London is full of amazing parks and greenspaces, but Hampstead Heath is the best of the lot. Sorry not sorry. There are luscious fields of long green grass, the most picturesque of ponds to swim in, a former stately home, and at any one time, hundreds of pre-pubescent teenagers trying their first cigarette. Truly, heaven on earth. Given the Heath’s expanse, eating and drinking before or after a day out can require a bit of pre-planning. So bookmark this guide the next time you’re heading to London’s most heartwarming green space.
The Southampton Arms
A sunny day spent on Hampstead Heath is a sunny day well spent. A sunny day spent on the Heath that ends in The Southampton Arms is even better. The Gospel Oak pub is as old-school and no-nonsense as they come. Ales, keg beer, and specialty cider flow steadily throughout summer and winter and its legendary roast pork baps—topped with apple sauce and enough crackling to make your dentist wince—are essential.
Something of an IYKYK spot, Giacobazzi’s has been serving handmade pasta, caponata, cold cuts, pesto, and other Italian good stuff to Hampstead Heath residents since the early ‘90s. It’s right by the massive go-to M&S but save that for booze. At Giacobazzi's there are daily-changing pizzas, frittatas, and homemade focaccias—all of which are perfect for the most NW3 picnics.
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After a few hours walking, sitting, lying, and napping, you should always reward yourself with something saucy. This is where Rossella comes in. It’s an old-school Italian trattoria on the Highgate Road where locals have been tucking into hearty portions of ragu lasagne and spag bol for years. It’s a homely, ‘have another spritz’ type place. So expect lots of carby pleasure rather than intricate handmade pasta perfection.
Queen of Sheba
If you’re on the Heath wondering where to satisfy your craving for spice and flavour, head towards Kentish Town. The Queen of Sheba is a 10-minute walk from Gospel Oak and the Ethiopian restaurant is an excellent spot when there are many hungry hands and tired legs to feed. Get a few things on injera to share—awaze t’ibs, kitfo, and shiro w’et are go-tos for us—and scoop away until you can eat no more.
Swim and pint. Pint and swim. While probably not condoned by any lifeguards, it’s a glorious combination. But rather than just going to any old boozer for a cold one after perhaps an even colder swim in Hampstead Heath ponds, head to The Bull & Last. The menu at this gastropub changes regularly but you can expect things like homemade soda bread, steak and aioli sandwiches, and more. There’s inside and outside seating and plenty of snacks if you don’t fancy a full meal. Because, chips.
Roni's Bagel Bakery
Roni’s is a favourite amongst NW postcode locals. It first opened in West Hampstead in 1989 and now has a few spots in Belsize Park, Highgate, and Muswell Hill. Its Swains Lains outpost, right by Parliament Hill Lido, is perfect for a park picnic. The bagels are a soft and chewy delight, full of a hefty smear or two of cream cheese. If you’re after a sweet treat, the babka is pretty delicious as well.
The Stag is essentially the perfect pub: it’s old, it has a friendly atmosphere, it serves a massive selection of beers, and there’s a large beer garden as well as a rooftop for those five annual days of London sunshine. It also does a great Sunday roast and it’s the perfect spot to hit when you’re with a big group. You’ll want to share a couple of the whole roast chickens. Trust us.