North London's Cultural Guide

So you’ve never been to… Patron, NW5

At this time of year the Fortess Road staple is at its most comforting

Age: Approximately three-and-a-half. Although, in our minds it feels a lot longer. This place is something of a Kentish Town institution.

Where exactly is it? On Fortess Road, a site that was previously a takeaway, and a stretch that now hosts Baan Thai, Queen of Sheba and teeny sister bar Tabac, just opened and already our fave cubby hole to while away a pre-prandial hour with a £3.50-a-glass house red.

So what goes on there? Well, in Tabac, mostly cocktails and good-value plonk. Back at Patron we’d be surprised if you didn’t know already: rustic French fare, a damn fine wine list – and more classics than you can tick off on a damp Netflix-and-chill night.

The interior: Discuss. Just gorgeous, and still the best-looking dining room in NW5: big windows let the sun – or sunset – in, and there are simple tables, leather banquettes, flickering candles and original wood floors. An kitchen at the back is on show as you pop to the toilets: don’t distract the chefs, now.


Food and drinks at Patron NW5
Credit: David Loftus

What should I eat? Take your pick. The mains are chalked up on the overhanging blackboard, blockbusters all of them (although, moules aside, there’s an absence of fish and seafood). Confit duck, its skin seared and glazed, falls off the bone with the press of a fork, a rich companion to creamy, unctuous dauphinoise; and pillowy onglet, with its coin of garlic butter, is crimson within and easy to carve (there’s nothing worse than a tough cheaper cut), fries yielding just a hint of truffle. Try the vegetarian starters: toast piled high with slithery wild mushrooms in shallot butter and croutons, or a diminutive baked fig in drippingly sensual buche de chevre – and dipped in truffle honey. Oh my.

Surely you can’t do dessert after all that? We did actually. Portions are expertly sized, and not so filling as to leave you incapacitated for more; no mean feat. A pear clafoutis balanced crispy, buttery and fruity notes, perfect with a spot of soothing Calvados.

Speaking of which, what do I drink? Prior to that classic Norman digestif – which is, we decided, autumn distilled to its very essence – we sipped a Chateauneuf De Pape, whose powerfully ripe fruitiness matched the mains beautifully. Well, it was a gloomy Thursday.

What’s the service like? Charming: very French, and very authentic. You’ll glide in and out.

Do say: “This is still the best outpost for Francophile dishes in the neighbourhood.”

Don’t say: “I’d like my onglet well done, please.”

Patron is open daily at 26 Fortess Road NW5, while Tabac is open at 16 Fortess Road till 11pm and 12 midnight at weekends.

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Credit David Loftus

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.