooking Regent Street. Closest theatre: Criterion Theatre.
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Indian
West End - with Her Majesty's Theatre (Phantom of the Opera) and the Theatre Royal Haymarket (One Man, Two Guvnors) less than a minute's walk away, this Indian restaurant in the heart of the West End provides an excellent array of freshly spiced dishes to get your cultural juices flowing.
West End / Restaurant / Cuisine: Italian
With a cosy room in winter and an open front in summer, this Italian restaurant close to Her Majesty's Theatre, the Theatre Royal and the Comedy Theatre is perfectly situated for everything, from Piccadilly Circus with the famous statue of Eros, to the unmissable madness of the West End and the street entertainment of Covent Garden.
Mayfair / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Seafood
Although the menu at this smart Piccadilly restaurant (the newest of the Bath-based chain's London outlets) is not particularly original, the fish is as fresh as it gets, and every dish is served to unwavering perfection. Child-friendly, great value, and featuring a wet fish counter where you can buy fish to either take home or have cooked to your liking there and then, Fishworks provides the quality of an independent with the crowd-pleasing consistency of a chain.
Planet Hollywood London
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: American
Dine with the stars at the vibrant Planet Hollywood London on Haymarket, a modern restaurant & bar near Piccadilly Circus. This restaurant offers a mouth-watering menu with a variety of movie memorabilia for the whole family to enjoy. A great central location for pre or post theatre dining in the company of costumes and props from films such as Dr No, Star Wars, Rocky & Love Actually. Closest theatre: Criterion Theatre.
The Lobby Bar
West End / Bar / Hotel / Cuisine: Afternoon Tea
This luxury hotel's Lobby Bar is walking distance from most of Central London's larger galleries and all 15 of the major West End theatres, so now your day is bookended, time to book some R&R in between. Afternoon Tea in the Lobby Bar has highlights such as Welsh rarebit, quail scotch eggs with caper mayonnaise, smoked salmon sandwiches, and scones with cream and jam. And let's not allow standards to slip: wear your almost-best attire.
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