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The Riverfront Bar and Kitchen

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 3rd 2011
By Flickr user D1v1d
By Flickr user D1v1d
Sometimes all I want from a bar is the feeling that when I'm sitting there with my drink I'm an actor in the film of life. Sometimes I get confident and imagine myself as a lead character, but sometimes I cast myself as a bit player. Someone who's there overhearing what's going on, watching and waiting for their moment. And the BFI's Riverfront Bar, I find, is a very conducive backdrop for the sort of cinematic bar scene I like to imagine I'm a part of.

The smoking ban means that you can no longer sit in a bar part hidden in smoke haze, and some of London's most atmospheric pubs lack the sort of wine list that I'd feel comfortable sharing with my friends (or my palate), but the Riverside isn't trying to be either of these sorts of locations, it's more the kind of bar where you eves-drop on grand talk, or moments between people where ideas spark. Or else where people sit and drink on their own appearing to be lost in their own thoughts...

In reality many of the people enjoying the hospitality of the Riverside, including views under Waterloo Bridge, old beat-up benches and tables, and solid selection of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails, and the white piano, which is only part decorative, have probably just been to see a great film. This bar and kitchen is a part of the BFI (which does allow you to take drinks in, remember.), so some of the heated discussions you'll catch wind of in the bar will be about the main feature, as well as about life or in many instances how the main feature relates to life. And some of those far off expressions will be due to a great script, clever twist or dreamy hero or heroine...

The 'Kitchen' section, which occupies the National Theatre adjacent side of the BFI, somehow remains the sort of geeky film brother to the bar's cool-kid-turns hero, a 'Ferris's sister', if you will. It's clearly from the same genes all run by Benugos, just so you know but it just doesn't have quite the hum of chat that you really want to be a part of. The menu is pretty basic, but in a good way. They could have gone gimmick-y and offered you a Royale with cheese and a side of mayo fries, but you know the BFI is much cooler than that. And any undue film references will come from guests, feeling a bit jolly and inspired by good films and good drinks. But you know they mean well. The food stuffs they'll have to work with include some very, very good whitebait, mussels, fish and chips, some fairly unexciting salads, and what they call the king of club sandwiches. As well as other sandwiches and burgers, and a roast if it's Sunday.
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Why? Because part of seeing a film with someone is talking about it with them afterwards
When: Perfect for post-film chats at any hour (# Monday - Saturday 9:00 - 23:00, Sundays & Bank Holidays. 10:00 - 23:00)
Phone: (020) 7401 3332
Where: BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT, nearest station Waterloo
Cost: Quite reasonable
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