"The Penny Bar has swapped the low lit lounge style for craft beer, toasties and Macbooks"Review Rating: Reviewed by T.A.O
The Old Vic theatre remains a constant as it continues to deliver some of the best and most innovative productions in London but all around it, things are changing. The stylish Hix bar on the first floor joins a swanky foyer bar and now the basement theatre bar has undergone transformation – well, a year ago, but still. Once a carpeted retreat for the pre and post performance crowd, the lower level Penny Bar has evolved into a welcome-all space that attracts a daytime crowd almost as strong as the evening arrivals.
White washed walls, a plywood bar front and some well-appointed down lighting strips the space back to the verge of dull but does just enough to keep on the right side of minimalist style. Some mourn the loss of the old place but times change and the new canteen café/bar does a good job of opening itself up to a wider demographic. Coffee, cake and pastries are served in the daytime and for something heavier to snack on we can recommend the mushroom and melted cheese toastie for a pre-show evening meal.
Naturally, the place appeals to a laptop wielding, horn-rimmed glasses wearing crowd who feel at home in a theatre bar even when not in the process of watching theatre, which seems like the Penny Bar’s whole raison d’etre. We drink Sierra Nevada from the bottle – because it’s that kind of place – and sample the Freedom Organic Helles. The higher quality beverage is a reminder that change is good, offering a slight softening of the blow that Penny has undoubtedly lost a bit of its soul. Move with the times and you’ll find something to like in the Old Vic’s basement bar, yearn for the past and be glad you still have the option of some of Soho’s chintzy subterranean artist’s bars.
T.A.O reviewed Penny Bar on Tue 15 Nov 2016Review disclosure: reviewed anonymously