Life & Living

Pre-theatre dining which is more than just a supporting role. 

by Andrew Hirst

 As a regular theatre goer I clearly enjoy the magic of a live performance. If I was asked how this can be enhanced, my initial thoughts would normally turn to the basics of the evening. How good are the seats? What production am I watching? Now there is a new dynamic to consider; pre-theatre dining. 

At one time this may have been a dash through a Wagamamas or a pensive wait for the slow waiter at an overly busy gastro-pub. Will we make it to the theatre in time? I had long awaited the critically acclaimed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to pay a visit to Norwich Theatre Royal and decided this was the perfect opportunity to combine the evening with a visit to the theatre’s restaurant, Prelude.

I arrived staggeringly early, whilst my wife arrived attractively late. The restaurant opens two hours and thirty minutes prior to each show giving me a welcome respite from a hectic day whilst I waited. The interior is fresh and modern, with a nod to a more art-deco age. You can sense the quality on offer, even before you have tasted a crumb, yet with an accessible and relaxed atmosphere; fine dining without the pomp.

We were informed that the table was ours for the evening, which was a refreshing change, and that we could enjoy our starter and main pre-show, take our dessert and drinks during the interval and enjoy a cheese board post-show.

The seasonal menu had plenty to offer and head chef Jesús Torcat sources the ingredients locally, where possible, showcasing some vibrant dishes. I opted for the ham hock and leek terrine with apricot chutney; succulent ham with a sweet and tangy accompaniment, whilst Lorraine went for the smoked mackerel pâté with pickled cucumber, radishes and watercress salad. Both were a fabulous start to the evening.

For mains I headed straight to the roasted lamb loin with crispy crushed potatoes, sautéed lemon green beans and mint salsa verde. The lamb was cooked to perfection; just the right amount of pink in the middle with a succulent fat which was caramelised on the outer edge adding a little crunch. Crushed potatoes and beans worked well and the whole plate was tied together with the salsa verde. This is a beautifully balanced spring dish you will never tire of eating.

Lorraine’s pan-fried fillet of seabass with a pea and asparagus risotto and lemon butter sauce, looked fabulous and was one of the other dishes on the menu which definitely caught my eye. The fish was cooked really well with a crispy skin, and the risotto was rich and creamy, as it should be. 

Before long, we headed for our theatre seats and enjoyed the first act, returning to our table during the interval to find our desserts and coffees waiting for us. To avoid any arguments we had both opted for the chocolate hot cross bun brownies with clotted cream ice cream. Each mouthful was filled with a dense, chocolatey, gooey goodness with a hint of cinnamon, and the clotted cream ice cream cut through the richness; pure heaven.

The staff were well rehearsed, friendly and attentive; our server Tom was nothing short of excellent. In short it would be difficult to make an award-winning production better, however combining the show with the dining experience of Prelude made what would have been a memorable evening, unforgettable.

The Show:

The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time

The title might be a bit of a mouthful, but The National Theatre’s Olivier and Tony Award-winning production is easy to swallow. Director Marianne Elliott’s smash hit is a jolt to the senses as it brings Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel to life on stage. The meticulous detail flooding from the lightshow-set helps give an insight to the reality of living with Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism or savant syndrome from the inside.

The story is set when fifteen year old Christopher stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain and is exceptional at maths, while everyday life presents some barriers. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbour’s dog, it takes him on a journey that upturns his world. This poignant tale is punctuated with comedic moments which cumulate in a thought provoking finale. 

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