Enjoy a night out in London instead of dashing home

LONDON is nothing more than a daily commute for many of us. It is not a place to visit but a place to work and, at the end of the day, rather than a place to linger, a place to escape from.

We all know that millions of tourists travel from all parts of the globe to get a glimpse of what we take for granted: we swear at them daily! But do we even take a moment to see what they are seeing?

On a “school night” I suppose it is understandable, but on a Friday – what are we thinking? For four years I worked between Soho and Covent Garden and for four years I dashed back to St Albans with everyone else. I didn’t have to, it was just what we did: The Commute!

I guess we wanted to see our friends, our loved ones, which is odd because they were probably dashing back from their own place of work to see us!

STOP! On one Friday night this month don’t dash home! Arrange to meet someone, have a drink, a meal and go and enjoy yourself!

It really isn’t hard and it needn’t be that expensive. Let me help!

Can I suggest a pre-theatre dinner deal, followed by a show? If you are not a spur of the moment type person, or maybe a babysitter needs to be organised, plan ahead.

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There are a couple of good reason why you book ahead for this. Firstly no-one likes to be dashing about just before a show, finding a restaurant, collecting tickets, paying bills etc... luxury is defined by not having to do things for yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting someone else to do it... it could just be getting it organised yourself the day before hand so that on the night you can be the swan minus the mad paddling legs!

Secondly you can get some great deals by booking pre-arranged packages. One Friday night package that I recently noticed was for best seats for Mamma Mia and with a pre-theatre dinner at none other than L’Escargot: price? �68 per person – the tickets alone can often cost that!

Another good thing about a pre-theatre meal package is that normally the show is paired with a restaurant that is nearby. In the case of Mamma Mia, this used to be the case but since the show has moved to the Novello Theatre you have a bit of a stroll on your hands – no problem, just warning you. Maybe a better mix would be L’escargot and Midnight Tango which opens in February next year, or maybe L’Escargot and Singin’ in the Rain at the nearby Palace Theatre!

If you do not want to plan ahead then may I suggest that you meet somewhere near Leicester Square and before you get too carried away with post-work drinkies, go to TKTS, probably better known as the Half Price Ticket Booth. It is on the south side of the square, all on its own in a one storey cabin. Here they sell tickets for half price (or as near as makes no odds). You get a different list of shows each day but they are all pretty good. It is a myth that only rubbish shows end up there. In London there are very few shows that sell out so most are keen to sell any late availability. The booth is an industry run outlet so is very trust-worthy.

There are a few other outlets around and they do also offer special deals but they also sell full price tickets with booking fees of up to 25 per cent so do make sure you get the right place!

Once your tickets are sorted I would suggest heading off to the relevant theatre and then choosing a restaurant there, you don’t have to eat at L’Escargot! This way you will not have to go far on a full stomach and have the luxury of leaving the table at the last possible moment. Each theatre is surrounded by restaurants offering pre-theatre menus. If you are at the Adelphi or Savoy or Vaudeville theatres on the Strand try Salieri, if you are at the Noel Coward or the Duke of York’s or even the Garrick check out Brown’s and the alley next to the Wyndham’s Theatre has a couple of great little restaurants – can’t remember their names but J Sheekey (sister restaurant to the Ivy) is there too.

So that is that. Rather than share a packed train with hundreds of desperate commuters you have spent the evening with someone you love, eaten at a great restaurant and be entertained by world-class performers and then taken a much emptier train home to be met by the baby sitter who had to deal with the kids at bed time. Feels good, doesn’t it?

* Author Simon Harding runs a suite of sites that promote theatre breaks around the United Kingdom. He also recently wrote London Theatre and Theatre Breaks, a downloadable guide to getting the best out of London’s Theatreland which readers of the Herts Advertiser can download for free from www.theatrebreaks.co.uk/?vs_cm=22

Find Simon Harding at https://plus.google.com/u/0/109976086747435614363/

Find Theatre Breaks at www.theatrebreaks.co.uk