Here at La Gaffe, we want all of you to get to know and fall in love with the area as much as we do, which is why we’ve decided to start a blog series on this NW3 gem - where we look at a bit of history of the area, who used to live here, how it came to be so Bohemian and artsy and, of course, how it’s changed.
We also intend to showcase some of the other businesses in the area because we really believe that one of the virtues of Hampstead is that it’s not just full of high street chains and that the entrepreneurs who’ve put their money where their mouth is over the years have made the place what it is today.
The Zeitgeist of the 1960s
When our founders, Bernardo and Androulla, opened La Gaffe in 1962, for sure there were things that were different from today. There was far less traffic on both the High Street and Heath Street (a great thing!). There were no mobile phones or social media, which meant word of mouth and reading the London Evening Standard for reviews counted for a lot. The Royal Free Hospital (which first opened its doors in 1828, in Holborn) had not yet moved to Pond Street!
Here’s a great clip of what it looked like, courtesy of the Kinolibrary archive film collection.
At the same time, lots of liberals, intellectuals, musicians, artists and psychoanalysts were moving into the area. Hampstead soon developed a reputation for attracting ‘champagne socialists’ because it wasn’t cheap to find a place there - it still isn’t! Even today, it holds some of the most costly housing in London and boasts more millionaires within its boundaries than any other part of the UK!
Of course, plenty has changed since La Gaffe opened but, in truth, Hampstead High Street and the surrounding area still retains a community feel - and we see that with our regulars, who pop in for coffee or a light bite (many even leave their keys with us - that’s how much they know we’re not going anywhere)
This ‘local spirit’ is also reflected in events that are put on regularly at Keats House, Fenton House, Burgh House and community projects involving music, art and dance. And that’s not including the endless events that are held throughout the seasons, on Hampstead Heath.
Whether it’s watercolour painting, a night walk looking for bats, picnics, swimming at the bathing ponds or attending fabulous nighttime summer concerts at Kenwood, Hampstead has something for everyone. And every business owner you’ll meet will tell you the same thing - that they work in this area because it really has a charm they can’t put into words.
In the coming months, we’ll be talking to many of our neighbours - the Hampstead Butcher, the Hampstead Jazz Club, Shogo Hair - as well as people who’ve been walking through our doors for decades - Sebastian of the Hampstead Village Voice, Jill Streater, who’s a regular guest and our founder himself, Bernardo, on some of his many memories of life in Hampstead, from the 1960s until he handed over the reins to his son Lorenzo, a few years back.
We hope you’ll read our blogs (as well as come and see for yourself) why this north London neighbourhood is so fabulous and why La Gaffe, with its homely feel, traditional Italian restaurant, and cosy B&B in Hampstead, has become one of the ‘go to’ places for so many visitors to our area.Watch this space!