Top 5: Best Bars Camden Town


Last week’s inaugural Top 5 – our NW5 Pizza special, actually a Top 7 – became quite a talking point …



Last week’s inaugural Top 5 – our NW5 Pizza special, actually a Top 7 – became quite a talking point amongst readers.

So this week it’s back as a regular series, which promises to flit across the borough and beyond, highlighting places we think are worth trying out. It’s non-conclusive, non-comprehensive, and should be the starting point, rather than the last word, for a lively debate.

Today we kick off with some excellent bars in everybody’s favourite partytown – Caaaamden. Why? Because NW1 is known primarily for its music venues and crusty old tourist/goth hangouts. But us locals know better: Camden Town has some of London’s finest bars, and many are off the beaten track. And even better, all places featured can be seen when you hit the Nearby button on the top right of your screen (when in NW1/5).

What qualifies as a bar? Well, it needs to call itself one for a start. So no Black Heart or Lock Tavern (ace as they are); and no boozers or gastropubs like the lovely Crown & Goose or Colonel Fawcett (which admittedly boasts a rather fine gin bar too). Their Top 5 time will come. Without further ado:

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5. Made In Camden

At 5 is the Roundhouse’s flagship bar. The food, as reported previously, is fantastic (as many of you agree), and its stylish interior and furniture is perfect for a Kentish Town-based Vestal Vodka libation or well-made Negroni. Plus, inevitably, they do Hell’s and Pale Ale from nearby Camden Town Brewery. And it’s almost always still never as busy as you think it will be, even on a weekend night. So head across the border from NW5 and support. Open till 11 or later depending on how busy it is. Draft £3.90, Cocktails £7.

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4. Blues Kitchen

We’ll never forget a most interesting espresso martini we enjoyed here made with bourbon rather than vodka; and the live music, together with an extensive bourbon list, are always entertaining. The recently even-more-distressed exterior makes this place stand proud on its corner opposite the Camden Head (also suitably dive-bar, although most definitely a pub). Its only issue for some is that it gets too rammed, however, and the crowd can sometimes be an odd mix. Open most nights till 1am, Fri & Sat till 3am. 111 Camden High Street. Draft around £4, Cocktails £7.50.

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3. Brewdog

This raucous craft ale bar, with its minimal interior and rowdy, if rather boys-only atmosphere, is not everybody’s cup of hard stuff but if you’re in the mood, it’s a fun way to taste some new and unusual beers. Hold your nose for the Tokyo, an 18% imperial stout or relax with an easy Punk IPA at a more sedate 5.6%. The owners’ passion is evident in tastings, knowledgeable, friendly staff and talks in the downstairs room. And, quite brilliantly, they announced their arrival in the capital by driving down Camden High Street in a rather attention-grabbing Brewdog tank. Mon Sat all day till 11pm, Sunday closes 10pm. 113 Bayham Street. Prices vary.

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2. Spiritual Bar

Spiritual Bar might win the award for the tiniest joint in Camden, and so near the NW5 border it should really have a checkpoint. Every evening this gaff is rammed, whether it’s for acoustic or open mic night (‘Plug it in and play (nicely)’ reads the brilliant sign), or just the most more-ish caipirinhas and bossa nova in town. Well it is Brazilian after all. And with its graffiti wall and flickering candles it reminds us of those ace holes-in-the-wall you get in Berlin, Lisbon or Barcelona to boot. Mon-Sat 6pm-1am, Sun 6pm-12am, 4-6 Ferdinand Street. Beer £3.50, cocktails £7. Happy Hour prices early eve.

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1. Joe’s Bar

Inevitably, it’s the Southampton Arms-owned Joe’s Bar that steals our #1 spot. And every hipster box is ticked here: jukebox, hot dogs (they were there, kids, before this year’s current dogs trend), retro cocktails, Camden Town ale, eclectic crowd, mash-up of 40s, 50s, 60s music, very late license (3am? 4am?) and NW5-accessible location. Plus it’s upper Chalk Farm Road spot will always mean it’s more immune to the more bovine crowds flocking the central stretch of high street. 78-79 Chalk Farm Road. Draft about £4, cocktails from £7.50.

Words: Stephen Emms, Tom Kihl
Photos: Conor Fisk

Agree? Disagree? Pray, tell us your thoughts on NW1’s prime bars below…

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Find all these great bars (and many more) on a map by pressing the ‘Nearby’ button at the top of the page

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  • Trace

    Best caiprinhas (and indeed contails in general) I’ve had in Camden have been at Made in Brasil on Inverness Street. They don’t stint with their measures!

  • Sophia

    yes yes to Joe’s! LOVE that place. Really good crowd in there who are always happy to bounce around the dance floor. No to the Blues Kitchen though, feel the sound is always rubbish and the crowd is just too odd. great article! Also, very sad about the demise of the music at Camden Head…

  • Dean

    Fifty Five Bar and Shaker and Co are also pretty good although the former gets extremely busy during happy hour.

    • Kentishtowner

      Ah yes Shaker & Co! Very nice negronis there too. And quite a nice vibe although it clears out by 8pm. And previous incarnation Positively 4th Street was arguably a better place, albeit with less refined drinks.

  • Kate Woodroffe

    Blimey I need to get back out there! I haven’t heard of half of these places. Been out of action due to twin birthage, but next time the babysitter comes calling, Joe’s it is! Thanks Kentishtowner xx

  • Ale

    Joe’s hot dogs are amazing, shame about the service though (we almost had to help ourselves!)

  • William

    Shebbeen under the k town canteen is an excellent joint with homemade buttered rums, poitin and incredible martini’s

    • Kentishtowner

      As you know we love Shebeen but it ain’t in Camden Will – the criteria for this feature.

  • Craig

    Brewdog is an awful place to drink. It’s like they let a 14yr old design the place! Stupid slogans and tacky quotes litter the place. A real shame because the beer itself is lovely!

  • Kelly

    I’ve been to Brew Dog. It’s a bit posh for a beer house, it feels as though there is a bit too much metal around in the environment, but indeed the beers are top class and it’s okay for a couple of hours. Spiritual Bar is amazing and always has a lovely atmosphere. Get there early for somewhere to perch yourself and yes, the Caipirinhas are the best I have had in town, although that’s normally when Rafael (the owner) makes them 😉 After living in Brazil, you become somewhat of a connoisseur 🙂
    You’re right about the Blues Kitchen; there can be quite an odd vibe at times, but the quality of the music is pretty good and the food is reasonable. Grab a bite to eat before the music and you’ll get prime location in the joint for listen and watch the performances. It’s a bit of a bummer standing there because they don’t take the tables away and so you’re kinda bobbing around near the bar listening to the music when you should be more in the thick of it as the music is for more than toe-tapping 😉
    I’ve never been to Joe’s or to Made in Camden, but I will definitely be trying them out… I mean, why ever not? Still looking for that home from home experience though… Spiritual have almost nailed it. I would stick them at number one, even without visiting Joes and the hot dawgs, although I am quite partial to one or two.

  • Meg

    Joes at number 1? Are you mad?? You come out smelling of onions. I’d rather go to Quinns than Joes ANY day of the week.

    • Kentishtowner

      Quinn’s was a pub last time we looked. This is a Top 5 Bars feature…