Whether you’re just getting started in the London theatre scene or you already have a few irons in the fire, theatre cafes are ideal industry environments to network with future collaborators or to get out of your home to work on your own project. Plus, each visit supports the theatre. We’ve drunk the lattes, eaten the pastries, sampled the atmospheres, and narrowed down 11 theatres across London with cafes and spaces to suit every step of your artistic career.
Bush Theatre: Library Bar & Cafe
Shepherd’s Bush 7 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 8LJ
Open: 10am–11pm, closed Sundays
Nestled next to Shepherd’s Bush Market, the Bush Theatre’s Library Bar & Cafe has two daytime faces. On the one side is the Script Library, with wide tables, old comfy chairs, and shelves laden with play scripts. Exceptionally quiet, the only thing heard in this Victorian room is the clickety-clack of keyboards and the turning of pages. It’s the ideal place to read or write scripts. Across the building, past the bar itself, is quite the opposite: a contemporary windowed corridor and a patio, both with tables primed for socialising or holding meetings with collaborators. Whether it’s chit-chat or nose-diving into a script you’re after, the Bush Theatre has got what you need.
Arcola Theatre: Arcola Cafe
Dalston 24 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL
Open: 10am–6pm, only open on Sundays with performances
The Arcola is an award-winning east London venue tucked away on a tiny street, and its cafe at the back feels like hip Dalston’s living room. Sofas and tables are scattered around and large windows fill the industrial space with light. On Tuesdays, if you fancy a show after a long day of staring at your laptop screen, you can queue for Pay What You Can tickets that go on sale at 6 pm. There’s only a handful, but it’s a great chance to see quality, affordable theatre with a friend or colleague.
The National Theatre
Southbank Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX
Open: 9:30am–11pm, closed Sundays
With its distinctive architectural design, three auditoriums, and cafe spaces, the National is loaded with nooks and crannies to meet for coffee, pop open your laptop, or work on a small group project. On the ground floor, you can meet for lunch at Kitchen Cafe or grab a coffee from the Espresso Bar. Rule of thumb: the higher you go, the quieter spots are. In the daytime, though, the quietest spot may just be the Dorfman Theatre Lobby and Cafe. If you head there, you can meander along the Sherling Backstage Walkway and overlook production studios in action for free. In all instances, be wary of weekday matinees as the building can get packed.
Coffee + Croissant Deal: £3.50
The Lyric Hammersmith: The Lyric Cafe
Hammersmith Lyric Square, King St, London W6 0QL
Open: Monday–Friday 8am–6pm, Saturday 9:30am–6pm, select Sundays only
Walk into this bright cafe straight from Lyric Square. The fresh space offers seating both inside or out onto the square, with a long white subway-tiled counter to entice you with their many sweet, savoury, and healthy options. The small round tables are perfect for one with a laptop, or two with coffee and notepads. Not too busy on weekday afternoons and easily accessible from Hammersmith Station, this west London cafe makes an ideal quick rendezvous spot.
Handmade pie: £4.50
The Hampstead Theatre: Cafe Bar
South Hampstead Eton Ave, London NW3 3EU
Open: 9am–11pm Monday–Friday, 10am–11pm Saturday
Working on something that needs table space for a small army? The Hampstead Theatre Cafe Bar is split by two levels, with a variety of high and low tables at entrance level, and a spacious downstairs with tables galore. Because it sits across from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, students and staff can be seen buzzing about throughout the day. On Wednesdays, the Swiss Cottage Farmers Market takes over the space between the two neighbouring theatre institutions. The theatre itself is geared toward new writing and creative innovation, opening its doors to creativity.
The Park Theatre: The Cafe Bar
Finsbury Park Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP
Open: 9am–11pm, closed Sundays & Bank Holidays
The Cafe Bar at the Park Theatre is a hidden gem for weekday lunch-meetings outside frantic central London. Their Mediterranean–Italian menu recently earned the accolade of Best Foodie Experience in the 2019 Offie Awards. Only opened in 2013, the Park Theatre is one of the younger contenders in the London circuit with brand new facilities and a contemporary look. And with little traffic in the day, this Finsbury Park treasure may just be your new go-to…
Pizza: from £7.50
Tea House Theatre
Vauxhall 139 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HL
Open: Monday–Friday 9:30–10pm, Saturday 9am–10pm, Sunday 9:30am–8pm
If a pub theatre and a tea house got together, this place would be their love-child – a quintessentially English tea house by day and an intimate theatre by night. Quietly hidden in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, behind vault shops and restaurants, it’s just a short walk from Vauxhall Station. Be aware: not a coffee bean to be found here! Only quality loose-leaf teas are offered by the knit-cosied pot. All the while, massive, decadent cakes tempt you under their glass dome covers. Tuck in for a long day working to the sounds of Classic FM or meet for afternoon tea, before heading to one of their varied events in the evening.
Pot of tea: £5
Giant slice of cake: £5
Battersea Arts Centre: Scratch Bar
Battersea Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN
Open: 10am–late, closed Sundays
The Scratch Bar is the place to mix and mingle if you’ve got work in its early stages. The Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is known for its celebration of the “scratch” process, supporting artists with works-in-progress. In the day, Scratch Bar is a cosy cafe, and by night it becomes a platform where you can find artists testing their ideas on the public. BAC’s Scratch Hub is an extension of the scratch vision, offering several hotdesking memberships for those tinkering at projects long term.
Hot lunch: from £7.95
The Albany: Caff A
Deptford Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG
Open: Monday–Friday 9am–5pm, Saturday 10am–3pm
Home to a number of resident companies and 4 performance spaces, The Albany is a versatile performing arts centre that opens its doors to artists across London and the local community. Tuck in for a productive session with a cup o’ joe at The Caff A, or venture out to the Albany’s garden. Perhaps you’re interested in professional development training? The Caff A is conveniently situated for networking with peers during lunch when on a day-long training session offered by Independent Theatre Council.
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