Looking for Soho’s best pre-theatre menus or a top pantomime for Christmas? Follow our insider’s guide to the culture-packed British capital…
As a West End performer who’s appeared in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Avenue Q, Sam Harrison knows his way around Soho and central London. He’s also an accomplished pantomime performer, nominated for Best Leading Male in the 2018 Great British Pantomime Awards, no less. In between performances, we grabbed the actor to gain his tips on where to catch a cabaret in the city and dine like you’re on the set of a Wes Anderson film.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
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“This is one of London’s newest, most vibrant theatres, right at the foot of the redeveloped Battersea Power Station. The artistic director here, Paul Taylor Mills, has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and champions new work. I knew I needed to collaborate with him on my show Love is Only Love. The story, which I wrote, is about a young boy’s search for love using Hollywood musicals as his guide. It’s autobiographical and celebrates love, acceptance and the joy of theatre itself.”
“This hotel is less than a 10-minute walk from some of London’s best theatres, including the National Theatre, the Old Vic and the Young Vic. It’s also close to the South Bank, home to one of London’s top Christmas markets with glühwein and hot donuts. But despite the central location, the road it’s on is really peaceful, and also has a great ice-cream shop, Candiero Gelato. I love that the hotel decor is colourful and anarchic – you almost feel like you’re in a circus tent – and the bar is really cosy.”
“Glamorous but affordable, this brasserie in the heart of theatreland is a cross between a Wes Anderson film and an Agatha Christie novel. There’s a fin de siècle Viennese vibe with gold, red velvet, marble pillars, chandeliers – even a pianist tinkling in the background. And, I think, the best service in London. Order the prix-fixe because it’s cheap and delicious, ticking off three courses, including steak. I go before catching a West End show, or Zédel’s own cabaret in the Crazy Coqs bar.”
“If you want to catch West End actors from the likes of Phantom of the Opera or Les Misérables on their break between performances, head to this old-fashioned greasy spoon on Wardour Street. On a two-show day, we turn up to Bruno’s before warm-up for an enormous English breakfast with white toast dripping in butter, streaky bacon and tea you can stand a spoon in. In between the matinee and evening performance, we come back for family-style Italian plates of spaghetti bolognese followed by sfogliatelle pastries. It’s good energy, but sometimes we eat way too much and regret it.”
“Nestled at the base of the brutalist-masterpiece National Theatre, this bar has an enormous range of independent and unusual craft beers, gins, ales and mead. It’s not your typical theatre bar – typically small, cramped and tucked behind the dress circle, where you have to fight for a drink at the interval. Rather, it was designed to be a social space, facing out to the river and the community. It’s a place where theatre-industry people always meet, drink and relax.”
“Right at the top of Shaftesbury Avenue, one of the great parades of theatres in the West End, is this sleek, sexy and modern hotel. It’s filled with young, hip media types. I really enjoy the food – especially the mullet with fennel and aioli – but there are also some fantastic Japanese restaurants nearby like Kanada-Ya and Fushan. You’re not far from Christmas shopping at Tottenham Court Road either – and, of course, the most enormous pantomime in the country, at the London Palladium, is minutes away.”
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