Age: Oh, this one goes way back to the early noughties (at least) but the site was taken over in 2007 by the Columbo Group (of Blues Kitchen and Jazz Cafe fame). These days, ownership falls under Urban Pubs & Bars, a company which includes local Kentish Town heroes Neighbour (yes, really) as well as tapas gurus Salt Yard Group.
Where exactly is it? Less than a ten-minute stroll from Kensal Rise Overground. Head southwards down Chamberlayne Road: the imposing watering hole is on the right.
OK. So what goes on there? A pub-cum-restaurant dishing up British and modern European-influenced fare. But the bohemian hotspot is much more than a place to quench thirsts and sate stomachs: head upstairs and enjoy swing classes on a Monday, comedy on Wednesdays, and late-night revelry come the weekend – Saturday nights see Blondie to Biggie, while Fridays have a weekly residency featuring old-skool garage King DJ Spoony.
What should I eat? On our Sunday afternoon visit we’re there for one thing – the trad roast. But actually our rather refined starters impress more than the main act: a trio of duck is a generously-portioned and well-executed, combining slithers of rosy-hued smoked meat, super-tender confit, and a quenelle of velvety parfait, pickled veg to cut through the richness. And a spring roll filled with still-pink tuna sits alongside slices of sesame-crusted fish, the duo united by punchy avocado and wasabi sauce.
And the roasts? We are there the first Sunday after Dry January is over, and the huge dining room is slammed – most evident when we’re served some over-cooked beef rump for main, with roasties lacking crispness. Pork belly, on the other hand, is plentiful and juicy (but sadly its skin misses that crackle we all seek). Giant Yorkshire puds, and a varied mix of veg – buttery cabbage, smooth carrot puree and cubes of swede – are well worthy of mention. For dessert, an indulgent, chocolate delice boasts a mousse-like texture, and pairs nicely with red fruit compote, airy coffee cream, and shards of honeycomb.
The interior: discuss. Eclectic, retro vibes reign free in the grand space: chandeliers and heavy drapes mingle with distressed furniture, and birdcages hang from the ceiling. Out front it’s more traditional boozer; behind the bar in the spacious dining area a restaurant atmosphere emanates. Tip: we recommend larger parties book into the cosy alcove on the right as you enter.
And what do I drink? Carafes of tomato juice sit begging to be made into Bloody Marys, but we’re in a wine kinda mood. The Nieto Senetiner 2018 Malbec suits splendidly: medium-bodied, berry-forward, and with note of spice, it’s under the £30 mark at £28.50.
What’s the service like? Friendly and assured, despite a level of busy-ness that could have flustered even the most experienced professionals.
Kentishtowner ate as guests of Paradise. For more on our food reviews policy see here