There’s nothing like a British pub - really! And they’re one of the things that really sets the country apart from other places in the world. Traditionally, you’ll find in them a fireplace, draft ales, maybe a jukebox, and - of course - the bell that is rung ten minutes from closing time, accompanied by the guy behind the bar yelling out “last orders please.”
For anyone that’s visiting London, or staying with us at La Gaffe in Hampstead, you’re in luck - there are no shortage of these fine establishments to visit - and many of them serve ‘gastropub’ fare now (think roast dinners with all the trimmings, steak and kidney pies and traditional British desserts such as sticky toffee pudding!)
Here at La Gaffe, our founders hail from Italy and Greece but, having lived in England since the 1960s and raised their kids here, they feel pretty happy to live in Britain. And pubs are an intrinsic part of British culture, so how could we not write a piece on them, particularly some fantastic ones in our neighbourhood?
So here you are…the rundown on what we think are five of the best pubs in Hampstead…for a drink, a bite, and a taste of Old Blighty…
The Wells regards itself as “more than just a neighbourhood joint, but a destination” and that’s not a bad way of putting it. Built around 1849, and located on Well Walk, it’s a typical Georgian building which has won quite a few awards since it was bought and restored in 2003.
The Wells also likes to showcase seasonal British fare and there’s more than one spot to enjoy it - they have a friendly dining area on the ground floor and a more intimate space (which can be rented out privately) upstairs. We’ve heard good things about their apple and endive salad, tuna steak and pavlova too!
Oh, and if you eat upstairs, you’ll see fantastic views of Hampstead Heath from the window. Isn’t that, in itself, a reason to pop in?
A stone’s throw from Hampstead tube and just three minutes walk from our guest accommodation you’ll find The Flask, which really should be visited when you’re in north London, which boasts an illustrious history dating back to the 1700’s.
Today, it’s a Grade II listed building, boasting beautifully-restored Victorian features and two fireplaces, which are perfect for sitting by on chilly winter evenings. They serve traditional British fare (the meat pies, haddock and charcuterie come highly recommended) and the staff are friendly, helpful and always ready to go the extra mile to help.
The Flask has outdoor seating in the summer months and with its cosy atmosphere and quirky charm, you really shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit.
The Holly Bush
The Holly Bush is a bit of an institution in Hampstead, and for good reason. Also a Grade II listed building, it dates back a few centuries and located in the heart of historic Hampstead, many visitors feel like they’re stepping back in time when they walk inside.
The Holly Bush offers cask classics and modern ales. as well as what they term ‘refined’ pub classics with a modern twist on venison, trout, pork chops and veggie roast. It’s very charming, and because its tucked away down one of Hampstead’s alleyways, you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The Holly Bush also offers fabled puddings, including lemon meringue pie, bergamot cremeux with poached rhubarb and homemade ice cream. Oh, and their cheese plate is to die for (think Dorset blue vinney. smoked Cotswold brie and the ‘Stinking Bishop’.
The Freemasons Arms
At the foot of the Vale of Health, set on the historic ‘Devonshire Hill’ street, lies the Freemasons Arms, which serves modern British and Mediterranean food in both a beautiful skylit conservatory and a wonderful outdoor courtyard and garden area.
Close to Parliament Hill (which affords astonishing views of London) they offer a blend of country charm with modern comforts, and their food is really quite upscale. Whether you’re looking for a traditional Sunday roast, some fishcakes and seafood or a vegan main, they really do cater for everyone. And their apple and damson crumble with bourbon vanilla ice cream is not to be missed.
Afterwards, take a long stroll on Hampstead Heath, to walk off the calories and breathe in some fresh air.
King William IV
Situated on Hampstead High Street (next to the famous crepe stand) this is one of London’s longest-running gay pubs, stretching back to the 1930s. Historically a coaching inn, today it’s still a stalwart venue for the LGBTQ community but attracts a varied clientele, and quite a few locals.
The inside of the King William IV is cosy and welcoming with lots of photos on the wall of local Hampstead residents and quotes from stars like Frank Sinatra, Oscar Wilde and Groucho Marx. They serve traditional pub grub (think Sunday roasts, fish and chips and hotpots with mash) and have ales on tap, but their entertainment is what people often show up for - karaoke evenings, live music and quiz nights.
It’s also got an outside garden which is a real suntrap on warmer days - and you can take your dog in there too!
If you’re thinking about visiting London, why not come and stay with us in Hampstead - we offer comfortable and reasonably priced guest accommodation just three minutes walk from the tube. We’re family-owned and run and have a reputation for warmth and hospitality - oh, and we serve fantastic cappuccino!
Contact us by email or phone for more information or visit our homepage to book a hotel in Hampstead.
This is our last blog of 2022 so cheerio for now and let’s all catch up in the New Year.