This pub is just down the hill from Hampstead Tube. Or just up the hill from Belsize Park tube. Take your pick. I think it is slightly nearer Hampstead though and you can walk down the hill rather than up. Which is a plus. Hampstead is always nice too and you might see a celeb.
This is a nice enough pub and one of the few places I regularly visit in Hampstead. The others are the Hollybush (which I will review one day) and the Flask. If it’s a nice day, which is rare is this soggy country, there are a couple of pleasant tables out front for superb people watching. There’s also a smallish beer garden out back which tends to be full of smokers. The main room is slightly odd in that it is split into two areas. The bar faces the window in a D shape. Behind the D is a seating area. Both areas have a slightly different feel to them but both are pleasant.
The main draw for me are the friendly staff and the food. Plus there’s a bus from in front of my house that stops in front of the pub 5 minutes later, but that might not be the case with everyone.
We normally go there on a Monday or Tuesday. For pizza. The pub has decided to not bother with a lot of different gastropub foodstuffs. They do primarily wraps and awesome pizzas. The wraps may be awesome too but I’ve never had one. On a Monday and Tuesday they do a two for one pizza deal, so you can get one of these bad boys for £5. Which is a bargain. The £20 I always subsequently spend on beer balances things out I guess.
Even without the pizzas, if you are in the neighbourhood, it’s a nice stop off. They have great music (Hendrix, Zeppelin), good beers (try the Sagres lager), friendly staff, and a unique chandelier made out of kitchenware. Enjoy.
(There’s also a Giraffe restaurant next door that does half price cocktails from 5-7pm Sunday to Thursday as well, if you want to start early. Just FYI.)
Last night I went to a bar/club/theatre/art/performance/thing called Shunt with my wife and some creative friends. It’s a very difficult place to categorize except to say that it’s fucking brilliant. Shunt are a ‘performance collective’ which sounds a bit arty or indeed wanky but it is truly a superb idea and I’m mildly annoyed that no-one has told me about this place before.
I have walked past the entrance a thousand times and never knew what it was. This website now gets over 100 people a day looking at it and I’m not even that sure I want to let you all know where it is but as you can look it up yourself, I suppose I might as well. At least then you can buy me a beer if I’m there. When you come out of London Bridge tube and start walking toward the escalators that lead up to the overland trains, you will see this door. Plus a small queue. There are no signs.
You WILL be asked for ID, which was actually pretty cool as that hasn’t happened to me since I was 17. It costs £10. Once you walk through the unassuming entrance you suddenly find yourself in a colossal underground vault. It is huge and sphincter-tighteningly impressive. From this point, a lot of it is hard to review because here lies the genius of Shunt. Every night different stuff happens in various rooms. First let me describe the space a bit. On entering, you will be faced with a long vaulting corridor with huge, high-ceilinged rooms branching off at either side. Sometimes it looks like this:
Sometimes like this:
Last night it was dark and lit entirely by candles.
In the rooms there can be anything. Bars selling beers and other bars selling cocktails are dotted around, as are cosy corners with small tables or couches or recliner chairs or anything. There is artwork in odd places and random performances from actors or artists or musicians or people who are a bit mental. When we entered we came across a room where a creative looking lady was doing a book/poetry reading to creative looking people. In another room there were comfy chairs and a cinema screen playing old black and white sci fi movies. And they weren’t all Metropolis.
One room held a theatre and there were loads of others with shows going on and interactive arty things.
Every night something different and interesting and random happens here. If you just want to have a quiet drink and soak up the huge cavernous atmosphere there’s plenty of hidey-holes for that too. At one point a guy appeared near us and started performing brilliant songs under a spotlight on his keyboard. He appeared like magic.
Here are some random pictures ruthlessly stolen from the internet of things that have gone on here in the past:
Ok that’s enough. You get the idea. Shunt is a truly unique experience. A good and exciting one. It’s one of those places I always envisioned myself in. On drugs. With Jagger and Bowie.
It got shut down in November so that it could be turned into a load of shops. I hope the tedious peon that came up with that idea died in an hilarious accident worthy of a Darwin Award. Thankfully, it has now opened again but no one seems to know how long for. Hopefully at least another year. So check it out.
Here is a video that shows yet more stuff that has happened in the past. Some of it looks a bit mental but remember you only have to get as involved as you want to. There is a lot of room.
If you sat down and totalled the amount of hours I have spent in this pub, then you have way too much time on your hands. In my defense, I used to live quite near. See the picture above? On the left hand side of the photo , just past where the tree is providing shade on the footpath, you can see the beginnings of a road that goes behind the pub. I used to live down there with two friends who liked a drink. So it wasn’t really my fault.
Anyway, the pub. It is situated in South End Green, which is an area down the hill past the Royal Free Hospital. The pub itself is really near the overland train stop for Hampstead Heath. Which means I have to walk past it every time I go to work, which can be pretty painful!
In the summer, it has one of the nicest beer gardens in London. In the winter it can be really warm and cosy with candles and couches and games and hot wine and so on.
The clientele is pretty mixed but tends towards well to do 20 – 30 somethings. But not always. Very nice atmosphere generally.
The food isn’t specular, no matter how many succulent sounding adjectives they chuck in the menu descriptions but the beer and wine come in wide varieties and are cheap. So who cares about the food. The staff are very friendly and efficient but if you get a sudden influx of people a queue for a drink can form alarmingly quickly. I have frequently switched from Guinness to lager purely because I’ve gotten bored waiting and can get a lager a minute or two quicker.
I once stood at the bar next to Simon Pegg in this pub and later had a piss at the urinal next to Chris Martin from Coldplay. So it’s clearly an exciting venue.
I would highly recommend this place. It’s a friendly local with a lot going for it. If you’re lucky you will meet the three legged dog that makes an appearance at the end of an evening too. I assume it’s with a human but never really noticed.
UPDATE: I went here last night and have to say that the food has massively improved. The burger I ate was top notch! My wife’s pork belly was pretty damn good too.
Address: Flask Walk, Hampstead
Directions: Come out of Hampstead tube and turn left down the hill. Flask walk is a pedestrian road on your left between a bakery and a North African restaurant. You should also pop into the 2nd hand bookshop on this ‘walk’ as it is really cool. (Narrow passages, piles of old books, eccentric but helpful owner, loads of great stuff.)
I decided to write this one first as I happen to be sitting in it right now. So it’s obviously pretty good.
The Flask is a pretty decent pub and probably my main drinking spot if I happen to be on Hampstead high street. It is divided into two sections in an old school kind of way. As you face it, there is a public bar on the left and a saloon bar on the right. The public bar is where the locals hang out and there is a flat-screen tv playing sport or news or something. But silently, which is a bonus. The saloon bar is where you would take a lady-friend and is bigger with lots of seats.
It is a Youngs pub and slightly pricey but you’re in Hampstead for christ’s sake. Everything is more expensive.
It is an old pub and therefore has character and everything. It has a lot of old pictures of Hampstead and Victorian drawings and that old style of opaque glass. It even has a fireplace. As atmospheres go, it is usually quite quiet and feels a teeny bit artificially old – like an O’Neil’s feels artificially Irish. That said, it is actually pretty old, 200 years in fact, but it has obviously been refurbished a bit. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair as it is nice, steeped in history, and nicely done out. Especially if you are near the front.
I’d recommend coming here if you happen to be out in Hampstead and the other half is shopping and you feel like a quiet pint. It is pricey but nice. Cosy-ish but a bit sterile. If you want an older more intimate atmosphere, I’d thoroughly recommend the Hollybush up the steep road opposite the tube.
The Flask is a decent place. I’m drinking there right now. Nothing more needs to be said.