Why It Matters: Rio’s – Kentish Town’s great leveller?

My real name might be David but, using the nom de plume Jenbel (don’t ask), I got myself into a …

My real name might be David but, using the nom de plume Jenbel (don’t ask), I got myself into a spot of bother with Mrs Kentishtowner after challenging a review of The Lion & Unicorn – whilst accidentally coining the phrase Monoclesque Stylism.

Enough about that already but, in a roundabout way, it did get me thinking about how NW5’s disparate tribes – young, old, privileged and not-so – all interact. Because no matter how many boozers are tarted up, or artisan coffee shops open, or attempts at Shoreditchification succeed or fail, our community – like all the best – will always be heterogeneous.

But where are the places of convergence; where all sides meet? Here’s my light-hearted – and by no means comprehensive – glance at five:


#1. The Co-Op. Right-on enough for Earth customers to buy fair trade coffee, a wine range that covers all ends of the market (and challenges Oddbins on price), this is the community shop of choice in KT.

#2.Poundstretcher/B&S Homecare. Some of us may kid ourselves about these outlets, but we all know in our hearts they are the most useful shops in Kentish Town (and yes, I know B&S cleaned up in the 2011 Awards). Whoever you are, where do you go when you need a sink plunger, or your toilet seat has broken?

#3 Greggs. I don’t see queues out the door of many other shops in NW5 at lunchtime, do you?

#4 Kentish Town Health Centre. This is as close as we get to an old fashioned community centre (er, what about the KTCC? Ed). Parent and child drop-ins, various classes and GPs make this the only place you’ll see the likes of David Miliband rubbing shoulders with everyone else. Well, in theory.

#5 Rio’s health spa. Where else? Rio’s wins my award for NW5’s most surprisingly egalitarian offering, pants down. Based on a not-very-scientific survey of those entering and leaving London’s best-appointed oasis, I can confirm that the clientele crosses all age, gender and religious divides. In one afternoon I saw two elderly couples, a builder, an Hassidic Jew and a transvestite availing themselves of its services (From what vantage point? Ed). In fact, I challenge anywhere else on the High Street to come close to bringing so many diverse people together in one blissful place.

Words: David Jenkins

So where else in Kentish Town captures the essence of our multifarious community? Tapping The Admiral? E.mono? Frank’s Superstore on Queen’s Crescent?


  • Show Comments

  • Adam

    Erm, the tube station?

  • Nelle

    Please explain – what IS Rio’s health spa? Does it involve nudity?

  • Kentishtowner

    Adam: the tube station, for sure, but it’s not somewhere people actually chose to go, is it?

    Nellefant: Our advice to check out the gallery on their website. Have fun!

    • Adam

      No, you’re right. I am forever finding myself at the tube station without knowing how or why I got there – usually after popping out to take out the recycling.

      But I thought your point was places that have a diverse mix of people from all backgrounds. I honestly can’t think of anything more fitting than the tube.

  • Tim

    The Fruit Bowl next to the tube station. And the stalls outside the Co-Op.
    The library.
    And the Snooker club, before it burnt down, alas…

  • Leslie Wilson-Rutterford

    Great blog. Having lived in KT for nearly 30 years, I can relate to all the above choices. Except the tube, which I dislike. I just don’t like that tube station. Of course I still miss Woolworths badly. Poundstretchers compensates in small ways. The charity shops are my fav place for finding an unexpected gem or bargain, and for running into neighbours and friends that I might not otherwise see. The Phoenicia Deli is my favourite store for groceries, but Iceland is best for cheap basics.

  • Jenbel

    KTCC has nothing like the cultural crossover of the James Wigg. Another place that would cover it is the Talacre centre. Less ill folk, of course.

  • JM

    I saw Roger Lloyd Pack in James Wigg once.

    If that doesn’t justify its place on the list I don’t know what would.

  • Daniel Solomons

    Watching the flow of people around Kentish, the two busiest shops are consistently MacDonald’s and Sainsbury’s.
    Not sure they service all the “tribes” of Kentish Town but, as representations of what the KT public want, they seem to do well.
    Yes they are horrible, big chains and not lovely, quirky independent shops, but maybe that’s the majority choice (as opposed to a display of the diversity).

    The real display KT diversity is that Greggs, Nando’s, Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Boots and McD’s exist happily alongside The Oxford, eMono, Phoenecia, Earth, The Bengal Lancer… and Sam’s Chicken. Something for everyone.

  • Lottie

    Frank’s, most definitely. All life is there. And myriad treasures, from Himalayan Snow face cream to salt cod.
    Oh – and QC market, obv.

  • Laura Murray

    All spot on. Also, George’s Barbers, fruit stall by co-op as mentioned, Sam’s chicken anyone? No, just me then.
    P.S. remember Blockbusters? That would be up there.

  • James Elm

    If you’re counting Rio’s you may as well go the whole hog and include Omega.

    • pansey

      Now you are being silly Rios and Omega are very different Rios is a naturist health club i have personally gone bare in there garden on a hot summers day.But omegas is for the males of KT who need to be relieved of stress .

  • michael ptootch

    kentish town primary on islip street,
    over 40 nationalities represented, a gay headmaster (and deputy), godless (well, C of E) and beautiful. they teach the kids about respect and love and stuff as well as the three r’s and it seems to work, they pretty much all get along and they consistently smash the ofsted thing. couple that with some extremely impressive and inventive parent intervention (they’re doing a pop up restaurant tonight!) the kids get to go to all sorts of fun places as well!
    K.T.S. churning out clever, happy, loving, multicultural, socially aware children…boom!

  • Jenbel

    …and it’s a faith school. Like the two best in KT. A scandal as far as I’m concerned.