Introducing The Lane

Annabel Harrison

13 December 2021

This year Theatre Royal Drury Lane has reopened as a cultural destination. Think afternoon tea, dining, drinks, art, architecture and culture, in the heart of Covent Garden

13 December 2021 | Annabel Harrison

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he Theatre Royal Drury Lane is a true grande dame of the West End, with a history stretching back more than 350 years, making it the oldest theatre site in continuous use in the world. As such it has been no stranger to rebuilds and restoration over the centuries. Its first iteration was built in 1663, only to be destroyed by fire within a decade; the second theatre was demolished; and the third theatre once again fell prey to fire. The remarkable building we admire today, designed by 18/19th century starchitect Benjamin Dean Wyatt, opened 210 years ago. To ensure many years of theatrical relevance and excellence lie ahead, the theatre underwent an extensive and complete two-year restoration from 2019.

Happily, The Lane's doors are now well and truly open again, with the exciting new addition of dining, drinking and entertainment spaces that are open all day. There's something for everyone, whether you’re in pursuit of a glorious British afternoon tea (always), seasonal dishes (yes please), cocktails with as hearty a measure of culture as spirits (in a bar named after and themed around an iconic Londoner, nonetheless), awesomely opulent Regency architecture or all of the above. So where to start?

Afternoon Tea at The Lane

We have to confess: afternoon tea is one of Luxury London's favourite dining experiences, and The Lane's offering is one you won’t want to miss. Why? Firstly, because you’ll be seated comfortably in the beautiful Grand Saloon, complete with twinkling chandeliers, marvellous artwork and ornate ceilings. Secondly, because its menu has been created by London-based baker to the stars, Lily Vanilli. Think pink lemonade tarts and mini sticky toffee puddings, madeleines with lapsang-souchong glazed salmon and fresh scones. The menu is full of decadent favourites (the current menu offers some festive tweaks on the classics) with gift vouchers available for those looking to put a truly decadent day out beneath the tree. Delicious, moreish and the sweetest of sweet treats. 

Afternoon Tea is £49 for adults and £35 for children, book at thelane.co.uk

The Garden

In recent years our appetite for being close to nature and greenery within the confines of our great city has increased and, with The Garden at The Lane, you can get your fix in a verdant oasis, hidden away in the heart of Covent Garden. Hosting a café and bar, The Garden will satisfy various kinds of gastronomic whim and caffeine fixes as needed: could there be a better start to your day than a specialty coffee by Extract Coffee Roasters, with a pastry by the renowned Lili Vanilli Bakery on the side? Or perhaps a hearty lunch of wintery soup, baked camembert or Cornish sausage rolls? There is even, we are assured, doggy ice-cream for anyone wanting to bring their best furry friend. End the day with a relaxed drink, a Signature cocktail or a glass of something sparkling, to toast great company and a great evening that turns into an even better night(cap).

Walk-ins welcome, view the full menu at thelane.co.uk

The Cecil Beaton Bar

“Be daring, be different,” declared the man himself. We think he’d be delighted to have his name attached to this glamorous bar, which feels like a welcomingly decadent escape from the realities of the world outside. A legend of the 1920s, Cecil Beaton is famed for the costume designs in both the stage and film productions of My Fair Lady. Accordingly, both the menu and decor of the Cecil Beaton Bar and lounge at The Lane have taken inspiration from his life’s work, as well as from the flamboyant and rebellious group of artists, writers and socialites surrounding him. Take, for example, the inventive signature cocktails created by mixologist Tristan Stephenson and inspired by costume designs, pattern work or a simple story from Beaton's life. Speak to the knowledgeable bartenders about the tales behind the Beautiful Wasp, Britannia, Cleopatra and Eliza Doolittle cocktails, or the fabulous non-alcoholic options Coco and Peter Pan. Visit on a Friday or Saturday evening to be serenaded by talented live singers.

No reservation necessary, visit thelane.co.uk for more information.

Guided tours

Like we said at the top, Theatre Royal Drury Lane has one of the longest and most storied histories of any theatre in the world and, whether you're a history buff or aspiring thespian, a guided tour makes for a fascinating day out. This no-holds-barred trip through three centuries of theatreland history takes in royal scandal, ghosts, celebrity and even murder. Intrigued? For the festive season, The Lane is offering late-night guided tours which also include mulled wine and mince pies.

Post-tour head to the Rotunda where soaring ceilings, double-height doors, Regency architecture and the beauty of light streaming down from above make for a gorgeous place to round off your historic journey through 350 years of history. Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, the restoration here has done the Rotunda justice, and what better use for the central hub of this historic theatre than a champagne bar? Enjoy a glass of chilled champagne while taking in architecture and artworks that are unique to The Lane.

Guided tours cost from £18.50 per person, late night tours are £25 per peron, book at thelane.co.uk

Whether you have a short window of time or a whole day to while away, The Lane, just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden Underground on the Piccadilly Line and within walking distance of Soho, Leicester Square and the River Thames, has something to delight everyone.

The Lane, Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5JF, thelane.co.uk