Apr 152009

Eating Out in London – A short Guide to the West End

Some people worry about eating out in London’s West End, and perhaps with good reason. Food in central London can be a bit expensive, some places are overcrowded at certain times of day, restaurants may be pretentious and not very good. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

A weekend theatre break for example, should be a thoroughly enjoyable experience all the way through and dining out should be one of the high points, a part of the treat.

West End Guide to Pre Theatre Dining

Suppose you arrive at Kings Cross Station or Euston at about 4pm on a Friday afternoon and make your way by taxi cab to your four star West End hotel.

Pre-booked Pre-theatre Dinner in the West End


When you book a theatre break with hotel stay and show tickets included, it’s easy to add a pre-show dinner, either at the hotel where you will be staying or at a suggested nearby quality restaurant. These meal deals or add-ons are all set up to make sure you have an relaxed restaurant dinner and can still arrive at the theatre in plenty of time to take you seats well before the show starts. The restaurant bill is then included in the total cost of your break and it’s usually very good value.

Choosing a West End Restaurant by  walking  in off  the street

Alternatively many of the cafes and restaurants in the West End offer fixed price pre-theatre menus. These are usually two course and cost vary wildly between £15 – £40 per person, without wine.


Here are some tips to consider before walking in off the street:

  • First have a good look at the menu before you go in. Is is the kind of you food you fancy? Is there a special pre-theatre menu deal and if so what exactly is included
  • Decide if you are happy with the price and check there are no hidden’extras'(VAT, Service etc)
  • Now look in through the windows and see who is already eating. If nobody at all, that’s not always a bad sign if it’s still very early evening but some places are crowded from late afternoon with people coming straight out from work.
  • If there are diners eating within sight, or waiters carrying food to table then have a nosy glance at the food itself. In just a second you can often get an impression if it looks appetising, artistic, not quite right, too big or too small.
  • I think it’s also important to look at the tables and chairs offered to see if you think you will be comfortable and not too squashed together.

Now, once you do go in through the door of your selected restaurant you are most likely to end up eating there, but you are still really in the next stage of the evaluation process.


  • You may well be able to enjoy smells coming from the kitchen and the food at tables. If anything is wrong, just turn around and walk out.
  • You’ll be greeted and asked if you have a reservation, and the size of your party. Even in a busy restaurant though, an extra table for two at pre-theatre times is rarely a problem.
  • When offered a table according to the size of your party, check the location before accepting. A window table is nice but not right next to the front door. Beware of the table the waiters normally keep clear because it’s right by the kitchen exit or worse. Even in an empty restaurant with no reservations, they will try to tell you where you have to sit. I don’t know why they do this, but I do know that you can certainly say “no thanks, I’d rather sit over there” and negotiate. And you can still walk out at this stage, when there are plenty of other places just two minutes walk away.

Popular Restaurants Booked with Theatre Breaks

West End Restaurant Type of Cuisine West End Area Handy for These Shows Features
Christophers Restaurant American Bar and Grill Overlooking Waterloo Bridge Avenue Q
Derren Brown Enigma
Dirty Dancing
Calendar Girls
The Lion King
A Little Night Music
Woman In Black
A modern, sumptuous menu served in a grade II listed building with a sweeping staircase, soft lighting, opulent decor and fantastic views over The River Thames.
L’Escargot Owned by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White,  need I say  more? Right in the Heart of Soho Grease
Jersey Boys
Les Miserables
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Fine dining with fresh ingredients, art on the walls and a famous name.
Creation restaurant Oriental meets British cuisine Covent Garden Blood Brothers

The Mousetrap

We Will Rock You

Open kitchen, fine art work
Salierie’s restaurant European cuisine The Strand Carousel

Derren Brown Enigma

La Cage Aux Folles


The walls are decorated with theatrical memorabilia
Dial Restaurant at the Seven Dials complex Updated British classics Covent Garden Chicago


A popular meeting place amongst Londoners and theatre goers
Bertorelli’s Restaurant Italian Covent Garcden Dirty Dancing
The Lion King
OliverWoman In Black
Opposite the stage door for the Royal Opera House
Chez Gerard French Victoria Billy Elliot


Marble floors and columns
Criterion Restaurant


French and Mediterranean Picadilly Mamma Mia

Phantom of the Opera

39 Steps

Luxurious Persian styled dining area

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