National Theatre Espresso Bar: Exit, Pursued By A Brownie

Brownie Basics

The National Theatre in London is walking distance from my office, on the south bank of the Thames, and it has a pretty good espresso bar attached to it. This is their chocolate brownie.

All the world’s a brownie

Brownie Backstory

The coffee options in my office are not amazing. Vending machines will give you a cup of what they assure me is “bean coffee”, which tastes like someone reheated a weak mud solution. The canteen will use an actual coffee machine and produce a liquid with the magical property of becoming immediately undrinkable once it drops below a critical temperature (admittedly it’s palatable until that point). There’s actually a Costa Coffee in the building, although at the risk of being… indelicate, I discovered about half a year ago that what I thought was “My digestive system can no longer cope with coffee” was actually only “My digestive system cannot cope with Costa coffee”.

(At this point I should make clear that coffee is another of the things I have lots of #opinions on…however, there’s no doubt a thousand better coffee blogs and reviewers out there already!)

Thankfully, if you have the money then there are better options within a sensible walking distance, and the one I usually plump for is the NT. The coffee is tasty and pretty good value; they have a hefty discount for bringing a reusable cup (I’m all about that environmental responsibility, as long as I get to keep drinking coffee); and I get to hang out in the theatre atrium drinking coffee and occasionally see famous people, or more usually my various friends in the thea-tar. The staff are generally friendly and personable and they do that thing of having jugs of water just out on the table so you can have a glass with your coffee, which is one of the true signs of civilization.

Just recently I met a friend for a post-work coffee in this very espresso bar and, as tends to happen, one coffee turned into a few coffees and a cake, and thus it occurred to me that I’d never tried their brownie. And now I have, thanks to this blog post!

Brownie Points

Taste: One of the difficulties in ranking the taste of chocolate things is that chocolate tastes pretty good even when it’s bad. This is the sort of insight you come to this blog for, right? Anyway, that’s my way of saying I enjoyed the taste of this brownie but it didn’t blow me away. 6/10

Texture: The texture of this brownie is a tale of two halves. Towards the bottom and one corner it’s enjoyably chewy and soft and quite rich. In contrast, the top and the opposite corner get drier and flakier, and there are some large air pockets right underneath the crust. As someone who has baked his own brownies on occasion, I would diagnose this as “overbaking” – which is a shame, because the parts which haven’t suffered this are very good. This is clearly a corner piece, which works against it in this regard, but all the brownies on sale were corner pieces so I think it’s fair to judge them all on this one! Overall, 4/10

Presentation: I’m quite a fan of the striping effect on top of this brownie. Otherwise, it’s very-standard looking. 3/5

Value: A good-sized hunk of brownie for roughly £3. The brownie is overall quite middle-of-the-road and so is the value. 5/10

Fudge Factor: You know what, this is shameless of me, but I just like the fact that the National Theatre has an espresso bar attached to it, which makes good coffee, cares about the environment, and (at least as far as I can tell) bakes their own baked goods. So while this is far from the best brownie I’ve ever had, I’m very glad it exists, and that’s worth some points. 3/5

Final Score: 21

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

I’ll be honest and say I’m unlikely to buy this brownie again, but that’s not really a black mark against it. It’s more that I’m probably going to go to this coffee bar a lot in my near future, and neither my bank account nor my BMI can afford to get into the habit of adding one of these brownies to every black Americano I buy.
However, it did make a great accompaniment to my coffee today, so if you’re looking for a cake to go with the delicious coffee you’re about to buy from the National Theatre, I recommend… the brownie!

Closing Thought

I’m not sure why I find it weird that Hole had three female members and one male member? This just seems like the least common possible arrangement for a four-part rock band. (Obviously, commonness is unrelated to quality. There’s nothing wrong with the arrangement.)


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