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Festival Square

This South Bank newcomer fills the gap at the Royal Festival Hall

There are plenty of good restaurants around the South Bank, but they're scattered about and when you're hungry and pressed for time before a concert you want somewhere really close so you can relax and not have to rush to get into your seats. Before Festival Square came along there were the extremes of  the People's Palace, a great restaurant, but one where I'd want to linger, or the Festival Hall caffs, where the food is adequate but not exciting. 

Update: April 2004

Since reviewing this restaurant bar last November I've been back several times before attending concerts on the South Bank.

The standard remains as high as ever. Last week I tried the tapas selections which were just right for an early evening meal that's not going to sit too heavily alongside a Mahler Symphony. The £10 menu has been suspended between 6pm and 7.30pm, because the place is already packed with concert goers at this peak time.

Other excellent venues:

We were most impressed with the Café Bagatelle at the Wallace Collection, while at the Barbican Arts Centre there's the Balcony Bistro, operated by the same group. Another place you shouldn't miss is The Refectory at Southwark Cathedral on Bankside. It's ideally placed for visits to Borough Market, The Clink Prison, Vinopolis, The Tate Modern and the Cathedral itself
The food is excellent and the cakes are wicked - one of the best places in London for tea - Savoy eat your heart out! 

And don't Forget St John's!

The Footstool  has long been one of my favourites at St John's Smith Square. I'd no idea it was also one of the Digby Trout family until I started delving a bit when reviewing the new Festival Square. They are doing a great job in raising the standard of venue catering.

Festival Square is a smart waiter service café bar with an open kitchen to one side so you can watch other people slaving away while you chill out. For those really in a hurry, there's a two course daily set menu for £10 which includes a glass of house wine. The main menu is small but imaginative. We had a really gamey terrine, properly home made and attractively marbled but quite spreadable on the walnut toast. It came with some excellent red onion marmalade. The baked brie wrapped in ham was nice, but the cheese hadn't melted properly, but it came on a very generous bed of yummy roasted peppers.

The grilled sirloin steak and Dauphinoise potatoes had all gone, so my guest had some very tender pan-fried chicken basted with harissa, and I had a very comforting bowl of Irish stew which was the dish of the day from the £10 menu. The lamb and root vegetables were there in plenty and the gravy was rich and thick. Next time I go there I shall try the "bar bites" which are really a tapas style selection at £2.50 each or 6 for £12.95. 

We came back after the concert to enjoy our desserts. Don't miss the organic sorbets from Rocombe Farm - they have the most vibrant flavours. There is a great selection of drinks with wines cracking off from only £11.75 a bottle. Service is swift and cheerful under the watchful eye of Rebecca Hansen. I've already been back for drinks at the bar! See also the update box, right.

Clifford Mould, November 2003

Festival Square is located on the South side of the Royal Festival Hall, in Belvedere Road
Starters £4.50 £5.25
Mains: £8.25 - £10.75
Desserts: £4.25

Tel: 020 7928 2228  

Festival Square is operated by Digby Trout Restaurants who run cafe-bar-restaurants in many arts locations and visitor attractions in Britain. For a complete list, go to their website

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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