A ballerina’s tour of Covent Garden and beyond
When she’s not enchanting crowds on the Royal Opera House stage, Francesca Hayward is finding passageways to pubs, seeking peace and quiet in busy Covent Garden and taking a break from barre work in one of London’s top eateries. Having lived in Richmond, Covent Garden, Barons Court and Stoke Newington, Hayward is no stranger to fighting off crowds to get to the best spots. So where does a Prima Ballerina go come curtain down?
“Neal’s Yard is one of my favourite little areas because it’s quite hidden, I get my food in 26 Grains and a coffee from Monmouth Coffee on the way back [to the Opera House]. I’ve also been known to go into Balthazar just to get a steak – really decadent I know but sometimes it’s just what I need… Petersham Nurseries is lovely and the best pizza is also in Neal’s Yard, at Homeslice. The best breakfast is at The Black Penny.
There’s a really great place in Newington Green called Perilla – I really enjoy Indian food too so another favourite near me is Gujarati Rasoi on Bradbury Street.”
“Definitely come and see the new Swan Lake, it’s going to be a completely new set (by John McFarlane), new costumes and similar choreography but with some changes. We were given a preview of the set model and were all clapping because it’s incredible – the choreographer is Liam Scarlett. A triple bill is always good because it’s a nice little taste if you haven’t been to the ballet before; for 2018 there’s a new Wayne McGregor, and a new Christopher Wheeldon where the costumes are being designed by Erdem.
For ballet fans I would say definitely visit the dance shops like Freed’s on St Martin’s Lane and Bloch on Drury Lane, and definitely see a show. People don’t realise you can get £10 standing tickets for the ballet and it’s a really good view.”
“In the summer if I want some time to myself I go down to the St Paul’s Church in the piazza; there’s a courtyard with benches and it’s the nicest place, especially when the sun’s shining because not so many people know about it. There are some green patches you can sunbathe on, and there’s this mutual understanding that everyone wants to be left alone and is there for some peace and quiet.”
“I love pubs – when you’re in Covent Garden quite a nice one is Cross Keys on Endell Street, it looks pretty from the outside but has a real cosy pub feel. Philomena’s is also where to go if you want to have a beer after everything else is closed – it stays open late.”
And for all those who wondered where dancers go post-show: “We’re always in the pub opposite the Opera House – The Covent Garden – there’s a secret entrance from the Opera House that you can only get through if you know about it and you’ve got your pass on you.”
The Nutcracker is on 5th December 2017 – 10th January 2018 at the Royal Opera House