Iconic theatre restaurant Joe Allen turns 40 with a bang

The anniversary celebrations see guest chefs cooking up a feast accompanied by show tunes

The entrance to legendary Covent Garden basement restaurant Joe Allen
The entrance to legendary Covent Garden basement restaurant Joe Allen

Theatre folk have celebrated West End successes and drowned their sorrows at legendary Covent Garden basement restaurant Joe Allen for what will be 40 years in 2017. To celebrate, it is throwing a birthday party on January 29 – a Sunday evening, thus allowing le tout showbiz to turn up, as all London theatres will be “dark” that night. Bookings will be taken from Tuesday January 3.

Main courses will include Joe Allen classics such as fish cake with spinach and hollandaise, a bowl of vegetable chilli and the not-so-secret “off-the-menu” cheeseburger
Main courses will include Joe Allen classics such as fish cake with spinach and hollandaise, a bowl of vegetable chilli and the not-so-secret “off-the-menu” cheeseburger

The kitchen will be headed by FT foodie Rowley Leigh, whose chef career started at Joe Allen; he will be joined by Gizzi Erskine and editor-turned-chef Lisa Markwell. At front of house, original waiters from the 1970s will shake cocktails and wait tables while sharing anecdotes from back in the day.

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Dinner (£40) will include choices of Joe Allen starters such as black bean soup, mac ’n’ cheese, pretzel with blue cheese dressing, mini ribs and chicken wings served with bang bang sauce. For the main course, choose from classics such as fish cake with spinach and hollandaise, a bowl of vegetable chilli or the not-so-secret “off-the-menu” cheeseburger. For the finale there will be a trio of desserts featuring chocolate fudge brownie, pecan pie and New York cheesecake – special cocktails, wines and bubbles will keep things buzzy.

Original waiters from the 1970s will shake cocktails and wait tables while sharing anecdotes from back in the day
Original waiters from the 1970s will shake cocktails and wait tables while sharing anecdotes from back in the day

As for entertainment, before he brings La Cage aux Folles to the National Theatre in 2017, musical director Nigel Lilley will stage show tunes performed by West End actress Harriet Thorpe. Restaurant critic and Radio 4 presenter Jay Rayner will follow, playing jazz piano, accompanied by his wife Pat Gordon-Smith.  

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After dinner a tombola in aid of Joe Allen’s charity partner, Mousetrap Theatre Projects (which encourages young people to discover the theatre), will see surprise prizes of Joe Allen memorabilia pulled from a lucky dip.

Curtain down is sure to be late…

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