Flogging Molly once sang that they were the ‘Kings of the Kilburn High’, but if they visited now they might have to rename themselves the Kings of Pizza (and Pubs). Kilburn High Road mercifully isn’t the bloody battleground the Celtic punks depicted, but a smorgasbord of boozers and eateries. Unlike the nearby Edgware Road there’s not a shisha bar in sight, but there are plenty of places to stuff your face.
KHR doesn’t have the leafy smugness of its southerly neighbour Maida Vale. Instead it’s the geographical equivalent of a weatherbeaten Londoner with plenty of tales to tell. It’s even got some celeb stories: Zadie Smith is a fan of its everyman charms, Charles Dickens reportedly drank in one of the boozers and Ella Fitzgerald sang in the Grade II*-listed Gaumont State Theatre, an imposing art deco creation that’s since been converted into a bingo hall, then a church. Ian Dury formed his first band here, inventively naming them Kilburn And The High Roads.
Until recently we’d have recommended you visit the Carlton Tavern, a pub that survived the Blitz – but sadly it didn’t fare so well when dodgy developers came and knocked it down last year, despite not having planning permission. They’ve since been ordered to rebuild it brick-by-brick, so if you’ve got time, pop by and see how they’re getting on.
A craft beer at The Old Bell, which prides itself on offering 70 different ales. It’s probably best not to try them all in one sitting.
A caffeinated pick-me-up at Rafkins Coffee, if you’re exploring early and need a boost.
A cocktail in The Betsy Smith: marvel at the flamingos by the door while sipping on a Jammy Dodger.
An artisan coffee at Sweet N Savoury, where the wi-fi is so good it’s got multiple glowing Google reviews.
Beers at Brondes Age, the puntastic party pizzeria. It’s a bar-cum-pizza restaurant that amps up the vibe with live music and DJs at weekends.
A pad thai at Spicy Basil. It might not look like much, but the portions at this cash-only spot are enormous and its constant busyness is proof the chefs know what’s what when it comes to noodles.
A pizza at bougie chain Franco Manca, recently voted the UK’s favourite Italian. Scoff a bargain garlic bread from its menu of sourdough delights.
A mezze platter in Il Kornar Mediterranean restaurant.
A veggie wellington in The Betsy Smith, which is so good it gets two mentions. As well as the wellington and pub faves like burgers and breakfasts, the menu includes oysters and venison. Fancy.
Pudding in Paradise Parlour, where ice cream and milkshakes come in most conceivable flavours.
Enjoy the scenery in Kilburn Grange Park: it has tennis courts and outdoor gym equipment plus all the trees and footpaths you might fancy for a leisurely wander.
Find a bargain in Traid, a charity chain whose staff pick the best clothes for each shop, giving you even more chance of bagging a bargain. Any money you spend goes towards their initiatives to reduce clothing waste.
And if you only do one thing…
Go and watch a band, catch some comedy or browse the free jukebox at The Good Ship. Its licence is currently under threat, so head down and support Kilburn’s last live music venue.
By Thea De Gallier, who’s got plenty of reasons to be cheerful.