If Kentish Town is Kylie, and Tufnell Park Dannii, then Hampstead is grand old dame Liza Minelli: absolutely loaded, seen better days, a bit nuts.
And yet we were curious the minute we heard the words speakeasy and NW3 in the same sentence. Was the Hampstead of the roaring Twenties – the kind Sally Bowles might have experienced, had she popped over from Berlin – about to make a come-back? Because, it’s fair to say, north London’s once-bohemian Queen has taken a knock or two over the years, and that was before the recession hit Heath Street worse than many other attractive thoroughfares in north London.
So Dach & Sons is an interesting prospect. The company behind it – Fluid Movement – have impeccable credentials (Marylebone’s Purl and the Whistling Shop in Old Street) and their choice of location is a brave one, if only because there’s no cocktail scene at all. But that’s covered by the ground floor being an upmarket fast food joint: dogs, burgers, whisky, craft beers. It’s stylish, cheapish, accessible to everyone.
And you can’t fault the rough-luxe interior, from winking neon signs and wooden sharing tables to ‘whisky library’ and obligatory industrial lighting. It’s all tiling, unfinished walls, textural juxtaposition. Yes it’s been done a million times, but we’re still not tired of the stripped-back aesthetic (yet). Where will interiors go next though?
Upstairs is the speakeasy, a micro-version of Purl, their more glamorous W1 sister bar. Heavy velvet curtains cut out daylight, candles flicker, there’s the promise of ‘forgotten classics’, period jazz, and their own take on a gin-less Negroni (an Americano, right?) Outside is a terrace with jaw-dropping views over the city and across the cute rooftops of Hampstead. Sally Bowles would collapse at the wonder of it all, really she would.
Service is relaxed but friendly, prices perfect for a midweek treat. All mains are £8. Sides are £4. Craft beers are sold by the 2/3 pint (around £3). After a taster of more-ish ‘bone marrow’ popcorn, we were slightly disappointed the signature ‘Dachsund’ dog (frankfurter + sauerkraut) had sold out so we opted for the ‘banger’: coarse pork shoulder with onion and mushroom ketchup.
Sous vide and flash fry techniques ensure maximum juiciness and it showed in a full-flavoured, tender sausage. Chips were perfectly crisp, served in a drainer, and the slaw creamily calorific – but without much seasoning or the hit of horseradish promised on the menu.
The sliders were less successful: of our trio of bacon with jam/lettuce, smoked flexi-cheddar and dill, and salt beef with chilli/soured cream, only the latter had the juicy more-ishness essential in these burger-rich times. But aren’t sliders generally disappointing, even at the likes of Spuntino? Always too high a bun-to-meat ratio.
So it’s early days – the requisite ‘soft launch’ – but even on its second Monday was packed with upmarket NW3 dwellers. We’ll definitely return to see how things shape up: and as for working our way through a julep or two in the speakeasy, just try holding us back.
And, finally, if the best ideas are those that in retrospect seem obvious, we know a little boarded-up joint in K-Town that the boys might consider for their next project.
Kentishtowner Rating: Food 7 (Vibes 9)
Words: Stephen Emms