Great food and brilliant theatre - the perfect evening out

Inside the Prelude restaurant at Norwich Theatre Royal

Inside the Prelude restaurant at Norwich Theatre Royal - Credit: Theatre Royal

Dining before a show can make a good night out a great one.

The combination of dinner and the theatre is one of life’s little treats, is it not? The pairing turns an evening into an event, makes it feel a bit special. 

Of course, where you dine, in relation to where your theatre seat is, becomes rather important. You have to either choose a restaurant that is not far from the theatre, or be prepared for a race across town to make sure you are seated before curtain up, hoping that traffic is light and that you can find somewhere to park. 

The ideal solution is to dine at the theatre, something that the Norwich Theatre Royal offers with its Prelude restaurant. It was refurbished in 2019, but as the pandemic curbed its use, it still looks fresh and stylish with its Art Deco décor. 

We were invited to give it a try while the show Ladies of Letters, with Gwyneth Strong and Tessa Peake-Jones, was in town. More on that in a moment. 

Salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes, from the starter choices

Salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes, from the starter choices - Credit: Theatre Royal

Prelude opens two and a half hours before the performers are due on stage, giving you plenty of time to enjoy a two or three-course dinner, at £21 or £25. We arrived with 90 minutes in hand; plenty enough, we figured, for at least two courses. One of the great things about the Prelude arrangement is that the table is yours for the evening and so, if you wish, you can enjoy your dessert during the interval. 

The menu is sensible, with enough choices to cover most palates. For a change I chose the charcuterie from Marsh Pig to start; a change because I usually avoid anything with black or green olives and this dish promised olives of both hues. 

The Marsh Pig charcuterie starter

The Marsh Pig charcuterie starter - Credit: Theatre Royal

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Perhaps, after 50+ summers, my palate is maturing. I enjoyed the olives as much as the meats and the sweet bread; the excellent home-made onion chutney was delightful as well.  

Mrs C ‘s fishcake, salmon and smoked haddock, was good as well, and the pickled vegetables were a nice touch, though the burnt lemon aioli was a touch underwhelming. 

What wasn’t underwhelming was the mighty portion of aubergine that came along for her main course. It was a whopper. It was very well cooked in spices and the aromatic dried fruit couscous and tahini and pomegranate dressing all helped, but it was a dish that was perhaps more worthy than wonderful. 

The menu has a sensible range of choices for your pre-theatre dinner

The menu has a sensible range of choices for your pre-theatre dinner - Credit: Theatre Royal

My hake was a smaller proposition; beautifully prepared with a chorizo broth and herby spuds, it was an ideal light supper main course. 

Crucially, it left room for a dessert. The swift service (Prelude seems to have plenty of staff, despite the recruitment troubles affecting the industry) meant that we had pud then, rather than wait for the interval. The shared rhubarb Bakewell with vanilla sauce and stem ginger ice cream was joyful, for us the star of the meal. 

We took advantage of the table being ours for the interval; being able to sit comfortable with a refreshing G&T without having to jostle at the bar was a bonus and gave us plenty of opportunity to discuss the show. 

A charred asparagus dish from the Prelude menu

A charred asparagus dish from the Prelude menu - Credit: Theatre Royal

And it was a very good show. Ladies of Letters had a long run on Radio 4, a clever, occasionally waspish, often warm exchange of letters between two women. 

Gwyneth Strong and Tessa Peake-Jones – you will know them from sitcom Only Fools and Horses – brought it to the stage and were wonderful, capturing the bittersweet relationship which developed and sparking off each other in a way that was warming and witty. Feel-good theatre at its best. 

Dominic and Rosie Castle were guests of Norwich Theatre Royal and Prelude restaurant.