Is there a building in London so divisive as the National Theatre? This jutting, angular concrete monolith dominates the South Bank skyline, and whilst it doesn’t rub everyone up the right way, you can’t argue that its brutalist facade isn’t instantly recognisable. Hidden away inside you’ll find Lasdun - the National Theatre’s resident restaurant, which we reckon will be far less divisive.
The restaurant itself pays homage by name to National Theatre architect Denys Lasdun, but it eschews the theatre's brutalist soul for something a little more sleek and modern. There’s a thread that runs through the two, but Lasdun is a beautiful, atmospheric space - dramatic low lighting meets dark timber floors and draping white tablecloths, and there’s a marble bar for those who want to perch before they catch a show.
It is a very well considered space, made all the better by a compact menu that also feels right at home in this very British landmark. The Marksman’s Jon Rotherham and Tom Harris are behind the menu, and there are Marksman signatures all over, from a classy guinea fowl and Tamworth terrine with burnt pear and peach, to the famous brown butter honey custard tart - about as perfect a piece of pastry work as you’re likely to find in London. The outstanding beef and barley bun sometimes makes a guest appearance too.
Elsewhere, this is a restaurant that doesn’t mess about. An aperitif negroni is suitably boozy and welcoming. Carlingford oysters arrive with classic finely-chopped mignonette and lemon. There are chips - good ones - and they aren’t averse to offering you ketchup or mayonnaise to go with them. Lasdun is slick and smart - this is the theatre after all - but it has no pretensions, and staff are similarly friendly, gliding around the dining room with grace.
Lasdun’s spot within the National Theatre may become a blessing and a curse; it feels like a great discovery, but it’ll be a great shame if South Bank passers-by don’t realise it exists. Here’s hoping it’s able to establish itself as a true destination restaurant.