As a stay-at-home mum to two young children, it can be hard for me to find time to call my own; time to completely switch off from the day-to-day. But I’ve recently got back into going to the cinema—after well over three years of not going—and have found it is the perfect opportunity for me to escape reality for a couple of hours.

The Olympic Studios in Barnes was once a renowned recording facility that, back in the day, hosted the likes of the Rolling Stones and U2. The historic studios reopened in October 2013—after four years of closure—as a luxury cinema and a café and dining room. It is now a popular spot for a date night, whether that be a film or a romantic meal, or both.

The cinema at Olympic Studios is a cut above any cinema experience I’ve ever had before. You won’t find self-service pic ’n’ mix or machines serving bottomless buckets of fizzy drinks here. Instead, you’ll find ‘The Sweet Shop’, which sells sweets and popcorn pre-packaged in cute white paper bags, as well as other reasonably priced snacks, soft drinks, hot drinks and alcoholic beverages: a glass of wine to take into the screening, for example, is just £5.

Upon entering the auditorium, I was taken aback at how spread out the seats were, with loads of legroom and really wide armrests so you don’t feel like you’re getting intimate with the stranger in the next seat (if you do want to get cosy, however, there are a few sofa seats at the back that you can book). Each seat reclines for comfort and has its own little round table for your drink.

Before the main feature, a short clip about the history of the studios was shown, which included footage of the Rolling Stones recording there in the ’60s. It was a nice way to draw attention to the iconic building we were sitting in and highlight all the famous people that had recorded there in its prime.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching a film there, and will return again the next time I get an opportunity for some ‘me time’. At £16 a ticket, it is pricey, but not actually that much more expensive than a lot of the standard cinemas in South West London.

Within the same building, the café and dining room caters for all occasions, whether you’re popping in for a coffee, a spot of lunch, afternoon tea or an evening meal. Having roped in a babysitter in the form of my mum, my husband and I chose to come here for our Valentine’s Day dinner.

On entering the roomy establishment, there’s an attractive bar area with trendy statement lighting, where you can enjoy a cocktail or two before dinner. This leads on to a laid-back eating area, with simple decor in painted pale grey and tiled floors. Here there is a visible pastry kitchen with chefs at work whipping up a range of croissants and cakes. Beyond this you’ll find a wood-floored, cushioned-seated dining area, for a slightly more formal experience.

The evening we went the atmosphere was buzzy and the staff were friendly and attentive. We were seated quickly and brought bread for the table. The menu is straightforward, offering starters such as deep-fried squid and garlic mayonnaise for £6, or classic French onion soup for £7. Main course options include cheeseburger in a brioche bun with house mayo and hand-cut chips for £12.50 or pork belly with glazed apple and savoy cabbage for £15. I decided on a 7oz hanger steak with Bordelaise sauce and hand-cut chips for £15 and my hubby, a vegetarian, went for butter bean and basil stew for £12. We washed our food down with red wine from the extensive wine list and finished our meal with a chocolate tart to share.

I really enjoyed our visit to the Olympic and would definitely recommend it for a welcoming dining experience. What’s more, we came away feeling like we hadn’t had to break the bank to dine there. To book a table online and view the menu in full, visit their website: www.olympiccinema.co.uk.

Sue Lancaster
Author

An Essex girl, Sue came to London 12 years ago and never left. She moved to West Kensington with her now-husband, then spent a couple of years living in Stamford Brook, before finally settling down in Mortlake. Prior to becoming a mum, Sue worked in TV production. She now stays at home, looking after toddler Tabitha and baby Polly, and writing whenever she can.

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