Big Review: Tufnell Park Tavern – a pub, farmers’ market and gallery rolled into one

Why hadn’t we spent a Saturday afternoon pottering around the Tavern before? When the  Tufnell Park Tavern first opened, we …

Why hadn’t we spent a Saturday afternoon pottering around the Tavern before?

A busy midday weekend trade: Tufnell Park Tavern. Photo: Russell Loughlan
A busy midday weekend trade: Tufnell Park Tavern. Photo: Russell Loughlan

When the  Tufnell Park Tavern first opened, we took to its pleasant decked terrace out back – perfectly positioned for the evening sun – like a couple of workshy lizards. But on an occasion when we tried the pizza with our pint, we weren’t impressed. There were, it seemed, better wood-fired ovens elsewhere.

We’ve since eaten in the dining room now and again, and enjoyed the experience, but haven’t rushed back. Which is odd as the pub is owned by the same small company who also run the nearby Lord Stanley, where we’re regulars, the food reliable and well-priced. (In fact the Stanley, readers may remember, is one of our all time Camden gems, except for the lack of draft beer from the Brewery.)

Anyway, invited down to the Tav for lunch the other week, we thought: why not? Especially as we’ve heard good things from readers about the farmers’ market outside, and the new gallery upstairs.


A hit: duck liver parfait. Photo: Stephen Emms
A hit: duck liver parfait. Photo: Stephen Emms

And sure enough, the place, both inside and out, was buzzing when we arrived, not long after midday on a Saturday. With ageing mutt rather than ankle-biters in tow, we’d forgotten that this is, of course, peak kiddie dining time, so tiny shrieking people were busy racing around the large room’s Chesterfields and tables. This kind of thing is normally Pepper’s bete noire; yet somehow the darkness of the interior absorbed the excess noise, and she dozed placidly (no mean feat, even for a middle-aged Jack Russell).

Lamb with beans
Lamb with pancetta and broad beans

And you have to admire the use of space, especially as the site has had some pretty hideous previous incarnations. Now it’s a pleasant all-day deli, a not-too-big pub area, and an airy dining room. Not an easy balance, necessarily, but it works.

Pizzas aside, the main menu is fashionably short and seasonal. After a fishy bowl of boquerones with almonds to accompany a chilled Cote de Provence (the wine list starts at £15.90), our starters differed in quality: duck liver pate, its deep flavour livened by a very appley chutney, was wonderful. Asparagus, good value at £4.50, was nicely cooked, but its accompanying poached egg was rather scrawny, undermining what should be an effortless combination.

Wild trout.
Sea trout with samphire.

Our mains continued the mixed bag theme. Sea trout was well-cooked, its pairing with samphire, capers and new potatoes pleasant enough, but it was the kind of dish easy to throw together at home. Fair enough, but £14.50? A lamb steak, on the other hand, chargrilled with lettuce and pancetta stew, broad beans and a moreish parsley and almond dressing, was hearty and packed with flavour.

Desserts were weaker: a huge, quite tasteless meringue came with a delicious rhubarb and tangy lavender compote; while salted caramel ice cream just didn’t pack the flavour of the nearby Ruby Violet.

Red Hand Gallery. Note the £10,000 in the centre.
Red Hand Gallery. Note the £10,000 Valentino in the centre.

After lunch, we wandered upstairs to the Red Hand Gallery, a quite bohemian space curated by artist Samuel Millar, just graduated from Bristol (where he has exhibited at the Arnolfini and Spike Island).

The gallery walls currently host artwork from 24 local and international artists alike, including, surprisingly, an Angelino Valentino limited edition Kate Moss print from the Guggenheim that’s on sale for a mighty £10,000. A new show opens on the last Thursday of every month, Sam explained, so it might be worth swinging by one evening.

Farmers' market at the Tav.
Farmers’ market at the Tav.

Back outside the farmers’ market was still buzzy, even mid afternoon.  We picked up a chewy sourdough, and pottered round Ted’s Veg, and the brownies stall; an enjoyable post-prandial mooch.

And, we concluded, sloping back up to K-Town, the pub really has tried to position itself at the heart of the community, as busy and child-friendly as nearby Pizza East, but perhaps more relaxed. With a few tweaks in the kitchen the food could be destination too.

This is box title
162 Tufnell Park Road N7 Three course meal for two is around £70. Kentishtowner Rating: 7/10

Words & Photos: Stephen Emms


  • Show Comments

  • Lara May Jakob

    All true, it’s a good pub but the farmers market is extortionate, the cider is £5 a pint and there’s no music allowed!! Since progress bar lost that licence…

  • Tom Storr

    The Tufnell Park Tavern is such a wasted opportunity. It is a great space for kids, so perfect for the location, but feels lazy to me, as if they know their monopoly status in the area is enough to keep the tills ringing.

    A bit more care on the food and/ or a more realistically priced menu and I would definitely head their more frequently. As it is I’m happy to walk on by.

  • J Allen

    @TPTFoodMarket TPT is not a farmer’s market – it’s more flexible and local than that and when you look at the real cost of supermarket food, this is a much better alternative

  • Chris B

    They need to make it better for locals, nobody would go there to meet friends as it’s full of kids and only three bar stalls hidden away…therefore the atmosphere is non existent. It wouldn’t take much to get this pub on track.