There are many reasons why I fell in love with London. Theatre, art, culture, drinking, dining, afternoon tea… These are the things that drew me in, and the things that led me to stay. But a dreamy all-day destination housing all of this under one roof? It simply hadn’t been done. That is, until Andrew Lloyd Webber stepped in.

Following an ambitious £60million restoration by Andrew and Madeleine Lloyd Webber, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane has been entirely transformed with the addition of exciting new food and drink spaces, a brand new auditorium, and tours that bring the building’s history to life. The first of its kind, it’s a theatre that’s open during the day so that everyone can enjoy the building – whether you’re coming to see a show or not. From cosy morning coffees and decadent afternoon tea to theatrical tours and late-night cocktails, here’s how we spent a day at The Lane (and why you should too).

We arrive at 11:15am on a blustery Thursday morning – 45 minutes early for our afternoon tea booking, but far too keen to get a peek inside to wait. So, we decide to explore the building. A Red Coat (a member of the venue’s esteemed luxury hospitality team, dressed in their new, cutting-edge and gender neutral red uniform) opens the door for us, and we step inside the breath-taking entrance foyer.

The palatial interiors are one thing, but I can’t help but notice the atmosphere, too. Quiet and calm on a blustery morning, it’s a welcoming escape from the bustling Covent Garden outside, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve stumbled upon one of London’s best kept secrets, hidden in plain sight.

It’s not the traditional time of day to visit a theatre, of course – others don’t open their doors unless there’s a performance happening – but that’s what makes visiting The Lane all the more special. 

It's not the traditional time of day to visit a theatre, and that's what makes visiting The Lane all the more special.

Just across the foyer, we spy a magnificent central bar, where Tattinger champagne is the focus and a statue of Shakespeare keeps a watchful eye. Keen to get a closer look, I make my way over and discover that the bar is overlooked by the central Rotunda – the venue’s most elegant focal point, and an Instagrammer’s dream Georgian ceiling. 

To each side of the Rotunda bar are staircases leading up to the next level, but our eyes are drawn to the walls where eight contemporary paintings hang proudly. Created by Brooklyn-based artist Maria Kreyn, each is a different psych-thriller interpretation of Shakespeare’s most well-known stories.

Still somewhat early for afternoon tea, we decide to pop out to The Garden.

The Garden

The Garden feels like a quiet oasis, hidden from a buzzing city outside. An all day café serving up coffee, pastries and lunch, the lights here are twinkly, the greenery is relaxing and the classical music playing in the background makes for a calming atmosphere. So calm, in fact, that if you closed your eyes, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a five-star hotel spa. And I realise that’s exactly what The Lane feels like – a five star hotel except, instead of bedrooms, there’s an auditorium that’s currently showing Frozen The Musical.

We peruse the menu and order two coffees, conscious that we want to save as much room as possible for afternoon tea. But I keep hold of the menu to take a sneak peek of what The Garden has to offer throughout the day.

I notice that brunch and lunch are the main focus for all-day dining (think warm Belgian waffles with smoked salmon; mozzarella and tomato topped sourdough; and smoked chicken caesar salad) , alongside a selection of cakes and pastries, of course. But what really catches my eye are the sharing boards. With a choice of cheese or veggie, nibbles are served to you on a serving board carved from the old stage – an actual piece of theatre history – which if you’re a theatre fan like me, is really really cool. The serving boards are also available to purchase from the venue gift shop, and I promptly make a mental note to add one to my Christmas list.

It’s 12pm now so, eagerly excited for our afternoon tea, we make our way out of The Garden, past the Rotunda, and upstairs to The Grand Saloon.

Afternoon Tea in The Grand Saloon

The Grand Saloon is truly a room to behold. Glittering chandeliers dazzle, whilst ornate ceilings, marble-lined columns, stunning floral arrangements and soft pink and green furnishings create the perfect setting for a decadent Regency-inspired afternoon tea.

We’re seated in a booth (which I notice is wonderfully comfortable) and our afternoon tea experience starts with our waiter Donato taking us through the menu. It already sounds like The Lane have taken traditional afternoon tea up a notch – with unique twists on the classics that I can already tell are going to make the experience a special one.

First up is an Iced Jasmine Tea to cleanse the palette, and two glasses of Tattinger Brut arrive whilst we deliberate tea choices. We opt for the Regency Afternoon Tea – a luxurious blend of black teas with notes of chocolate – and Portugeuse Peppermint; a rich mint tea from a small, family run, organic farm. Now parked with four beverages each in front of us (iced tea, hot tea, champagne and water) I’m already feeling utterly spoiled as we eagerly wait for the main act to arrive.

And quite the show it is.

Donato brings everything out together. Served on tiered plates, with the full tea set designed by Kit and Willow Kemp, the crockery features mythical characters taken from costume design illustrations from the theatre’s previous shows, and gives a whimsical feel to the whole experience. Together with the food, created by the renowned Lily Vanilli, it all looks truly exquisite. 

Donato recommends starting with the scones first, followed by Lily Vanilli’s signature sausage rolls, as both bakes are warm and just out of the oven – an order of events I can happily get on board with. 

Much to my delight, the savoury plate, which in most afternoon tea scenarios is home to an array of underwhelming sandwiches, is not only filled with warm flaky sausage rolls, but also with delicate salmon madeleines topped with caviar and a decadent goats cheese and pickled beetroot canelé.

Next up, perfectly presented desserts are the visual star of the show. Fitting, as during the glitz and glamour of the Regency-era, dessert was the most elaborate and playful course for dinner. The eye-catcher is the Lily Vanilli slice of cake – gluten free chocolate cake exquisitely decorated in icing, and topped with an edible crown and cherub. As I take my first forkful, it’s noticeable that the cake is gorgeously moist. And on first taste, I immediately understand why Lily Vanilli has such a prestigious reputation as a baker. It is simply the best cake I’ve ever tasted – and I welcome anyone that dares to challenge this.

It is simply the best cake I’ve ever tasted - and I welcome anyone that dares to challenge this.

But cake’s not all that’s for dessert. To accompany is a delicate pink lemonade tart with elderflower jelly; and a mini sticky toffee pudding with an oozing centre of custard and salted caramel.

Utterly stuffed and delightfully satisfied, our afternoon tea experience isn’t over yet. Once the table has been cleared  – crumbs swept, cutlery adjusted, and napkins re-folded (Donato really loves his job, and we love him for it) an ornate trolley is wheeled our way to serve us… wait for it… absinthe & mint chocolate chip ice cream.

As I dig in (apprehensively, I’ll admit) my palate is confused at first – it’s never tasted anything quite like this before – but soon after, I decide I’m really enjoying it. (Donato tells us a story about two ladies who enjoyed it so much, they kept asking for more scoops – so we know who really had a good time at The Lane).

Once finished, full to the brim on decadence and thoroughly enjoying the classical pop background music (think Bridgerton-soundtrack, with classical renditions of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi and Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger), we head back downstairs for our tour which starts at 2pm.

Theatre Tours

Downstairs in the entrance hall, we’re greeted by James and David, the tour actors who’ll be taking us on a one-hour tour of the building. They let us know that a group of 17 people were also booked in for a tour at this time, but less-than-ideal weather conditions mean they can’t get there in time so, luckily for us, we’re now getting a private tour!

I won’t give too much away about the tour itself – I highly recommend everyone experiences it for themselves – but it’s worth noting that the delivery isn’t what you’d typically expect. James and David are actors themselves (in fact, David himself wrote the tour script), so as well as dishing out their seemingly endless knowledge about the theatre’s 350 year history, its recent renovation, stories about the pioneers of acting and playwriting, and haunting ghost stories, the tour is also peppered with mini-performances from both actors. Think short renditions of Hamlet under the Rotunda, and friendly banter between the two that really brings the whole experience to life.

Expect to be taken on a journey all around the building, learn about the revolutionary moments in theatrical history, and even meet a spooky resident or two.

As it all comes to an end, we thank James and David for a brilliant experience and, reluctant to leave the building just yet, we decide to settle down in Cecil’s.

Cecil Beaton’s Bar

Cecil’s is a cocktail bar just off The Lane’s entrance hall, inspired and named after the high society photographer and theatre costume designer himself. The menu offers theatrically curated cocktails – I opt for an Eliza Doolittle (gin, white port, crème de violet, lemon juice and soda) and my partner chooses the Beautiful Wasp (bacardi quatro, pineapple, tonka, saffron and coconut sugar).

We take a seat right between The Garden and the entrance hall – the perfect spot to soak up the elegant surroundings and reflect on the day. We admire how the theatre has been reimagined – creating a spectacular five-star space where you can spend the entire day, never get bored, and never have to venture back outside (and nor would you want to).

A spectacular five-star space where you can spend the entire day.

As we finally manage to remove ourselves from the building, I’m already talking about our next visit – eager to come for lunch in The Garden, sip champagne under the Rotunda, and finally catch a show in the new auditorium.

My thoughts as we leave are that I can’t wait to come back. So, if you need me, see you at The Lane?

The Lane is open everyday from 9:30am. Welcome to all visitors, not just theatre-goers.
To book Afternoon Tea, visit here
To book a Tour, visit here

Website: www.thelane.co.uk


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