Ryan Dinham


Hattie Lloyd 06/08/23

The Understudy

Something’s stealing the spotlight at the National Theatre.

And surprisingly, it’s the Understudy.

Tucked underneath the South Bank‘s brutalist icon, it’s a cosy bar specialising in craft beer that’s perfect for a riverside pint or pre-theatre drink.

the understudy interior

JW Howard Photography

It started out as just a sleeve of a space, but has since doubled its capacity by taking over a sizeable chunk of the theatre’s ground floor. And it slots into its industrial home nicely with a wood panelled bar, enormous copper piping (hooking up a tank of Meantime beer directly to the bar), iconic posters of previous NT productions, and a collection of tables and chairs that wouldn’t look amiss in a Scandinavian lumberjack’s office.


But The Understudy’s major selling-point – besides being one of the bewilderingly few bars along London’s most cultural stretch – is the sprawling riverside terrace. All year round, tables and chairs spill out onto the South Bank itself, for festoon-lit views of the river and the London skyline. In winter, groups huddle round with warming mugs of cider and mulled wine; in summer, a temporary stage is set up for live music, comedy and cabaret while you knock back a spritz.

The theatre’s partnership with KERB means that you’ll also find a couple of street food traders in residence at The Understudy (as well as on the terrace outside in summer). Currently, you can bolster your pints with Middle Eastern dishes from Armenian joint Sireli; burgers & fries from Meltdown Cheeseburgers; and piping hot noodle soup from Sen Noods.


NOTE: The Understudy is open daily from noon till late (1am Thurs-Sat). You can find out more, and book a table (though that’s not necessary), right HERE.

The Understudy | National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

Looking for somewhere to eat? Take a look at our favourite restaurants near the South Bank

The Understudy

National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PX

020 7452 3551

8.0 | Great