Our Kentish Town taxi driver’s guide is here to give you, our loyal customers a real insight into this exciting and historic area of north west London. That’s right, we’ve extra-specially gone to the effort of visiting all our favourite pubs, restaurants, cafes and attractions just so you’ll know where you’re going when you jump in that Addison Lee. Aren’t we nice? With the completely famous and sometime terribly over-crowded Camden Town directly to its south, Kentish Town quite often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Of course to the people who live here, that’s absolutely fine. For them the access to both Camden and central London (only five mins away on the Northern Line) are hardly an inconvenience. Unfortunately for them, we now plan on revealing all of Kentish Town’s best kept secrets, hidden treasures and subterranean drinking dens (yes, you did read that right). The first thing to know about Kentish Town is that it has nothing to do with Kent. Like many London districts, the name’s origin is a bit of a mystery. Although it’s thought to relate to the area’s relationship with the river Fleet. For anyone who’s been here before and is now wondering where this so-called river Fleet is, it’s still there – you just can’t see it. As probably London’s most famous ‘lost river’, The Fleet was forced underground to accommodate the busy pavements, roads and buildings that make up London today. If you’re interested, it still runs from Hampstead Heath to Blackfriars Bridge. Thinking of moving to the area? You’d be in esteemed company. Among the area’s famous former residents are revolutionary Karl Marx and subversive author George Orwell. Follow our Kentish Town taxi driver’s guide to unveil the area’s best spots for a drink, bite to eat or even just to hang out.
Where to drink
There are a lot of good pubs in Kentish Town, a lot. So it’s harder to choose a favourite than you might imagine. In the case of The Grafton there were a few mitigating factors. First of all, it’s lively. The staff here are really friendly and the clientele usually equally so. Second, they have loads of good beer, a lot of which is actually from London breweries. Thirdly – and this is a big one – they have an awesome roof terrace. That’s right, you can buy your London beer from the charming bartender and then rock upstairs to peer out over north London with your drink in hand and your friends nearby. They also serve some pretty excellent food.
20 Prince Of Wales Road, NW5 3LG
If the Grafton is our favourite then the Southampton Arms is definitely Kentish Town’s favourite. Proudly refusing to embrace the future/present (they only take cash), The Southampton Arms claim to be the only London Cider and Ale House that sources all its products exclusively from the capital. Their motto is “Ale, Cider, Meat” and true to their word, they stick to their guns. Those that come here do so for the love of everything this place is about. They are the antithesis of every swanky cocktail bar, every seating only speakeasy and every glittery gastropub in London. And yet they manage to do it without ever being snooty. God love ‘em.
139 Highgate Rd, NW5 1LE
Ladies & Gentlemen
If you believe that variety is the spice of life then there’s simply no getting away from it – you have to visit Ladies & Gentlemen. Set in a former underground toilet, this stylish gin-fuelled cocktail bar is nothing if not ambitious. The inside is – unsurprisingly – cosy. But the quality of service, layout and cool decor more than make up for the lack of space. Not only that, they also make their own gin. Using a 16-litre copper still (because space wasn’t apparently at a premium), they make Highwayman Gin. Which, we have to say, is the most delicious gin ever made in a toilet. Fact.
2 Highgate Rd, NW5 1NR
Where to eat
There’s no doubting that the guys behind The Chicken Shop were deliberately trying to throw you with the rubbish name. But when you discover that those guys were actually the same people behind Pizza East and Soho House, you suddenly feel a lot more forgiving about it. Like all good things in life, The Chicken Shop is a simple concept. Rotisserie chicken served with a choice of sides and sauces. Except this chicken has been marinaded in a bath of orange and spice, and it is delicious. The interior is also stylishly simple and for a quick lunch or dinner it can’t be beaten.
9 Highgate Rd, NW5 1TL
Eerily named after the mind bending milk bar from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Korova is a French restaurant and cocktail bar with a stylish village feel and some big city ideas. What makes this incredible cafe-bar-restaurant so utterly desirable is the attention to detail. Owned by the guys behind the Pan Asian bar and restaurant Zen Sai in Camden, Korova serves all its main meals for around £15 and when you try them it’ll feel like daylight robbery. Subtle, delicious, classic and creative – Korova hits all the marks. Even the cocktails come with an old world style. Drinks like the Negroni and Corpse Reviver No 2 take prominence over sweeter crowd pleasers.
9 Campdale Rd, N7 0EA
Much like its sibling restaurant the Chicken Shop, Pizza East may sound like a bog standard pizzeria, but trust us, it’s so much more. Yes, they’re big on the rustic pizzas, but they also make every other aspect of your meal their business. Using their wood fired oven, they serve up a tantalising antipasti menu, as well as some truly delicious main dishes. The whole place is set out like something between an authentic meat drying house and a cool, rustic cafe. They also serve some excellent cocktails and wine to pair with your food, and their Sunday brunch and roasts are a thing of local folklore.
79 Highgate Rd, NW5 1TL
What to do
North London is an area famously synonymous with live music. However, for the mostpart, that’s a connection most people apply to neighbouring Camden Town. Whereas, in truth, a lot of the biggest names that visit the area come to the Forum. Originally opened in 1934 as an incredibly stylish art deco cinema, The Forum was then turned into a music hall for Irish Dance. Today, it stands as one of the best places to see some of the most exciting bands in world music. Local girl Amy Winehouse, Jack white and Rihanna are just a few of the huge international stars that have played at The Forum. They also quite often host comedy nights as well. Check the website for listings.
9-17 Highgate Rd, London NW5 1JY
Kentish Town City Farm
If you’ve been in London long enough you’ll know that city farms aren’t actually all that unusual. Plenty of areas have them and they provide welcome respite from the traffic, noise and pollution of the city. Kentish Town City Farm is one of the city’s oldest such farms and can be found by Gospel Oak station. It houses a number of rural animals including, pigs, ducks, chickens, horses and even a cow. There are also apple groves and vegetable patches, and visitors are actively encouraged to drop by to visit, feed and even ride the animals. The farm is free to visit and it sopen daily.
1 Cressfield Cl, NW5 4BN
Dandy Lion Market
Once again, it’s not just Camden that gets all the good stuff. Although if you’re expecting the Dandy Lion Market to be anything like Camden’s famous market, you’ll be disappointed. Hosted at Sir Richard Steele pub in Belsize Park, this is the kind of market that celebrates individuality and flair above all else. The traders sell everything from unusual clothing to rare bric-a-brac and hand crafted gifts. It costs nothing to enter and there’s usually music, food and drinks on offer. Folks are encouraged to dress as loud and proud as you possibly can.
97 Haverstock Hill, NW3 4RL