North London Food & Culture

The Parakeet

The Parakeet, Kentish Town review: ‘a highly skilful reinvention’

The Oxford has been reborn as a flawless new Kentish Town gastropub

In the last half century, the building most famously known as The Oxford has been relaunched several times. Prior to its 2004 rebirth, colourful previous incarnations have included the Jorene Celeste, the Vulture’s Perch and the Oxford Vaults.

The new local owners – also behind the Jazz Cafe and Blues Kitchen in Camden – wanted to bring “something new to the Kentish Town neighbourhood”, signalled by its latest name change, which simply references the growing avian population on nearby Hampstead Heath. But with ex-BRAT chef – and born-and-bred North Londoner – Ben Allen at the helm, alongside sous-chef Ed Jennings, the main point of difference now is that the food is next-level.

the parakeet
The Parakeet: Justin DeSouza

First impressions on a busy Saturday evening are as rowdy as ever: the pub’s tube-handy location means it has never exactly been a quiet space, with well-oiled drinkers clustered around the appealing orange glow of the bar.

The 60-cover dining room is now entirely separate, enabled by brand new downstairs toilets rather than having drinkers traipsing through to use the facilities as previously. Candlelit tables and big windows are complemented by stained glass, wood panelling and warm vintage deco lights, while chefs buzz around the custom-made grill in an enclosed-yet-visible kitchen. Here, just two stools await diners who wish to eat at the counter.


Even at an early 6pm, the room was nearly full, with a palpable sense of anticipation in the air;  incidentally, other diners were super friendly, and we chatted easily to both tables on our left and right. It seemed that everyone was thrilled to be here trying out what has become – through the buzz of Instagram and rave reviews – a genuine hot ticket.

Lamb chop, The Parakeet. Photo: Justin DeSouza

The small-plates menu is written on a chalkboard, outlining the unique creations and flavour profiles. We sampled eight or so dishes, beginning with briny oysters with fermented kohlrabi and pepper dulce and oozy spider crab croquettes (pictured below), before a winning pile of asparagus shards on a nettle puree, scattered with toasted almonds.

Some more highlights? A cute lamb chop (pictured above) served rosy, its flesh carved into easy-to-share slivers, artichoke and hazelnut for crunch and earthy tang; meltingly soft slices of trout, festooned with sea herbs in a heady butter sauce, slices of radish cutting through the richness; and a vivid red prawn tartare, its raw freshness given the tart hit of rhubarb and a nod of heat – it’s essential to squeeze the heads first to level-up the umami. And don’t skip the bread course: it comes with whipped lick-the-plate-clean smoked butter.

Croquettes, The-Parakeet. Photo: Justin DeSouza

We had to leave promptly to attend the Reeling In The Queers cabaret night at the nearby Irish Centre and so nearly swerved desserts – but were glad we didn’t. An elevated bread-and-butter pudding proved yet another corker, made using blow-torch charred, sugar-topped kouign amann from local bakery Kossoff’s, the brown butter custard sweet, nutty, frothy and creamy.

If you enjoy a tipple, wine prices aren’t extortionate, either: our pale pink house Languedoc rosé was only £23, while negronis are £9. And service was slick throughout, with relaxed, engaging front-of-house and refreshingly knowledgeable young waiting staff. With such ambitious cooking, and flawless atmospherics, this is, in short, a highly skilful reinvention that should make the biggest mark on Kentish Town’s dining scene since the smash-hit success of The Bull & Last a decade-and-a-half ago.

The Parakeet, 256 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2EN. You can find out more here. Instagram: @the_parakeet

Kentishtowner ate as guests of The Parakeet. Stephen Emms writes about food and travel for The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel, Rough Guides and more. 

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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.