(co-written and curated with Emma Russell)
Our pick of the capital’s most characterful picture houses
With super comfortable seating, gourmet food and an eclectic selection of films – from the latest Hollywood releases to independent art house productions – boutique cinemas are far and away the superior choice over the crowded, sticky-floored multiplex. We’ve listed our London favourites, but our lifestyle managers can also recommend the best options in other areas of the UK.
5 Holly Bush Vale, NW3 6TX
At the former Everyman Theatre, which was converted into a cinema in 1933, the independent cinema chain’s flagship venue features leather seating and velvet cushions. Screen One has plenty of individual armchairs and a handful of Club Suites – mini open-topped pods for couples complete with foot rests and a wine cooler. Contact us to enquire about hiring the Upper Lounge private screening room for up to 15 adults or 17 children.
Screening Room at The Bulgari Hotel
171 Knightsbridge, SW7 1DW
Seating just 47 movie buffs, the basement cinema at the five-star hotel offers viewers the very best in high definition sound and vision – including 4K resolution in 2D and Dolby 3D. Selected from the well-curated library of 200 films, the Sunday film screenings are a distinctly stylish affair which follow a hearty Italian brunch in the bar and lounge area above – we suggest adding free-flowing Moët for an additional £25.
The Lounge at Odeon Whiteleys
Whiteleys shopping centre, W2 4YL
Britain’s biggest cinema chain opened its first ‘fine food and film’ experience at the start of 2012, bringing in expert advice from chef Rowley Leigh of Le Gavroche and Le Café Anglais fame. Today, the restaurant-quality cuisine ranges from gourmet hot dogs to wild mushroom risotto and sticky toffee pudding. Each of the five screens features a maximum of 50 leather seats, which recline at the touch of a button.
Electric Cinema Portobello
191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED
Owned by the Soho House Group, this Grade II-listed building offers the comfiest and classiest way to see a film in West London, with leather armchairs, footstools and small side tables. There are also six double beds, complete with cashmere blankets. Gourmet snacks are available from the adjacent French-American diner and there’s a bar providing an array of tipples. Monday morning slots are reserved for viewers with babies under one year old.
52 High Road, N2 9PJ
Described by the Guardian as ‘the best independent cinema anywhere’, this art deco theatre opened in 1910, making it one of the city’s oldest picture houses with an interior that retains many of the remarkable original features. As well as new releases and regular throwbacks, the ambitious programme also covers productions by the Bolshoi Ballet and live National Theatre performances. Children are catered for on Saturdays with favourite family flicks, such as Matilda.
Film Club at Charlotte Street Hotel
15-17 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RJ
Along with Firmdale’s Soho and Covent Garden hotels, this upscale Fitzrovia establishment runs a weekend film club. Book in on a Friday night for an old-school classic, such as Romy and Michele’s High School ReunionThe Witches of Eastwick, following a three-course meal – with optional Pommery Champagne – in the restaurant. Or drop by on a Sunday for afternoon tea and new releases including Anthropoid, Café Society and Hell or High Water in October.
The Lexi Cinema
194b Chamberlayne Road, NW10 3JU
Staffed predominantly by local volunteers, this is the UK’s first social enterprise independent cinema, with 100% per cent of the profits going to charity. Although housed in an Edwardian theatre, its equipment is thoroughly modern, with a bespoke sound system and digital projectors. It has comfy seats, a private viewing gallery for up to 12 people, and a bar that serves wine, beer, platters of food and popcorn.
180 Greenwich High Road, SE10 8NN
This venue has five luxurious theatres and a bar that allows drinks – including the locally brewed Meantime beers – to be taken into films. The cinema shows art house productions, live theatre broadcasts and foreign-language films, as well as the latest blockbusters. We recommend taking out a membership which grants complimentary tickets and discounted entry to all Picturehouse venues in the UK, along with a host of other benefits.
Pictured: Electric Cinema Portobello