Spring is in the air and new boozers are being birthed in NW5 like sticky lambs. The crumbling Lion and Unicorn, on Gaisford Street, is about to re-emerge as a swanky “food pub” with a refreshed upstairs theatre to boot (a peek through the windows drew a gasp of delight from Mrs Kentishtowner the other day); ‘The Vine’, on Highgate Road, is undergoing some rather extensive surgery (costing £500,000, with two intriguing new outdoor areas); and the Assembly House – yes, that one us locals never patronise – will soon, so it is rumoured, unveil a brand new “dining room”.
But enough of all that, as this week’s re-opening is a little more earthy. Arise, forlorn old Bullet, now black and gleaming, and with a new name – Heroes.
You would, of course, be forgiven for thinking this venue, on the greyest lower slopes of the Kentish Town Road, was a lost cause. After all, its moment in the sun came and went as The Flowerpot (2009-10), with its crystal-ball championing of global artists like Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling. But we’re pleased to report that the (slightly) spruced-up haunt is actually now quite nice.
OK, so nice isn’t exactly the word. It’s a red-lit dive bar, crepuscular and indie-tastic, but at least they’ve installed some clear glass in the windows, a glistening juke box and pool table, and dotted a few candles about. If I was them, though, I would have thrown in a classy cocktail menu and made it more like this nearish place. But if all that sounds a bit too teenage for the Kentishtowner’s reputedly highbrow readership, don’t fight it: we can guarantee you’ll be making at least one inebriated visit before the year’s out (“a nightcap, ooh alright dear…where can we go?”)
And yet, more interesting still is that this grand old boozer, built in 1849, was a replacement for the Castle Inn, whose pleasure garden once extended west to the now submerged river Fleet. After the death of a certain Admiral Nelson, distraught mistress Emma Hamilton relocated to Kentish Town to live near the Castle (and Nelson’s uncle) – ie, in what must now be Heroes’ smoking garden. Strikemedownwithafeather.
(Rumours are, of course, unfounded, that Ms Hamilton was partial to a large gin or two in the, ahem, opulent surroundings of NW5’s very own Regency-era bar, Annie’s.)