by Ken Powell

TBTLGOING to the theatre is a pretty fine experience. You might get a little dressed up for it, have a good wine at the bar, generally make the effort for a more classy kind of experience.

But the preparation beforehand might be a different matter.

Rushing around the house trying to find your tie or favourite necklace, getting the kids to babysitters or trying to get your meal eaten in time to rush off in time for the show.

The team at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) do everything they can to make sure your evening out is the highlight of your week, but even they can’t make sure you get there without a mad scramble. Except that now they can actually help a little.

This year Café by the Lake opened up literally next door to the theatre and provides pre-theatre dining. It is the culinary equivalent of enjoying a quality theatre production itself. This isn’t an ‘eat as much as you can at the Hungry Hippo’ kind of a restaurant, but one which offers a small, select menu in very lovely surroundings and sets the tone for the main event to come when you leave to take your seats for the performance.

By having your meal at the café you take one thing off your rushed list of things to do and have the time to wash away the hustle and bustle of the day with a nice glass of wine in stylish surroundings.

The catering is superlative. You can choose either a 2 course or three course meal, with a choice of three items for starters, main and dessert. When my wife and I went, I had the smoked salmon and horseradish roulade, which tantalised my taste buds without filling up my stomach. My main was the slow baked lamb with roasted red pepper sauce and fondant potatoes. My goodness, that meat was melt-in-your-mouth and the sauce delicious. Finally, for dessert, I had the selection of cheese and biscuits and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel on the plate.

Even before arriving, the staff were looking after us. When booking on the phone our dietary needs were noted and our meals adjusted accordingly. We were booked in for the final pre-performance slot and the timing was perfect.

The waiter service, from two delightful young people, was well-paced and pleasant without being intrusive. In short, we were looked after properly and came away more than satisfied. We arrived at the theatre unruffled, with pleasantly full bellies ready to enjoy the show.

So if you’re looking to add something extra special to an already wonderful evening and reduce a little of the preparation stress out of the night too, go book a table at Café by the Lake and let the magic begin early…

You can book a table at Café by the Lake by calling 017687 81102.

Dinner is available from 5:30pm on all performance days.