Kentish Town’s come a long way from being one of North London’s grittiest neighbourhoods. There are loads of gorgeous streets that you wish you could afford to live in, but despite the inevitable upward creep of house prices, the area hasn’t lost its soul by a long shot. A huge part of it is, of course, having some of the best neighbourhood restaurants anywhere. Here’s our roundup of the best.
The Bengal Lancer has been Kentish Town’s best Indian restaurant for over two decades. Most orders leave the front door in plastic bags, but the picture-lined space is a good spot for quiet dinners. Focus on the unique dishes, including chicken liver hazri (great sweet and sour sauce) and sabzi begun, an aubergine and chickpea pie. The BL is a long-lived survivor in an area that’s seen a lot of restaurants bite the dust, and there’s good reason for that.
E. Mono is the kebab house that convinced Kentish Towners to eat kebabs when sober, not just at the end of a heavy night at the pub. The formula’s simple: large portions of juicy meat, ultra-fresh salads, and good sauces. Order lamb or mixed lamb and chicken, with plenty of garlic sauce and not too much chili. Sit at a table: this is too good to eat standing up. Especially if you’re having trouble standing up, for whatever reason.
This coffee place is located underneath the arches of Kentish Town West overground station, which means it’s not particularly central (five minutes from the high street), and capacity is around a dozen, so tables may be hard to come by. While you’ll find commuters using the station upstairs, this is a locals’ spot, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. If you’re someone who can’t drink coffee without real milk, you should be aware that Fields has adopted an all-vegan menu, and that includes what they put in their coffee.
Pub-loving Kentish Towners get all smug about the Pineapple. While so many other pubs go gastro, this remains an old-fashioned place where locals of all ages and credit ratings gather to booze and schmooze. The crowded front and side rooms are where the social action is, the big conservatory in back is where you can stretch your legs, and the garden is the place for good weather. Come and share the smug love.
This is one of NW5’s best places to drink craft beer - you’ll find a changing roster with an emphasis on tap and a soft spot for London brews. There’s a nice outdoor space, and the staff love to chat about beer. The food, which is available in evenings only except at weekends, comes from a succession of popups, most of them street-food type places. Comedy, music, and other events happen during the week, but we like it best on weekend afternoons, when the crowds aren’t crazy-big and we can relax with a leisurely beer and a snack or two. Especially in the garden.
Cinnamon Village has a small corner site near the Tufnell Park end of Fortess Road with big windows on two sides, and it’s a sunny spot for coffee, breakfast, brunch or lunch. Turkish dishes including tava and menemen are the way to go if you want a hot meal (the owners are from Turkey), but the chicken, bacon, and avocado on ciabatta is possibly the best sandwich in NW5.
This Middle Eastern supermarket, one of the best food shops in the area, has a café where you can eat a low-priced lunch of wraps or mixed meze. If you like baklava, buy some either to eat here or take home: they sell a wide range, and it’s so good that people come from all over London to buy it.
Anima may not look like much from the outside, but it’s easily the best restaurant in Kentish Town. The food is modern Italian, with a daily-changing menu that always has lots of fresh pasta. Go for any of the pastas with slow-cooked meat or sensational seafood sauces, and you’ll be in excellent shape. The homemade ice cream also happens to be among the best in London. Lots of people have figured out this place is great, and there are only 22 covers, so book in advance. Anima is BYOB, so bring something special to drink from the Oddbins just up Kentish Town Road.
Arancini, deep-fried Sicilian rice balls, underpin most meals at this chilled neighbourhood hangout. They’re served in wraps, with stew, with salad, or all on their own. The filling, meaty wraps are our usual go-to at lunchtime, but on Sunday mornings, the egg-based breakfast wraps are endorsed as a hangover cure by the Royal Society of Drunkards.
This is a deli and wine bar run by the people behind the Patron bistro a few doors away, and what they do is simple and pretty much foolproof: buy cheeses and cured meats of impeccable quality, cut them into slices, and put them on a plate. As long you don’t drop the plate, nothing can go wrong. Add some serious wines available by the glass, and you’ve succeeded in an excellent early-evening hang.
Mario’s (est. 1958 but with some name-changes along the way) is the king of Kentish Town’s old-school greasy spoons and a home-style Italian restaurant. The menu’s nothing fancy, just large servings of well-cooked food at ridiculously low prices – if you spent £10 on food here, we’d actually be worried. Penne, lasagne, and toasted sandwiches are strong points, and the breakfasts are better and cheaper than a lot of the local competition.
This tiny basement bar, housed in what were originally the holding cells of a Victorian police station, serves fantastic cocktails. They’re inventive in both content and presentation, and made with a slightly insane level of attention to detail. Also, each one is served with its own custom-designed snack. Locals argue about which is Kentish Town’s best bar, this place or the nearby Ladies & Gentlemen. We vote for Knowhere Special, big-time.
This is a one-stop destination that includes Pizza East, Dirty Burger, and Chicken Shop all in a single building. Which one to go to? Depends on what you’re looking for. Dirty Burger is in a semi-outdoor shack at the back, and we love it in decent weather - these are easily the best burgers in KT. For vibe (and killer apple pie), choose Chicken Shop in the basement. For top-notch food, and not just the pizza (and for low-priced cocktails), go for Pizza East’s big, light-filled ground-floor space.
Kentish Town is short on good Asian options, so Bahn Thai is a useful local resource. Let’s be clear: this is not earth-shattering quality. But it is good quality, especially in simple stuff like big, comforting bowls of noodle soup.
The name nearly says it all. Yes, this is a place for steaks and lots of craft ale in bottles and on tap. But some of the smaller dishes are as good as the main events, especially the meaty ‘snacks and starters’ and the chips, which are the best in NW5. If you’re not eager for beer, the wine list is good and cheap, and so are the cocktails.
Rustique has been in business since the year 2000. It’s thrived not because it has the greatest coffee or greatest food or greatest anything, but because it’s so relaxing and welcoming. Even though the space is small, they don’t mind if you spend hours massaging your keypad or pick a book off the shelf and read it cover to cover. If you’re eating, order soup and quiche of the day, or a jacket potato. In good weather, the back garden is the place to be.
The JT is a gastropub that still takes the pub part of that label seriously. Its beer selection is great, and you can drink it in a sizeable portion of the pub without ordering food (as well as in the garden at the back). But the gastro side of things is no poor relation. Daily-changing menus always include creamy, filling vegetable-based soups and at least one often excellent vegetarian option. It’s hugely popular, so you’ll want to book at weekends if you want a meal - and be prepared for a two-hour time slot if they’re really rammed. In good weather, the quiet back garden is one of the best places in NW5 to eat and drink outside.
If you don’t like children, turn away now. Bear and Wolf is the official NW5 HQ for parents with young kids, even providing a playroom in back, and you’re likely to have to negotiate a crowd of push chairs as you make your way to the main seating area. If that doesn’t faze you, the place has plenty going for it: good sandwiches, good baked stuff, and good coffee.
This narrowly focussed and incredibly popular place, right at the edge of KT’s border with Parliament Hill, sells only ale, cider, and a few meaty snacks and light lunches. The drinks change regularly and come only from small regional brewers. They don’t accept credit cards, but they do have bare wooden floors, an open fire, and a small beer garden. This is one of those places where young people and long-established older residents truly hang out together, just like people in pubs are supposed to do.