House at the National Theatre, London

House Restaurant

In the little town where we live in North Yorkshire there are lots – dozens, hundreds [don’t exaggerate…ed] of places you can have coffee. Shops, supermarkets, garden centres, farmer’s stores, pie shops – there used to be just one or two but these cafés seem an essential adjunct to the success of the primary business. Apparently, the more time you spend in a shop [research on out-of-town shopping centres Christmas 2015] the more you’re likely to spend.

A recent trip to London confirms the same thing with galleries and theatres – cafés and restaurants everywhere. Makes you wonder why they just don’t do what Ronnie Scotts does and just put the restaurant in the main galleries? We had a visit to the Tate Britain for the Frank Auerbach [stunning] but the very expensive looking restaurant was in the basement – dark but, we’re sure, excellent. A whizz along on the Tate-to-Tate water bus sees us arrive at Tate Modern but, alas, their rooftop restaurant, with stunning views of the river, is closed until March. So Brasserie Blanc it was, just behind the National Theatre. More later.

So, the evening saw us at the National Theatre for Jane Eyre. The National was designed by Denys Lasdun, also responsible for much of the University of East Anglia – notably the wonderful ziggurat housing blocks – so beloved of the students that the magazine of the university’s alumni is so called. The theatre was very controversial when it was built…

Designed by the architect Denys Lasdun, the National Theatre has divided public opinion since it opened in 1976. Although loved by many, others have seen it as an example of everything wrong with 20th century architecture. Its public fortunes reached their low point when the Prince of Wales famously compared it to a nuclear power station…And, with the NT Future refurbishment almost complete, [the exhibition] will help visitors understand why so many now recognise the National Theatre as a masterpiece of mid-20th century design.

There was some trepidation amongst 50% of the party about the length of Jane Eyre [3 hours 20 minutes] and the risk of falling asleep on the front row of the circle. However, the time raced by, the performance quite electrifying. It originated at the Bristol Old Vic as two plays, delivered on successive nights. At the NT pressure for a slot encouraged the tweaking to a one-night long play and, for our part, it didn’t suffer. There was some talk by the critics about it being turned into a “gallop through Jane’s life” but it conveyed the book quite successfully and enjoyably. Since it started at 7 pm and finished a little late at 10:25 pm, it didn’t seem right to hike over to Soho to eat. Previous visits have seen us at the RSJ but this time we tried the NT’s restaurant “House”. A small group filled a corner of the restaurant where a very rapid and enjoyable two or three course meal sealed the evening. Two excellent crab starters and two deliciously soft, gently fried lemon sole with chips was just what was needed, with a couple of very acceptable glasses of Puilly Fumé. A quick Camomile tea and then the hike back to the hotel – we walked about 15 miles that day.

A standing ovation for the National Theatre’s new destination restaurant. Time Out

Restaurant House at the National Theatre



The NT

The Royal National Theatre…

UEA Ziggurats

The UEA Ziggurat blocks by Denys Lasdun from the late 1960s…

NT Bill


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