To head up to the heights (literally and figuratively) of Hampstead and Highgate in north London, is to enter into an area that has been notoriously badly served for restaurants in the past. Over recent years, like in a lot of London neighbourhoods, that’s changed. An eclectic range of establishments have opened or at least raised their game considerably, offering high quality food at far from oligarch-level prices. Here’s the best across the two areas.Read More
15 Restaurants to Visit in Hampstead and Highgate
Including a gastropub open every day of the year, a true izakaya, and one of London’s top Neapolitan pizzerias
1. 28 Church Row
London NW3 6UP, UK
This Spanish-influenced spot is much more on trend with contemporary London dining than many of its neighbours. The bread comes from Hedone, and the menu features small plates like courgette flowers, goat’s cheese and honey and Iberico pig’s cheeks with parsnip puree; diners tend to leave this place very happy.
2. Jin Kichi
Regularly described as Hampstead’s best restaurant, Jin Kichi’s elevated reputation lies both with its precisely executed Japanese cuisine and willingness to experiment. Thus, crunchy chicken gizzards and beef tongue are on the menu along with more conventional sushi and skewers from the robata grill. One of London’s few true izakayas.
3. L'Antica Pizzeria
This Italian spot serves a range of salads and pastas, but to be honest it would be missing the point if to not come to L’Antica one of London’s finest Neapolitan pizzas. Choose from a ‘Dante Aligheri’ to the more full-on ‘Massimo Troisi,’ at around £10-12 on average.
4. La Cage Imaginaire
For those who like to visit somewhere of reassuring and old-school familiarity — Le Gavroche without the frills, or, being honest, the thrills — then the French stalwart La Cage Imaginaire will serve. Frogs’ legs and French onion soup to start, then beef bourgignon or pan-fried seabass are classic, typical mains.
5. The Wells
A perennial Hampstead favourite thanks to its revered Sunday lunches, there is also a great deal of appreciation from walkers on the nearby Heath for the Wells’ hearty, traditional cooking, which includes a burger that those in the know frequently cite as one of the area’s best.
6. Mimmo La Bufala
Hampstead’s other acclaimed Italian spot. Received wisdom dictates that the pizzas aren’t quite up there with L’Antica’s, but that it excels in other areas, not least much-praised pasta dishes including the scallop and king prawn paccheri. Prices reflect the postcode, and are therefore far from cheap.
7. The Bull
Not to be confused with the Bull & Last, this Highgate boozer has a fantastic selection of craft beer from local and international breweries, and an interesting, eclectic menu; the brunch, which includes poached duck eggs, smoked trout and minute steak with bone marrow, is an especial winner. Don’t miss the chicken wings either.
8. Red Lion and Sun
London N6 4BE, UK
Reputedly local resident model Kate Moss’ favourite spot for a drink, the Red Lion & Sun has evolved from an unexceptional boozer into an acclaimed gastropub. Dishes include crispy fried Korean chicken wings and confit duck leg with pancetta, and there’s a fine selection of interesting wines, too.
9. The Bull & Last
Although it doesn’t quite have the reputation that it had when it opened (and the Scotch eggs became famous overnight), this celeb-haunted gastropub just down from Highgate still does a superb line in game and fish. The Full Bull breakfast, at a tenner, comes strongly recommended. Its Sunday Roast is still among the city’s best.
10. St John's
Although it’s not to be confused with Fergus Henderson’s St. John restaurants, this Archway pub shares a similar interest in provenance and using the whole animal, so expect pig’s head terrine and curried lamb shoulder along with cauliflower raclette and kid goat pappardelle. The wine list rightly gets lots of attention, too.
This excellent neighbourhood Italian — which would prefer to be called Cinquecento — offers innovative cooking at fair prices. Dishes include guinea fowl with prunes and thyme, quenelle of pheasant mousse and what fans have been calling one of London’s best tiramisus. Getting a table can be tricky, but worth it.
Matt Osborne departed the dearly departed Ledbury to open this elegant neighbourhood restaurant in NW6, but his ambitious opening menu has been dialled back a little towards comfort — now featuring taramasalata; ‘nduja croquettes; a salad of tomatoes, goats cheese, and olives; and pollock with peas, potatoes, and seaweed sauce.
13. Southampton Arms
A bulwark against modern life’s encroachment on pubs, that also has one of the outright best beer lineups in the city and serves truly elite roast pork or chip baps. If this doesn’t sell it, all hope is lost.
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14. Ginger & White
Whether at the pleasingly gnarled communal table or squidged into a leather sofa, this friendly space between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm has a calming atmosphere. Cakes are baked on the premises with coffee from London stalwarts Square Mile, while a steady all-day breakfast menu dovetails with lunch options focussed on careful sourcing. It might not be reinventing the wheel, but warm hospitality in an inviting space with plenty of outdoor seating doesn’t exactly need an overhaul.
15. Mama's Kubo
Rommel Bustarde’s approach at Mama’s Kubo is somewhere in between, the food recognisably Filipino but looking outwards, tidying up and straightening lines of what is a notoriously riotous cuisine. A liver adobo is at the top of London’s pantheon: soft, creamy, honking with garlic, paired with an off menu garlic rice that can be felt on the breath the next morning. Sisig radiates like a sun, pig finely chopped, less heavy on the offal than other versions but with a strong crispy caramelisation of the heat of the pan. Pancit palabok is a cipher of a rich carbonara, with pancit for spaghetti, dried fish providing parmesan’s umami, pork rind for guanciale, egg the texture of tofu and then a whole load of prawns and squid. Finish with taho, layered silken tofu in a pool of lukewarm syrup, hitting all the comfort points of a morning bowl of porridge sweetened with honey.