Where exactly is it? The upper stretch of Malden Road that’s part Gospel Oak, a soupçon Hampstead-lower-slopes and a large chunk West Kentish Town, unsurprising given its NW5 postcode.
So what goes on there? For many years now the Gipsy’s been the place to go hyper-locally for craft beer, with a really strong range of rotating taps like Beavertown, Four Pure, Five Points etc. Kitchens have come and gone, from uber-foodie chefs to the recent Chicago Rib Shack.
What should I eat? Well, the good news is the pub has only gone and nabbed Luardos for their first ever pub residency. The award-winning Mexican streetfood dons started back in 2007 and currently operate in Whitecross Street, Kerb and Brockley Market – but this is their first ever boozer pop-up.
So we can expect the usual tacos, burritos and quesadillas? Yep. And they make everything from scratch, even the hot sauces. The quality showed in the three dishes we shared on a busy Tuesday night: a quesadilla filled with bavette steak (£10), topped with fresh tomato salsa and sour cream, oozed melted cheese, red peppers and pink onions (with a hit of cumin and garlic, too). Better was a burrito (£12.50), a whopping 12-inch affair sliced in two and filled with tender chicken thigh marinated in honey, garlic and chipotle, with Monterey jack cheese, rice and pinto beans. And fans of creamy guac won’t be disappointed, either.
The best dish of the night? Surprisingly, a side of cassava fries (£4.50): deliciously crisp, and healthyish (like sweet potato), mango salsa added a bit of zing, while chipotle mayo lent its appropriate dunking usefulness. Next time we’ll be trying the tacos – although we’d like to have been told by the staff about the special offer: that they’re only £2 (rather than £4) a pop on Tuesdays, the night we visited.
The interior: discuss. It’s a lovely restored 1920s boozer, with leaded windows, a proper roaring fire (more often than not lit), and tealights on each table. You can also eat at the back in a nook overlooking the busy open kitchen. We do wish they’d turn the main overhead lighting down a bit though: as we’ve said before, it could be more atmospheric.
And what do I drink? House wine is £4.90 a 175ml glass, although our Malbecs were a steeper £6.50. The range of craft beers is excellent, and typically priced for London, while a full cocktail list includes popular stalwarts like negronis at a reasonable £7.
What’s the service like? Lovely, with the waitress suggesting what she reckoned were the cosiest seats in the house. We’d prefer service charge not to be automatically added, however, in what’s a casual neighbourhood local: we would tip naturally if we’re getting table service.
Do say: ‘There’s always been a Mexican influence in Gospel Oak.’
Don’t say: ‘Sorry, where’s The Stag?’
Main image ©TobyAllen