Statement Dining | March 16, 2016 | Food
Drama and dining go hand in hand. Just look at Titus Andronicus, where Empress Tamora is served a meat pie made from the flesh of her murdered sons.
Fortunately, the legendary theatrical restaurants of London serve up dishes a lot more palatable. Glorious, in fact. Here’s our roundup of the fine dining for theatre aficionados.
The show after the show: Sarastro
A former 19th-century pub, Sarastro, lies in the heart of Theatreland. Founder Richard Niazi, known locally as the ‘King of Covent Garden’, poured his enthusiasm for food, wine and opera into the flamboyant … well, everything, that makes up the grand venue.
The restaurant’s opulent décor has earned Sarastro an iconic reputation in London’s West End – with crushed velvet tablecloths, cosy booths, private opera boxes and balustrades from the Royal Opera House.
The food is Mediterranean, with Turkish elements. Order dishes such as slow-cooked lamb shank, beef mutancana and classic Eastern mezze while enjoying Sarastro’s own special musical events.
Thursdays bring live swing and motown to the restaurant, Fridays mix things up with a live Latin rhythms and Sunday afternoons and evenings are for live opera and a string quartet.
Price: Two courses for £28.95
Singing for your supper: Bel Canto
Image source: Bel Canto/ Facebook
One minute, your waitress is placing a warm beef fillet in front of you, the next, she’s belting out classics from Bizet, Puccini and Mozart.
This happens every 15 minutes at Bel Canto, Baywater, where world-class opera singers and professional pianists play an integral part in the service.
Dining at Bel Canto is enchanting, overwhelming and totally unique. Highlights of its French menu include fish soup, braised pork cheek and, naturally, an extensive wine list.
Price: Two courses for £54 (includes live opera show and glass of prosecco)
The king of Theatreland: Joe Allen
Image source: Joe Allen/ Facebook
We’d be crazy to miss Joe Allen off this list. Pre theatre, post theatre; Covent Garden’s iconic American brasserie is the go-to establishment for stage-loving foodies.
Actors, models and rock stars galore have conspired within its exposed brick walls. It’s not always clear where the clientèle ends and staff begins; the waiters are usually wannabe actors, producers and directors, while the cast and crew of the West End’s top theatrical productions would use it as their own canteen – and still do to this day.
“You may be surprised who is tucked away in a corner enjoying our food on any given day, ” general manager Cathy Winn told us.
“Classic posters from different eras of the stage festoon the walls and the atmosphere is still the same as Joe’s 80s heyday.”
Joe Allen did ‘dirty food’ way before it was popular. Popular dishes include mac ragu, deep fried squid, Joe’s fish cake, pecan pie, knickerbocker brownie and their most famous dish, the burger that’s not on the menu.
“The burger is a secret; you have to be in-the-know and ask a waiter to order.” Cathy says. “When Joe first opened the restaurant he didn’t want Joe’s just to be thought of as a burger joint, so it’s never gone on the menu. Worst kept secret in London.”
Another (badly kept) secret is Joe’s monthly comedy club – with past headliners including Sara Pascoe, Arthur Smith and Richard Herring. “It’s so intimate they don’t even bother with a mic.” Cathy says. “The only way you can get in is by emailing the venue.”
Price: Two courses from £14.75 (set menu)
Pre-theatre romancing: Clos Maggiore
Image Source: Clos Maggiore/ Instagram
With its dining grotto filled with greenery and twinkling lights, Clos Maggiore is a true Midsummer Night’s Dream. An oasis of calm in the hubbub of Covent Garden, the restaurant claims to be London’s most romantic – and it’s not hard to see why.
Influenced by Tuscan country inns, apple blossoms adorn the conservatory, which is transformed at night by candles, starlight and a crackling fire.
With a menu focused on local and seasonal produce, flavours are fuelled by chef Marcellin Marc’s love of Provencal cuisine. Be sure to check out the wine list; Clos Maggiore’s cellar boasts more than 2,500 selections.
Price: Two courses for £24.50
Fancy something a little, sweeter? Check out the best places to combine theatre with afternoon tea around the UK.
*Lead image source: Joe Allen/ Facebook