It’s quite a shock that Highgate Road’s former triple hotspot joins the popular Beef & Brew in ceasing to trade this month.
Back in the summer of 2012, Pizza East, and the inaugural branches of Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger, opened in NW5, and this instant triumvirate – with its winning combo of industrial chic, tasty scran and decent prices – smoothly put Kentish Town on the wider food map.
Who can forget the buzz of Dirty Burger’s makeshift shack out back, a ‘secret’ diner that became a destination for meat-gobblers from all over London? Or the endless queue for no-bookings subterranean Chicken Shop, should you dare to swing by at 7.30pm on a weekend?
But, within a year or two, expansion was rampant and there were suddenly too many Chicken Shops and Dirty Burgers strewn across every almost-gentrified corner of the capital. The special quality had seemingly evaporated, although the quality of the food and drink mostly endured.
Fast forward to 2019 and, with the KT closure – isn’t the pic rather ghostly? – there are just two Pizza Easts remaining, in Portobello and Shoreditch.
A little disappointingly, we’ve received no comment or explanation from the chain themselves, despite a few requests. So, instead we asked local food critic-cum-telly bloke Giles Coren for his thoughts on the matter.
“Fucking tragedy,” he says. “My kids grew up there. They both cried. Kitty won’t look at it, she covers her eyes when we walk/drive past. Every Friday after school for six years, they’d climb on the stools and watch their pizzas cooking while we tucked in to calamari and good wine at mad low prices with the loyalty key ring.”
And he admits he threw a party or two there, “with Richard Bacon, James Corden, loadsa celebs. Those were the days. It looked like it was going to change our world when it opened; there was even talk of them acquiring the top two floors for a club and pool. But they never made money there. And if they can’t, then nobody can. It’s doomed.”
Any ideas on what the building will house next? “Offices, I hear,” he says. “End of the fucking world.”