Undoubtedly one of London’s most instantly recognisable landmarks, Grade II-listed building The Roundhouse started life in 1847 as an engine repair shed and, in more recent times, it has become legendary for showcasing some of the world's leading bands, DJs and performing artists.
It simply couldn’t be richer in cultural history - The Doors played their only ever British show here in the 60s, hippie counter culture mag International Times was launched here, the 60s and 70s saw sets from Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Motorhead, AC/DC’s 'Highway To Hell' LP was recorded in its studios and Antony Sher filmed a nightmarish TV version of Macbeth deep in its bowels. Even when it was officially closed in the early 90s, its spirit lived on through squat parties graced by DJs like Aphex Twin, Mixmaster Morris and Spiral Tribe.
In 1998 philanthropist Torquil Norman bought the venue and, under the guidance of a trust which boasts Suggs, Bob Geldof and Terry Gilliam as members, it’s since been reborn once again after a 2006 refurbishment.
The main space is a stunning, high ceilinged room, not dissimilar to the top half of the Albert Hall but with its original iron columns reaching up to the roof. There‘s room for 5,000 punters - 3,300 on its flat stone floor (shorter people, bring a box to stand on) plus another 1,700 on the raised seating area around the rear of the hall. But there are plenty of other areas to explore in this multi-levelled building, not least (in hot weather anyway) the outdoor terrace, occasionally home to The Roundhouse barbecue. With exhibitions staged throughout the building, there’s plenty to keep the mind busy as you’re wandering, too.
Varies vastly depending on what's happening, but as a gentle rule it's relaxed and chilled in the day, when nannies and parents sneak a quick coffee or bite to eat before picking their kids up, and more raucous as a younger crowd moves in to soak up the evening's entertainment and invade its bars en masse.
As wide as you can imagine. It’s the place for many of the capital’s coolest gigs, from the month long iTunes festival and the Electric Proms, to big names like Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, all eager to play the venue. But as well as a never ending array of pop and rock talent – The Dead Weather, Keane and The Black Keys to name but three – there’s also events as diverse as the London Gay Men’s Chorus, Red Bull Music Academy, modern classical music, theatre (the RSC brought its histories trilogy here after Stratford), circus and experimental arts events. As the Norman Trust charity ploughs its profits into educational workshops and events for children and teenagers, there’s always a lot on for younger people.
A very impressive and extensive menu with lots of choice to suit different budgets. Cheaper options include the market fresh soup of the day (£4), a hummus deli platter (£4.50) or the smoked salmon and cucumber ribbon salad with cumin seeds (£5.50). Fancier vegetarian dishes like the spinach and feta filo pie with watercress (£8.75), or the more carnivorous sausage with tarragon mash, baby carrots and broad beans (£8.50) cost a little more, but even the top end meat such as grilled Barnsley lamb chop with cold crushed chickpeas and secrets leaves (£10.50) and grilled black Angus rib eye steak with black olive tapenade and hand-cut chips (£12.95) are well under the £15 mark.
Don't be put off by the limited choice inside the main space, where it's a choice between pints of Becks, Old Speckled Hen or Strongbow in plastic glasses - the venue's various other bars serve bottled Becks, Corona, Smirnoff Ice (all at £3.50), Bulmers Apple and Pear ciders (both £4.30) and bigger bottles of Newcastle Brown and Red Stripe (each £3.70). There’s also bottles of Moet Brut Imperial (£59) or Laytons Reserve Brut (£38 per bottle) and house white and red wines (£15 per bottle), as well as most big brand spirits.
The Last Word
One of the capital’s most diverse and inclusive hubs for the arts in all its guises, with a programme of dynamic music events at its heart, The Roundhouse can lay more claim to offering something for everyone than most.