Much of life in London is built on the reassuring foundation of mistakes. That 2am text message, mistake. That 2.2x surge charge Uber home, mistake. That 8:45am snooze, mistake. Kind of. Everyone makes mistakes in London, and one of them might well be spending more than five minutes in Camden’s Cyberdog. All in all, this corner of NW1 is a bit touristy and a bit tacky, but everyone has at least one good (slash messy) memory here, so you can’t help but be fond of it. And if you don’t have a happy memory of it, then that’s where these restaurants come in.
Camden Town is pretty full on. Lots of people, lots of shuffling, and lots of CBD infused Doc Martens. If you’re looking for respite from it all then head to Lemonia on Regent’s Park Road. This family-run Primrose Hill classic has been serving mezze and souvlaki to the young and old of north London for donkey’s years, and it’s a big old restaurant that’s perfect for groups but also full of solo diners at lunchtime. You won’t be stunned, but you will be very satisfied.
Much like when you go on a first date and find out they have an Amazon Prime subscription and a pet Collie, from our first trip to Namaaste we knew we’d be seeing more of this place. A local favourite, this Indian restaurant serves a stupidly moreish yogurt and pomegranate tokri chaat, and a lamb and apricot kofta zardaloo we’d pay double its £13.50 price-tag for. Between the exposed brick walls and cream leather banquette seating, it has a bit of a 90s upmarket feel, but with food this good, it’ll work just as well for date night as for dinner when you’ve got family in town who need entertaining.
Despite being a relative newcomer to Regent’s Park Road, no other spot around here captures the totally effortless, slightly bohemian, down-to-earth, but also ridiculously rich style of this corner of NW1 quite like this casual and reasonably priced all-day café. It’s where we come to eat an excellent plate of wild mushroom, polenta and poached egg for brunch when we’re trying to pretend we live in one of the pastel-coloured terraces round the corner on Chalcot Square. And it’s where you should come for a daytime or evening meal when you’re trying to convince the person you’re dating that you’re a serious, understated person, with good taste in things.
Claiming somewhere is London’s first or only something is a very suspicious statement when it comes to anything. Lemongrass, a homely spot near to Camden Road overground, does however seem to be London’s only Cambodian restaurant. Crispy fried leek cake is delicious and light, while fish amok - a Cambodian steamed curry - is one of those dishes you’ll finish even if you’re full. With everything made fresh and priced at under a tenner, Lemongrass is an essential place to visit if you’re around NW1.
Lume is the kind of low-lit, low-key neighbourhood spot that makes you want to live within walking distance, and find a way to make sure that the staff never let anyone else sit at your corner table on a Sunday night. The food here is broadly Italian with Sardinian influences, and pasta dishes like their excellent cocoa pappardelle with venison ragu, and the linguine with smoked eels, sea urchin and foie gras, set it apart from most other neighbourhood restaurants we can think of. The other thing that sets it apart is the wine offering, which is among the best we’ve had at a restaurant in this part of town.
There are certain things, like the word ‘fizzy’, or the music Slayer make, that are exactly as they sound. The Cheese Bar in Camden’s Stables Market is just that as well. It serves cheese, lots of cheese - you can have a fondue on the counter, a five cheese macaroni outside, or a grilled cheese to go. As the bar in the name suggests, this is more of a quick bite spot rather than anything more, and it’s best to keep things simple with sandwiches and sticks, as other dishes tend to underwhelm.
Let’s say you tried to whittle the entire plot of Lost down to two words. Apart from maybe blabbing ‘polar bear’ it just wouldn’t work. The same can be said for this place. Although it’s called Bento Ramen, and it does serve affordable bento boxes and huge bowls of tonkotsu ramen, they also serve excellent dim sum, fried baby squid, dragon maki, and some great donburis. It’s a pretty big spot with plenty of seating, and whether you order two things or ten, they’ll feed you thick and fast. Plus, with over 130 items on the menu it’s a great shout for a big group dinner where everyone will leave happy.
Mildreds is a reliably friendly and tasty vegetarian restaurant in Camden Town. This place is super bright, airy, and has a busy, upbeat feel that makes it perfect for everything from a low-key business lunch to a chilled catch-up. We’re big fans of their Sri Lankan curry with roasted cashews, and they make a mean mushroom gyoza. You can also swing by for an entirely vegan or vegetarian brunch at the weekend, but be sure to book ahead - their cocktails and waffles make it popular.
Nothing makes us feel quite as comfortable as a restaurant like O Tino. It has football playing silently on a screen in the background, and a jar of homemade hot sauce that creeps up on you like a cat burglar holding a flamethrower. It’s a simple Portuguese spot making tasty home-cooked food. Seafood soup with whitefish and prawns. Juicy and charred peri-peri chicken slathered in that sauce. Casual, comfortable, and good value, O Tino is a great little neighbourhood restaurant.
La Patagonia is a friendly Argentinian grill restaurant on Camden High Street that’s a good spot to know about when you find yourself in the area around Camden Town tube station and want to get clear of the weed clouds as soon as possible. You’re probably going to want to get involved in one of their steaks, and whether you go for the top of the range lomo or a rump and chips for under £20, you’re not going to have much room for anything else. Of course, you shouldn’t let that stop you from ordering some of their excellent empanadas, a side order of humita (a comforting corn, cheese, and béchamel side) and several glasses of malbec.
Every area needs a casual and cool pizza joint and this one just happens to be themed around a cult 1980s vampire film. No judgement here. Well, there’s potentially one too many ‘bloody tasty’ puns on the menu, but still, it has cheap and cheerful cocktails, a big heated back garden, and the charcoal pizza is very decent. It’s a great spot for a catch-up, or a weekend dinner and drinking session, but their downstairs absinthe bar is also a great little spot for an early in the game date.
Here’s what we think happened. A few years back someone had some form of pagan ritual in Camden and for somehow, ice cream got mentioned. That’s literally the only reason we can think of why every time we go to Camden with an out-of-towner they decide they want ice cream. And when that inevitably happens, head to Chin Chin Laboratories by Camden Market. Although there isn’t that much seating, this place makes excellent ice cream involving nitrogen and, we don’t know, science - but it tastes excellent, especially their burnt butter caramel flavour.