One of the things I love most about England is the traditional British pubs. As a North Londoner, Hampstead is one of my favourite spots for getting my friends together for an old-fashioned pub crawl. Although it’s close to the city centre, Hampstead has more of a country village feel to it and is home to one of the most beautiful green spaces in London – Hampstead Heath. Whether you’re looking for a summer beer garden, a cosy log fire or a just a sneaky tipple or two, there’s something in Hampstead for every occasion. Here’s my top 5 pubs in the area.
The Spaniards Inn
Apparently Keats wrote ‘An Ode to a Nightingale’ here over a claret or two. The Spaniards Inn is one of London’s oldest pubs and oozes character and rustic charm. With its separate dining areas, massive beer garden and cosy nooks and crannies, it’s a perfect spot to spend a few hours mulling over a tipple or two. Lovers of beer will be impressed with the beer and food matching on the menu. The Spaniards is known for its daily changing menu featuring traditional pub favourites as well as other seasonally inspired dishes. If you come on Sundays, the whole chicken with liver and bacon gravy and bread sauce comes highly recommended.
Bull and Last
It’s a big call but this gastro-pub could well be my favourite spot for a sunday roast in London in terms of quality produce. The roast rib of Dedham Vale beef is superb and, well, massive!. Nestled on the fringe of leafy Hampstead Heath, ‘The Bull” is a perfect spot to enjoy a lazy Sunday over a few pints. Spread over two floors, the upstairs dining room is more formal than the bar downstairs which feels more like a traditional pub. Like most pubs in the area, The Bull and Last is dog friendly so is a convenient pit stop for dog walkers
The Holly Bush
Hidden away in a cobble stoned lane at the top of Holly Hill, lies this quintessentially English pub. The Holly Bush has remained virtually untouched through time and has a captivating old-world charm. On a cold winter’s day, this is the perfect place to sit by the roaring fire and enjoy an ale or two. Unfortunately this popular local has become a little too fancy for its own good. A pub without fish and chips or even chips as a side? It feels like a good quality country pub without the traditional food. If dishes like seared king scallops. slow cooked hens’ eggs and pan-fried cod are more your thing, it’s definitely a winner. Otherwise just come for the drinks and the atmosphere.
The Garden Gate
The Garden Gate has one of the best summer beer gardens in London. Although it’s more of a summer pub, it’s still one of my favourite haunts in winter for its reliable menu and lively atmosphere. Did I mention they have mulled wine? All the traditional British pub classics like burgers, fish and chips and pies are on the menu. I’m a particular fan of their cider and tarragon battered cod with with skin-on chips and British cheeseburger with BBQ pulled pork. As for roasts, you can choose from 21-day aged beef with homemade Yorkshire pudding, Shropshire chicken, Norfolk pork with crackling or a cashew, walnut and cheddar nut roast.
This Georgian style pub in the heart of Hampstead has local punters coming back week after week. And for good reason. The food is exceptional here and is a step above your average pub grub. Think pan-fried seabass with chorizo, cumberland pork sausages with mashed potatoes and onion gravy and confit duck leg with blackcurrant and a star anise and ginger jus. There’s also a great selection of grilled meats. For a more casual affair try to get a table downstairs – the upstairs dining room can be a little stuffy.
Others to Consider
The Old White Bear a charming and chiq restaurant in the heart of Hampstead – more of an upmarket restaurant than a pub.
The Stag for its live music in the beer garden.
Duke of Hamilton one of London’s oldest pubs brimming with history. One of Hampstead’s old fashioned boozers to enjoy an ale or two.