re-theatre menu. Three words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of many a discerning London foodie. Often dressed up as Prix Fixe or Chef’s Menus, theatregoers have long been left to choose between disappointingly subpar set menus or the Covent Garden branch of Pizza Express – neither of which is going to get your big night out in the West End off to a great start.
Well, no more. Never ones to let a smart business opportunity pass them by, London’s greatest theatre-adjacent restaurants have spotted a gap in the market and begun offering pre- and post-theatre dining options to rival any a la carte menu. The only downside? You’ll be having such a good time you might just miss the first act.
SUSHISAMBA, Covent Garden
You’d think it would be difficult to top the views at London’s original SUSHISAMBA in the City’s Heron Tower, yet the panorama on offer at the Covent Garden outpost of the Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian fusion restaurant comes close. Enjoying a rooftop spot that runs the entire east side of the Grade II-listed Market Building (the glass-domed structure in Covent Garden’s main courtyard), the Eric Parry-designed restaurant overlooks the market’s historic Piazza, the Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Nab a table during a dusky-pink sunset and you’re in for a real treat.
Inside, SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden is even more impressive than its sister restaurant in the Square Mile. A riot of bright colours, overhanging foliage, velvet booths, striking lighting and statement black-and-white floor tiles make this one of London’s most dazzlingly-designed restaurants.
The pre-theatre menu – £28 for two courses; £32 for three courses – is served between Monday and Friday from 3pm until 6pm. Favourites that make it over from the main menu include Chilean sea bass and pork belly anticuchos, ezo and veggie samba rolls, poussin teriyaki and Robata-grilled miso-glazed salmon. A word of advice: if you’re peckish, opt for the Moqueca – a (delicious) Brazilian fish stew made with coconut milk and tomatoes – otherwise you might arrive at the theatre a little on the hungry side.
Price: £28 for two courses; £32 for three courses
Close to: Apollo Theatre, Savoy Theatre, Adelphi Theatre, Lyceum Theatre
Address: 35 The Market, WC2E, sushisamba.com
Cafe Murano, Covent Garden
Tucked away on a quiet(ish) street just off the main Covent Garden square, this smart Italian eatery from lauded chef Angela Hartnett hits that sweet spot of sophisticated eating in central London that feels neither touristy nor extravagantly priced. This is particularly true of its extremely reasonable lunch and pre-theatre set menu, which will give you change from £20 for two courses of some of the most authentic Italian cuisine in the capital. Choose from delicacies including tuna, coco bean, celery and green beans, mussels, squid and fregola and a delightful dolce of chestnut honey panna cotta and cantucci. Not on the set menu (but well worth making a return booking for) is Cafe Murano's signature, and utterly decadent, gnocchi with girolles and summer truffle.
Price: £19 for two courses, £22 for three courses
Close to: Royal Opera House, Aldwych Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Address: 36 Tavistock Street, WC2E, cafemurano.co.uk
Long praised for its innovative approach to restaurant dining – which popularised the use of communal tables and focuses on bold flavours and shared plates – it’s no surprise that Ottolenghi’s take on the pre-theatre menu at Nopi is a little unconventional. Instead of being priced by course, the menu offers a selection of small sharing plates with dishes made larger or smaller depending on the number of diners. Highlights include roasted cauliflower with red onion harissa, oregano and sunflower seeds, and beef and beetroot rendang with pickled beetroot and pistachio salsa. This is also one of the few, if not only, pre-theatre menu in London to come with a paired wine flight – which is well worth the extra expense.
Price: £27 per person, £42 including wine
Close to: Sondheim Theatre, Gielgud Theatre, Piccadilly Theatre, London Palladium
Address: 21-22 Warwick Street, W1B, ottolenghi.co.uk
Frenchie, Covent Garden
The London outpost of Greg Marchand’s Michelin-starred Parisian brasserie of the same name, Frenchie has long been a go-to for modern French fine dining in the heart of the West End. Its pre-theatre menu is only available from 5.30-6pm, so you’ll need to plan in advance to secure a table, but it also offers exceptional value for cooking of this standard. Dictated by the seasons, current standout dishes include smoked sea bream carpaccio with chive sabayon, strawberries and jalapeño; confit duck leg with aubergine, spring onions and herb salad; and a decadent banoffee, nutmeg and caramelised pecan dessert.
Price: £29 for two courses, £34 for three courses
Close to: Apollo Theatre, Savoy Theatre, Adelphi Theatre, Lyceum Theatre
Address: 16 Henrietta Street, WC2E, frenchiecoventgarden.com
Tredwells, Covent Garden
Chantelle Nicholson’s Michelin Green Star-holding Covent Garden restaurant is perfectly situated for a pre-show supper if you’re heading to almost any of the West End’s major theatres – and we guarantee that once you’ve had a taste of Nicholson’s seasonal British cooking, you’ll be booking again for the full experience. The set menu is available Wednesday to Saturday and offers a tight edit of some of the restaurant’s star dishes, including a plant-based option at every course. Choose the Isle of Mull scallops with tomatoes, lemon and walnut followed by the braised carrot, spelt gnocchi and pesto for a light supper that won’t have you nodding off after curtain goes up.
Price: £25 for two courses, £29 for three courses
Close to: St Martin’s Theatre, Noel Coward Theatre, Palace Theatre
Address: 4a Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H, tredwells.com
The Delaunay, Covent Garden
Taking its cues from the historic cafes of Europe, The Delaunay is a grand all-day restaurant from London hospitality dons Corbin & King. Located practically next door to a clutch of the West End’s most popular shows, The Delaunay has taken its pre-theatre offering one step further and teamed up with many theatres to offer discounted dinner-and-a-show packages. Current partnerships include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, while the food offering is of the time-honoured classics variety, featuring the likes of minted pea soup with creme fraiche, smoked haddock kedgeree with poached egg, and strawberries and cream.
Price: Two courses for £21.95, three courses for £25.95
Close to: Royal Opera House, Aldwych Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Gillian Lynne Theatre
Address: 55 Aldwych, WC2B, thedelaunay.com
Bocca di Lupo, Soho
Founded by Jacob Kennedy and Victor Hugo in 2008, there are few more appetising places for dinner before Les Misérables (showing at the Sondheim Theatre just down the road) than Bocca di Lupo. This buzzy Italian restaurant, which focuses on authentic, hearty regional fare, offers a Ligurian Workers Lunch until 6pm each day, treating guests to a starter, main and salad for an astonishing £12.50. There’s no choice but, with the menu featuring farinata with zucchine alla scapece (a chickpea pancake with fried marinated courgette); spaghetti with tomato, olives, basil and anchovies; and camoglieso (a chocolate and rum dessert), this is a surefire crowdpleaser.
Price: £12.50 (£10 supplement for dessert, wine and coffee)
Close to: Lyric Theatre, Gielgud Theatre, Sondheim Theatre
Address: 12 Archer Street, W1D, boccadilupo.com
Hawksmoor, Soho and Covent Garden
Avert your eyes from the Piccadilly Circus branch of the Aberdeen Angus Steak House and instead set a course for the far better Hawksmoor steak chain, which has restaurants conveniently located for theatregoers on Air Street in Soho and Seven Dials in Covent Garden. The Express Menu, which is available from 5-6.30pm every weekday and 12-3pm on weekends, is essentially a list of the restaurant’s greatest hits, including its potted beef and bacon with Yorkshire puddings to start, 35 day-aged rump steak for mains, and sticky toffee sundae for dessert. Vegetarians are also well catered to thanks to the likes of ricotta dumplings and heritage tomato salad with whipped Graceburn cheese.
Price: Two courses for £20, three courses for £23
Close to: Lyric Theatre, Apollo Theatre, St Martin’s Theatre, Donmar Warehouse
Address: 5a Air Street, W1J; 11 Langley Street, WC2H, thehawksmoor.com