West Hampstead is a place that I always find myself coming back to. My excuse is that I used to live here. But there are far more reasons than just that. I’ve lived in many different parts of London but few have charmed me as much as this one. I went to school in nearby Cricklewood and most of my old schoolmates were from other areas such as Kilburn and Willesden but it’s always West Hampstead where we choose to meet for drinks each year around Christmas time. So why West Hampstead?
At the heart of the area is West End Lane, a long and winding high street that stretches all the way from Kilburn to Finchley Road. Local legend has it that the Beatles’ song ‘The Long and Winding Road’ was written about this street. The Beatles were often in the local area when recording at the nearby Abbey Road studios.
On West End Lane, you will find the shops, cafés, restaurants and bars that give West Hampstead its village-esque feel and communal atmosphere. Notable buildings along this route include the Hampstead Synagogue, built in 1892 and still in use as a place of Orthodox-Jewish worship, as well as Emmanuel Church, another listed building having been built in 1897. What’s more is that the area also has its fair share of green spaces, such as West End Green by the Victorian Fire Station and Fortune Green Park, the largest green space in the area that quite amazingly dates back to the middle ages.
Every time I‘m in town, it seems a new restaurant has opened up and an old one has transformed into something new. But there is one in particular, worthy of a mention that has been here for at least a couple of decades, and that’s the Banana Tree; a reasonably priced and stylish little restaurant with a delicious range of Thai and mixed Asian food on the menu. There are however, endless options for places to eat and I’ve never heard of a bad restaurant in the area. But for a less fancy and more traditionally British alternative, West Hampstead is also home to one of the best Fish and Chips restaurants in the country. Nautilus is located beside Fortune Green Park and has won national awards for its version of Britain’s most famous dish.
West Hampstead’s most popular pub is undoubtedly the Black Lion, first established as a ‘beer house’ in 1666. I’ve been coming to this place since I was a teenager and have seen it evolve from a typical old-school pub where people would watch football into a posh gastro-pub with craft beer and fine wine. As much as I miss the atmosphere of the old days, most people prefer its new and swanky interior which is always packed on weekends. I no longer catch sports on TV here but the Railway pub just down the lane is the place to go for that. It’s on the corner of Broadhurst Gardens which is another cool spot for evening drinks.
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