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.

kerb at the understudy

JW Howard Photography

The theatre’s collaboration with KERB means that you’ll also find a couple of street food traders in residence at The Understudy. Currently, you can bolster your pints with six-spice Nashville wings from Lucky’s Hot Chicken; squares of Sicilian pizza from the Bad Boy Pizza Society; and Indian-styled toasties from Mumbai Mix.

They’re really the upper crust.


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