- 020 7928 3232
- Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT
- 11am-11pm Mon-Sun (building); 11am-8pm Tue-Sun (Mediatheque); 11am-8:30pm (Filmstore); 11am-11pm Mon-Sun (Benugo); 9am-11pm Mon-Sat; 10am-10:30pm Sun (cafe)
Cinema complex run by the British Film Institute, near Waterloo Station. Previously known as the National Film Theatre, it has now been officially rebranded as BFI Southbank, though the individual cinemas are still labelled NFT1, NFT2 and NFT3.
The largest of the cinemas is NFT1, which is a large, wide space, with a raised stage area beneath the screen. NFT2 also has a raised area at the front, but speakers and visiting filmmakers do not use this when addressing the audience, and sitting in the front rows can involve looking rather sharply upwards. NFT3 has a stage area at the same level as the front seats, and behind it is the screen, far enough away that it's perfectly comfortable to sit in them. Both NFT2 and NFT3 are much thinner spaces, with NFT3 rising more steeply towards the back. NFT1 and NFT3 both have seats which are designed to lean back when you sit in them, which can be a little disconcerting at first; the NFT2 seats have higher backs which don't recline.
The films programmed are generally repertory fare, with a speciality in complete retrospectives of filmmakers. However, there are extended runs of selected films from one or two of each month's thematic programmes, and sometimes these are recent films which haven't obtained a release anywhere else.
Apart from the three cinemas, the BFI Southbank complex also includes: the 'Studio', which is another screening room specialising in digital projection (it holds around 50 people); the 'Mediatheque', where there are around 15 viewing stations that members of the public can sit at (some of these have more than one headset, so couples can use them) and view digitised films from the BFI archives (this service is free and availability depends on how busy it is, though at busy times, they may limit how long you can sit at a viewing station); a gallery space; and two eating places (the Waterfront Cafe/Bar, and an outpost of Benugo). There are also conference rooms and the like.
The Benugo cafe/bar is the more up-market of the two spaces, and has a fair number of seats for drinkers around the bar, as well as a separate area for dining (food is around £11-13 for mains). The bar seating is comfortable, largely leather sofas and armchairs, but before and after popular screenings can fill up very quickly.
The bar menu includes a standard range of lagers (no real ales), as well as excellent cocktails. On a visit in April 2008, the cocktails were themed after the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival which was running at the time and all cost £7.50 (£9.50 for the champagne cocktails). Both cocktails sampled (a quince & vanilla margarita, and one dubbed "Venus in Furs") were of a very high quality, and carefully mixed by the bartender. On a visit in May 2008, the Spiced Rum Sour (using Sailor Jerry's spiced Jamaican rum) was rather disappointing, though they still listed some of the earlier ones. House wine is perfectly fine.
secretlondon and colleagues were looking for somewhere to eat and ended up in Benugo. The food wasn't inspiring. It was English food with mains from £10-£15, sides about £2.50 and desserts at about £5. They were out of lamb chops so secretlondon's party all had the beef shin with roasted carrots (£13) photo. The meat was fatty. secretlondon also had champ mash which we all liked. They forgot one of our sides so one arrived later. I had sticky toffee pudding photo, which was fine. The restaurant was quite dark and we reckoned could be too loud if you were placed near the speakers.
The Waterfront Cafe and Bar, reopened in March 2009 after refurbishment, has an area of seating and table service on one side, and a bar area on the other, with a covered seating/smoking area outside by the river. Like the Benugo bar by the box office, it is often very busy, but the table turnover is fairly rapid as many people are just waiting for films to start. There are about four handpulls along the bar, serving Sharp's Doom Bar and Cornish Coaster on a March 2009 visit (the same were available in October 2011, along with Sharp's Red Ale). Their house wine is perfectly good (£3.50 for a 175ml glass). They do some interesting bottled beer as well (Duvel, Chimay and similar).