Karl Marx and Tom Hiddleston liked it so much they chose to call it home; Mary Shelley described it as an ‘odious swamp’. Yes, Kentish Town splits opinion. But its high street – relatively unchanged despite an influx of young professionals, as well as hordes of French families who’ve come for the local francophone schools – is well worth a visit. Posh and down-to-earth versions of shops cohabit nicely: the Mediterranean food hall is still thriving, despite a health food supermarket moving in a couple of doors down, and though a couple of familiar chain cafés and restaurants have arrived, Londoners from far and wide still love the local BYOB spots.
Stretching down from Kentish Town to Camden Road tube, the street crosses a whole range of classic London streetscapes: pretty mews, a canal, some grimy railway tracks and a pocket park. It’s lined with Victorian redbrick gems and the odd ghost sign to reward those looking upwards. It even has a disused tube station – South Kentish Town, immortalised in a John Betjeman story about a man trapped inside – and a late Victorian church that’s now a Grade II-listed Greek Orthodox cathedral. The charity shops here are full of high-end treasures, too. It may look like a typical, run-down London high street, but that’s not the half of it.
A nightly changing three-course meal at intimate BYOB Anima e Cuore. It doesn’t look like much, but tables get booked weeks in advance and it’s got what might be the most authentic pasta in London.
London’s best curry chips at Pang’s Fish Bar.
Unbeatable paneer masaledar and subjee begun pie at The Bengal Lancer. This place has been a stalwart for more than 30 years.
‘The Hangover’ breakfast at Latin-Caribbean BYOB joint Guanabana, featuring chorizo, feta brioche croutons and a jerk fried egg.
A highly rated kebab from legendary local E Mono, where the chilli sauce flows freely.
The Full Hunter’s Breakfast at new bare-bricked brunch ’n’ burger joint Lazy Hunter.
Aubergine and cassava katsu in the beautiful back garden at Bintang, a cute BYOB pan-Asian restaurant.
The Victorian-inspired Gunpowder Gimlet: one of the unusual cocktails on offer at recently revamped corner pub The Oxford.
A plethora of rotating brews from Camden Town Brewery at their taproom, Camden’s Daughter.
Travel books and kids’ classics from Owl Bookshop. This great, independent bookstore has been going since 1974 and also hosts events celebrating local authors and new publishers.
A reusable one-litre beer growler at Caps and Taps, to be filled with your choice of draught. Alternatively, grab a bottle and get your BYOB on.
Come to the cabaret at new LGBTQ+ destination Her Upstairs. It’s committed to supporting independent, local talent right down to the workmen it hires and the beer it sells.
Goggle at the awe-inspiring fresco in the beautiful Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Andrew.
Strip off at Rio’s, London’s self-proclaimed leading naturist spa. This legendary spot caught fire last year after someone poured body oil on hot sauna coals. Thankfully it’s now back up and running.
And if you only do one thing…
Go wild at gigantic Mediterranean food hall Phoenicia. It’s a local treasure that sold harissa, za’atar and labneh long before Ottolenghi made his mark, and it’s still half the price of the bougie stores.