Your guide to... West Hampstead
Welcome to the leafy streets of West Hampstead. With its winding high street and local newspaper you could be mistaken for thinking this neighbourhood is located in Surrey, rather than nestled in north west London.
But the area is deceiving – despite its village look, it’s not the sleepy “other part of Hampstead” that people often assume. West Hampstead is oozing with a range of bars, eateries and unique shops. And if that’s not enough, it's just a stone's throw away from the more gritty and bohemian Camden Town.
It seems that West Hampstead is perfect for those wanting a part of the action, without being in the heart of it. No wonder there are currently over 250 room advertisements on SpareRoom. Sound intriguing? Take a look at our guide to the areas best bits...
How do I get there?
The lucky residents of West Hampstead are treated to both an overground and underground station as well as the Thameslink, making them very well connected. King’s Cross St. Pancras and Victoria are both within a 20 minute journey, and locals can easily head south to Waterloo in 15 minutes and Earls Court in under half an hour. PLUS Heathrow and Gatwick Airports are both within a very manageable hour journey.
What is there to do?
West Hampstead’s main high streets, West End Lane and Mill Lane, are brimming with local, independent shops.
Book fanatics will fall in love with reading all over again at West End Lane Books. It’s a classic, independent bookshop – the quaint, family-run kind that you’d expect two rom-com characters to meet for the first time in. Here you can spend a quiet afternoon browsing the intimate collection or listening to authors talk about their latest releases.
There’s also The Village Haberdashery for all artsy DIY needs, Achillea Flowers for Chelsea Flower Show certified blooms and the rather opulent Hampstead Butcher and Providore for quality meat and cheese.
The West Hampstead Farmers' Market also brings fresh produce to town. Running every Saturday since 2012, the market has regular stalls, selling everything from Essex coast fish and organic meat to seasonal goodies like wild garlic (March) and game (October). It’s just off West End Lane on Iverson Road, but why rely on Google maps to direct you when you can just follow the smell of fresh food?
Once you have all the ingredients, you need to know how to cook (if you don’t already)! Good thing Waitrose cookery school is only an 11 minute walk from the high street. You can learn to make bread from scratch or how to impress with the perfect steak. Plus Waitrose even takes the courtesy of offering courses on basic knife skills – so there’s no excuse for any more of those very near misses!
It’s easy to blow away the city cobwebs with a 12 minute train to the ever-popular Hampstead Heath. There are also several locals parks – Maygrove Peace Park, Kilburn Grange Park and Fortune Green (which hosts bike-powered film screenings in the summer) are all within a 15 minute walk.
For when the weather isn’t good, The Kiln theatre (formally known as The Tricycle) has an intimate cinema that shows a small selection of cult and mainstream films. However, the venue is mainly renowned for putting on award-winning, culturally diverse plays about the ‘stories we don’t hear’ that attract audiences from all over London.
Where do I eat?
When it comes to breakfast Roni’s Bagel Bakery and Cafe has been a firm favourite with the locals since the late 80s. The breakfast bagel (scrambled eggs, herbs, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion) is the go-to but the sizzling shakshuka is a potential rival.
The Wet Fish Cafe is also a great breakfast spot. But this converted 'wet fish shop’ really comes to life at 6pm when the menus switch and the table candles come out, dimly lighting up the art deco room. The evening menu brings with it a variety of delicious fish dishes, ranging from tempura battered cod to crayfish and hake gnocchi; all of which are fresh from the Cornish coastline!
The intimate, fusion restaurant, The Petite Coree, offers up the unusual blend of European and Korean cuisine. The head chef (formally of Nobu) takes ingredients like lamb shank and jazzes them up with Korean flavours, like the ssamjang infused gravy. As well as meat, The Petite Coree does a variety of tasty fish and vegetarian options. It’s also BYO wine (for a £10 corkage fee)...
If you want something different, check out Little Bay Kilburn. This restaurant prides itself on its quality food and unique, if not bizarre, decor. It’s a kind of Eastern European vibe – bold red walls, ornate booths and balconies, candlestick wine bottles... even a giant Venetian mask. But all this, as well as the elaborate menu (which features braised pig’s cheeks and magret of duck), actually makes for the perfect date night with a difference.
For British comfort food try The Alice House – a modern gastropub with comfy, brown leather sofas, Union Jack cushions and a wooden terrace out front. It does all the pub classics: pies, burgers, Wellingtons etc – but with an upmarket twist. Even the chips have had an upgrade… they’re rosemary and garlic chips here (#fancy).
And the drinks?
Sure, Camden is all the rage for a big night out, but West Hampstead actually has some preeeetty great watering holes...
The most exciting of all being the retro Bobby Fitzpatrick, where geometric wallpaper, bamboo furniture and disco balls make you feel like you’ve stepped into the 1970s. In fact, the only giveaway that you haven’t transported back to the flower power era is the glaring, neon bar with its modern cocktails. The menu steers clear of the classics, instead opting for more original concoctions like the Sour Fritz (falernum, lime, egg white and black pepper).
Back to 2019 and there’s Heads + Tails – a venue with two sides... or should we say, two bars. The ground floor (Heads) is a bright, airy room lined with floral wallpaper and hanging plants – there’s even a sheltered garden out back. Then below lies the exposed brick, dimly lit basement bar (Tails), which releases a more sultry, evening vibe. Both come with different menus – Heads has lighter gin and vodka based bevs whilst Tails offers short rum and whisky drinks. But why stick to one menu when you can shimmy between the two?
Of course everyone has to have a trusty local for that “one drink” after work and West Hampstead’s answer to this is The Railway. Sat on the corner of West End Lane, it has everything you’d want: live sport on plasma TVs, reasonably priced pints and lots of comfortable seating. Plus, they even have a policy that if your G&T isn’t up to scratch, they’ll replace it for free! We’ll drink to that…
For a fancy experience, rather than a quick fix, there is Tannin and Oak – a fine wine merchants that does tastings on Fridays and Saturdays. The interior is suitably wooden (given the name) with barrels as side tables and wine cellar styled walls. There’s zero pressure to buy anything… simply enjoy sipping (or gulping – up to you) carefully selected wines whilst learning all about them.
... Believe it or not, West Hampstead even has fully fledged nightclubs! Salt Lounge with its RnB, House, and Funk DJs as well as live music is guaranteed good times.
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Image credits: Ewan Munro