About Time: You Visited London’s Best West End EateriesBy Gilly Hopper
Theatre and food don’t always go together. Last year Imelda Staunton protested the consumption of food during theatre performances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, calling for ‘a ban on eating in theatres’, and that summer at a production of Doctor Faustus starring Kit Harington, theatre producer Richard Jordan complained about a couple seeing ‘nothing wrong in producing from their bag a box of McDonald’s chicken nuggets and a side large of fries.’
While food and drink have been eulogized in shows like Company – ‘Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch’ and Oliver’s “Food Glorious Food”, it seems clear that the theatre is no place to get your feast on. To combat hunger pains, we’ve compiled an alternative pre-theatre menu of the best West End eateries – from the historical to the novel, to try out. Time to eat:
The Run-Down: The Ivy at 1-5 West Street is renowned for its star-studded habitués past and present – ranging from Noël Coward to The Queen of England and others of their ilk. Now in its hundredth year, and with more subsidiary restaurants than you can count on two hands, The Ivy West Street remains the most charming of all its bureaus. Nestled in the heart of theatreland, it’s the perfect post-show meetup, offering a 2-course post-theatre dinner (Monday to Friday) in conjunction with a broad variety of shows including The Book of Mormon, Oslo, The Ferryman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof et al.
Where: 1-5 West Street, WC2H 9NQ
The Run-Down: Located on Shaftesbury Avenue, Leon West End is like no other Leon you’ve been to before (discount that negative Airport experience pronto). Embracing a thespian flare, Leon West End offers a stage for West End hopefuls to get noticed and fulfil their dreams, serving up “naturally fast food” with a side of show tunes. Taking singing for your supper to new heights, Leon West End is a fast and fun alternative to more formal pre-show dining.
*Show time is from lunchtime.
Where: 62 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6LT
The Run-Down: Founded in 1798, Rules relishes in its title of “London’s Oldest Restaurant.” Tucked away on the side streets of Covent Garden, Rules offers nostalgic British comfort food and wall-to-wall drawings, paintings and cartoons of its famous clientele. Down the decades’ Rules has been an unofficial “green room” for the world of entertainment, welcoming stars of the screen and stage including Henry Irving, Laurence Olivier, Buster Keaton, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin. Come for the old age glamour, stay for the lemon posset.
Where: 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7LB
The Run-Down: In the midst of Soho, surrounded by some of London’s best theatres, the Ham Yard Hotel offers an oasis of style and comfort. Part of the Firmdale franchise, the hotel boasts 3 restaurants, including the zany and bustling Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant. Enjoy a varied pre theatre menu – 2 courses for £19.50 per person, or 3 courses £24.00 per person – before running off to a neighbouring playhouse for openers. Alternatively let your thoughts percolate post-performance and relax in the sumptuous surroundings designed by Kit Kemp while enjoying a delicious cocktail, cheeseboard or a sumptuous dessert for £18.50 (available from 10 – 11pm).
Where: One Ham Yard, W1D 7DT
The Run-Down: Buzzing with cast members, agents and audiences, this West End staple, discretely wedged behind the Wyndham Theatre, boasts a clientele list as long as its fish menu. Famous diners have included Donald Wolfit, Lawerence Olivier (this guys was eating everywhere – when did he make time to act?) and David Niven. A wash with theatre enthusiasts who bustle in for pre-theatre fare, the J Sheekey Atlantic Bar website even has a helpful section that lists London theatres and production start times. Alternatively available is the Post-Theatre Special: the world-famous Sheekey’s Fish Pie and a glass of house wine for £19.75, served after 9.30pm every night of the week.
Where: 33-35 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL