For me London’s Southbank often feels like a black hole for decent restaurants and bars. Reasoning tells me there must be great places to eat and drink but, if someone ever suggests spending a sunny evening on its bustling shores, my mind immediately goes blank of exciting options. Wahaca is pretty decent if you can get over the fact that it’s a chain; the outside bar at the Royal Festival Hall will always be a classic if slightly obvious choice for alfresco wine supping; and even the Oxo Tower will do if you stick to cocktails and happen to be on the friendly side of pay day. None though, would have me sprinting across the Hungerford Bridge.   

{YouTube:XRZRuo2GOMU}Which is why I was rather pleased to be invited to the launch of Propstore, The National Theatre’s summer pop up bar/cafe which is returning to the Southbank for its second year. The half open, glass-fronted space sits at the entrance of the theatre (and therefore practically on top of the river) and is filled with props and scenery collected from the previous year’s playbill such as House of Commons benches from This House, the cityscape backdrop and spiral staircase from The Captain of Kopenick, the Victorian fireplace and mirror featured in The Magistrate and the Piano from Hansel and Gretel.

In partnership with American Express, it will be open seven days a week until 28th September from noon, with live music at weekends (plus a 2am closing time – making it a good choice for late night drinking south of the Thames). There’s a list of suitably seasonal cocktails from Sipsmith (we indulged in a few of the potent G&T’s), English wines and Meantime Brewery Fresh Beer plus a short but grease-filled menu of current junk pop culture classics (we tried crisp fish fingers in fluffy white bread, oozing black pudding scotch eggs and doorstop baps stuffed with sticky pulled pork and sweet apple coleslaw).

Unsurprisingly the best things about Propstore are its props. We loved the novelty of ordering drink whilst watching the train from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time whizzing around above us; and the lighting from Frankenstein illuminating the artfully arranged bundles of trunks, newspapers, old radios and gramophones from various productions. And are now of the opinion that a bar just isn’t dressed correctly unless it’s got a boars head (from Nation), a goose puppet (from War Horse) and a scooter (from Post)…  

Other than its river side location, stunning selection of thespian goodies in which to goggle and on-trend menu perfect for soaking up those Sipsmith cocktails, the other great thing about Propstore is the plentiful outside seating. Which, if we are blessed with a decent summer, is where you’ll find me, G&T in hand, trying to remember why I found the Southbank so forgettable. 


National Theatre Upper Ground