After serving less than award-winning fare for years, the National Theatre is centre stage again with its cuisine
Stage-whisper it, but one of the jewels in our artistic heritage’s crown hasn’t exactly been as glittering as it could be when it comes to the menu. I’m referring to the otherwise unimpeachable National Theatre, whose drinking and dining options have been a trifle underwhelming for quite a while now. Certainly, regular theatregoers like me have preferred to visit other eateries on London’s South Bank rather than dine onsite.
However, as part of the NT Future project, there’s been something of a makeover, food-wise – and a host of new places to eat and drink. Alongside the Kitchen, a new all-day café with an agreeably informal and buzzy atmosphere, there’s the Understudy next door – a cool new bar serving a great range of craft beers, wine and cocktails.
Also new is the elegant and refined House Restaurant – all spotless white linen and contemporary art – serving delicious, seasonal and deceptively simple dishes such as the wild rabbit soup and roasted lamb rump with mint and caper relish, followed by marmalade and cranberry pudding with custard.
My favourite, however, is the Green Room – actually offsite but located just seconds away from the National Theatre on Upper Ground. And it deserves success for its determination to be something totally different and unique. A large, open space, it’s a collaboration between the National and local social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders.
Much of the fixtures and fittings are recycled props and scenery from productions and sets: the menus are stuck onto old programmes, the corridors are covered floor to ceiling with old show posters, and it’s surrounded by a sustainable garden created by local volunteers. Best of all, though, is the menu – a small, tidy collection of dishes at great prices with only one, the flat-iron steak, over a tenner at £10.50.
Highly recommended is the grilled calamari with pesto and winter veg at £10, a foodie bargain for a piled-high plate.
Helena Lang is editor of Sainsbury’s magazine. Email Helena here
Let’s do lunch
Here are three great value options for those midday meetings…
Headlam Hall Hotel
Headlam Hall, near Gainford, County Durham
This beautiful 17th-century country house hotel set amid the Durham Dales offers fine northern produce with a modern twist, such as warm salad of pork belly with black pudding and rocket, and breast of chicken with bubble and squeak. Try to leave room for the Baileys cheesecake with espresso ice cream.
20 Queen Street, Mayfair, London
Angela Hartnett’s flagship restaurant in the heart of Mayfair may be a temple of good taste with its classy décor and crisp white linen, but the focus here is also on ‘fun’. It offers a menu of modern Italian dishes using fine British and European produce. Try the beef carpaccio, charred onions and mustard crème fraîche followed by hazelnut fettuccine with baby artichoke á la Grecque.
Kyloe Restaurant & Grill
1-3 Rutland Street, Edinburgh
At this Edinburgh restaurant chef David Haetzman puts Scottish meat on a pedestal. Among some exceptional cuts is a carnivore’s heaven of a mixed grill, including lamb cutlet, pork sausage and rump steak, with garnishes such as tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs for just £13. Alternatively, the steak, grain mustard and Mull cheddar suet pudding served with champ and a red wine sauce for £12 might have your name on it.