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  • Sarah


There are some restaurants which make for a truly unique dining experience, whether it is because of the food, the location or the ambience. The independently owned Sarastro has all three, but it is the décor which makes this a truly incredible place to eat and one which I would highly recommend to the Slow Traveller visiting London.

The green exterior of Sarastro Restaurant in Covent Garden

On the corner of a fairly non-descript building on Drury Lane in Covent Garden is Sarastro, a Mediterranean restaurant which as been there since 1996. Named after a character in Mozart's Magic Flute, the restaurant is in the heart of London's theatre district.

Drury Lane was once home to a grand mansion belonging to Sir Robert Drury in 1500, before the house and grounds were built over with rows of small houses and it eventually became one of the worst slums in the capital, famous for prostitution and gin palaces.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, was first built here in the 1660s and the area soon became home to countless theatres as well as the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet. Today there are more than 20 theatres in the district and it is a mecca for culture vultures who visit for the wide range of entertainment on offer from highbrow operas to the ever popular musicals.

Sarastro is located in an old pub, part of a larger complex that was built as social housing by the Peabody Estate. The building itself is rather bland, just a standard block of flats, but there is no mistaking where to find Sarastro. Covered in climbing plants, including huge arches which traverse the pavement, there are window boxes, hanging baskets, flowers in pots, ferns, shrubs and ivy everywhere. Interspersed amongst all the foliage you will find eclectic seating, lighting, statues, signs, all manner of curious things including a piano.

Diners inside Sarastro in Covent Garden

The exterior gives you a good indication of what to expect, yet stepping inside for the first time will still leave you mouth agape. At the heart of the interior are gilt covered opera boxes converted into seating booths; the original opera boxes are from the nearby Royal Opera House, discarded when they had a refit. The top level only accessible by stairs, the booths underneath them have padded ceilings so you don't bump your head. The rest of the décor is a mishmash of opera and theatre props, rich fabrics and side lights. It is all jumbled together in no apparent order and creates such a rich visual display that you will spend most of your meal admiring the surroundings rather than talking to your companions.

The gold pipes on the ceiling in Sarastro Restaurant

Piles of old books line the windowsills, paintings peer out at you from behind layers of decorations, Tiffany lampshades spread a colourful glow, random gold pipes cover the ceiling, and masks, mannequins, well worn ballet shoes and musical instruments hang from every available bit of ceiling.

In the background music plays; it was 1920s music when I visited which created a wonderful vintage atmosphere as we sat there amongst the eclectic props. They do have live entertainment on some nights of the week with shows starting at 8.30pm. Thursdays is Swing and Motown, Fridays is Latin, Saturdays is 70s and 80s and Sundays is Opera and String Quartet.

The food is excellent - Turkish Mediterranean with a choice of menus depending on what time you are eating, as this is a restaurant very much geared around the theatre crowd. The Pre-theatre set menu is available before 6pm and after 10pm, or there is an A La Carte Menu and a Set Menu.

A trip to the loos is something else too, they are painted with colourful risqué scenes that make a visit far more interesting than you would anticipate. Service is quick and cheery. Make sure you ask for the Set Menu if that's what you want, otherwise you will be given the A La Carte menu. Bear in mind they automatically add a 12% service charge on to the bill.


Book your table and look at menus on the Sarastro website >>


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