Until very recently, Victoria, as an area, has been a culinary desert. Options for dining out there were minimal. However, the field has changed dramatically in the last couple of months with some new openings by renowned names. The cityscape has also changed dramatically with shiny new buildings, giving the area a much needed architectural lift. So far, so rejuvenated.
A destination restaurant in a theatre is a refreshing concept in itself, and one that, if it works, may persuade other London theatres to follow suit. London theatres would do well to attract diners regardless of the play. We’re big fans of the Young Vic’s bar, which we would happily go to even on an evening of seeing a play elsewhere (taking on a large helping of Sondheim after a decent meal would certainly make us feel much happier). With that in mind, The Other Naughty Piglet has recently raised its curtains at The Other Palace Theatre.
Let’s face it, going to the theatre throws up the hassle of rushed meals, which are too often sub-par, only to be followed by sprinting to our seats before curtain-up. This, however, is the brainchild of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who we imagine is not the sort of chap who rushes through a couple bags of crisps at the bar during the interval before going back in to see Julius Caesar get whacked. After being impressed by the original Naughty Piglet in Brixton, he suggested to husband and wife proprietors Margaux and Joe Sharratt to open a second restaurant in his theatre.
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the theatre is the dramatic, imposing marble staircase leading up into the restaurant, which adds a sense of occasion. Upstairs, the restaurant is informal and welcoming. Multiple seating options—communal tables, smaller tables for two or four or six, or stools at the bar—all provide a good view of the open-plan kitchen. Bottles of wine line the windows, hinting at the restaurant’s extensive wine list (over 200) where the focus is on small producers. Again, too many theatre trips are blighted by terrible wines on offer.
We settled on the leather banquette and our waitress suggested four or five dishes to share: perfect for those who can never actually decide on what to eat. The daily-changing seasonal menu was as original as it was tempting, with elements of global cuisine. All dishes arrived at a relaxed pace. Starting with a ham croquette each—balls of panko crispness on the outside; molten cheese and ham in a béchamel sauce bursting forth once we bit into it—we wondered if we should have ordered another round.
Next up was plump burrata with strips of anchovy and crispy fried leaves scattered on top. The creaminess from the burrata was balanced with the salty anchovy, fragrant, earthy sage and the splash of excellent olive oil.
White Devon crabmeat was served with finely sliced pickled cabbage, peanut and dried seaweed. The delicate flavours from the crab and cabbage together with dried seaweed gave the dish a harmony with none of the individual flavours overwhelmed by others; that takes skill.
Their signature dish—XO linguine topped with a cured egg yolk—had been recommended to us by Margaux herself. The egg, cured by having been rested in oil before being plunged into soy sauce, sat perched atop a nest of homemade linguine, coated in a rich XO umami sauce. It leant the dish creaminess, and the curing gave it a thick, smooth texture.
Finally, with the ubiquity in pork belly, we were interested to see if there was a new approach here. The barbecued pork belly was presented in a rectangular strip with a layer of shredded cabbage and spring onions. On the side was Korean gochujang—red chilli paste—with a scattering of white sesame seeds, which cut nicely through the fattiness with its piquance. All this was a welcome, drier experience than the sticky-sweet approach others often take with pork belly.
Whilst the desserts appealed, we were sated and rounded off the meal with fresh mint tea. Sipping away, we glanced at our fellow lunchtime diners, including Lord Lloyd-Webber himself. Everyone seemed to be at ease, sitting contentedly in this gem of a restaurant. The evenings are no doubt very busy but critically, theatre-goers will be in a much better frame of mind to enjoy the performance.
Opening hours: Tuesday–Saturday noon–2.30pm for lunch; Monday–Thursday 5.15–9.15pm for dinner; Friday–Saturday 5.15 – 9.15pm for dinner. Closed on Sundays.