126 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5QG

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If you're looking for a different and varied experience, then high tail it to Sarastro's. It's close to the Royal Opera House and Covent Garden. Opera lovers who like a slap up feast before or after the show will find this restaurant stimulating in the palate and the mind. But please don't rush your visit, this restaurant is so friendly, unusual and the food is so good you just must take your time.

The decor seems to comprise of bits and pieces from the local theatres. There are theatre boxes along all walls, giving those patrons a good overview of the activities below. There are also private booths for the shy or romantics among you and a large central open area - ideal for large parties.

Seating 120 Sarastro's is open from 12 noon to 12 midnight. The set dinner is realistically priced at only 17.50 per head. You get plenty of pita bread, hummus, spinach with yoghurt, taramasalata, beans a la turque, dolmades, cheese borek, garlic mushrooms and felafel. All this is brought to your table by a young and well-trained young staff excited about living and working in London. At the same time the music of Bizet, Mozart (and others whose names I have already forgotten) resounds until it all blends into the same hypnotic sound as the wine continues to flow. It really makes a refreshing change from the bazooki music one used to get on a Saturday night out at the local Cypriot restaurants in Essex that always seemed to be run by a bloke called Costas or was it Stellio?

I liked all the starters except the cheese boreks which tasted a bit too bland compared to the excellent baby garlic mushrooms and the always tasty dolmades. Next up for me came the Lamb Anatolian style 10.00, while my two companions who had eaten here before several times played it conservative and went for the Chicken Princess 8.50, and Vegetarian Pancake 6.50. In fact the lamb which is served on the bone with lemon celery and courgettes is probably the one of the more exotic main courses on the special menu which also features standards such as Roast Duck with orange sauce, 10.00. Although not quite as delicious as Lamb Kleftiko, it was more than adequate with the lamb easily sliding off the bone and melting in the mouth. The vegetarian pancake turned out to be fresh veggies baked in a cheese sauce gratin, and the chicken princess was served with the freshest of asparagus in a red wine sauce.

The wine list consists of 38 wines and champagnes from the house wine at 9.50 up to 34.00 for the 1994 Puligny Montrachet from Charles Vienot. We decided to try the Turkish house red wine, Yakut Kavaklidere. Turkish wine usually comes across as too heavy and oxidized and very alcoholic, but this wine was pretty soft on the palate and seemed to suit both the food and the vibrant atmosphere at Sarastro.

A huge fruit bowl and an extensive choice of cheeses seemed very tempting, but by that time we had all reached our health limit, so we had room only for a few small cakes, pastries and baklava. The cheese or dessert selection is also great value at 3.50. Sarastro is great fun and good value, the cost could range from 25.00 per person upwards, depending on just how much food (and drink) you were capable of putting away. The restaurant also hosts live opera performances from time to time, and reservations are advised as the place does get packed most nights.

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March 2004, update: A new sister restaurant, Papageno has opened, also in Covent Garden. Take a look at our article.
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Wally Robertson, November, 2000