Away from all the drama, Drury Lane’s Garden is a tranquil refuge
Following a glorious restoration, you don’t need a ticket to enjoy this historic venue
16 September, 2021 — By Tom Moggach
You can’t go wrong with The Garden. Photo: Steve Ryan
IT’S taken two years and £60m – but the restoration of Theatre Royal Drury Lane is a glorious smash hit. This London landmark, in the heart of Covent Garden, is the oldest theatre in continuous use anywhere in the world.
Andrew Lloyd Webber bought it back in 2000 then put in motion plans for a lavish and loving restoration. But then Covid hit – almost derailing the project.
Thankfully, the tourists are trickling back and the theatre’s new bars and restaurant are getting busy. Frozen, the musical stage show, has also opened to ecstatic reviews.
You don’t need a ticket to enjoy this historic venue. Step inside the Rotunda foyer and gawp at the grand, swirling staircase. Head right to the glitzy Cecil Beaton Bar, where they shake up creations such as a Pink Prince Charming, Beautiful Wasp and Shooting Star.
At the side of the building is The Garden, their new all-day café – an intriguing space and tranquil refuge from the bustle outdoors.
It’s a narrow, deep room that runs the full height of the theatre – like a fancy, Grade-I listed side return. The bare brick walls are hung with large, ornate mirrors and candles to bounce the light; vast wagon wheel chandeliers sway gently overhead.
On our visit, the tables were full with a mixture of intrepid tourists, out-of-towners and Londoners sneaking a quiet moment. Smart staff in waistcoats and bow ties flit from table to table.
Plant lovers should definitely stop by, as The Garden is a clever piece of horticultural design. Huge specimen trees, skilfully underplanted, stretch skywards. Climbers cling onto the brickwork; tufty ferns soften the shady corners.
Artificial plants are highly convincing these days. Look closely and you spot some snuck into the darker recesses. One tall, living tree is woven with plastic leafy twigs to disguise its barer branches. But I had to look twice to be sure.
The all-day menu focuses on light bites rather than substantial meals. Ingredients are high quality – such as a snack of Marcona almonds with shreds of fragrant Kaffir lime leaf.
We slathered potted shrimps and duck rillettes on chunks of sourdough and demolished an upmarket sausage roll baked with bacon lardons.
The chefs also whizzed up a fancy hummus with black chickpeas as the centrepiece for a rainbow platter of crudités.
You can’t go wrong here with coffee and cake; there’s also a Negroni ice cream sandwich and decent selection of artisan cheese.
We sipped a lethally strong cocktail but preferred the gin and tonics – mine made with rhubarb and bergamot tonic with a dash of Martino Rubino.
Make sure to visit this majestic venue next time you’re nearby. The building also includes the new Grand Saloon, ideal for afternoon tea, and the Rotunda Bar for a glass of fizz. I left in high spirits, with a sense that this city is bouncing back.
The Garden at The Lane
Theatre Royal Drury Lane,
Catherine St, WC2B