‘I will not declare that those who have not visited Somers Town have missed much,’ wrote Charles George Harper in his book ‘A Londoner’s Own London’. But that was back in 1927. These days, tourists and Londoners killing time before a train at Euston or King’s Cross would be missing out big time if they didn’t take a walk up Chalton Street.
Nestled between the two stations, Somers Town could so easily have been Cocks Town: it was named after Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers. Nondescript it may seem, but Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley all called this area home, and more recently, Shane Meadows set his whole film ‘Somers Town’ here. Chalton Street is the area’s main drag, home to two art galleries, a shop selling vegan cheese, historic pubs and a diverse assortment of restaurants. The twice-weekly street market is the glue that holds the neighbourhood together: in its heyday, it was one of London’s most thriving.
With the HS2 railway set to change the face of Somers Town, Chalton Street has big ambitions not to be left behind. A crowdfunder by the local community association to save Chalton Street Market hit its £60,000 target in the summer, with Sadiq Khan pledging £15,000 in support. Got some free time before your next train? Race you there.
A handcrafted cocktail from the three-page list at family-run smokehouse Cattle & Co.
A lychee sake at no-frills Japanese eatery Mai Sushi, where the food comes served in little wooden boats.
A £3.20 pint at old-school Irish boozer The Cock Tavern (on the corner with Phoenix Road). It’s a community hub thanks to its blessedly low prices.
Epic and affordable Malaysian food from basement hotspot Roti King on Doric Way – just nip down an alley and you’re there.
A cheese platter from Cheezelo, founded by a French fromage fiend but also catering to vegans.
Fried plantain and free-range goat curry from The Jerk Drum Caribbean pop-up at Chalton Street Market.
Seafood tagliatelle at the revamped Albertini restaurant.
Signature spicy beef at Red N Hot. Serving authentic Sichuan fare for more than two decades, it’s a fave among Chinese expats.
Nip down to P21 Gallery, devoted to Arab art and culture with a particular focus on Palestine, for workshops, film screenings and performances of anything from North African pop art to Palestinian folk music.
Catch a gig at the historic St Pancras Old Church, just east of Chalton Street’s top end.
Pay tribute to the UK’s first female doctor at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery, which tells her story through mixed media.
Peruse the Dar Al-Hikma bookshop. Open since 1990, it specialises in Middle Eastern literature.
Stock up on everything from spicy fare to sarees at Chalton Street Market, Wednesday to Friday.
And if you only do one thing…
Hang out at The Somers Town Coffee House. It might have started life serving caffeine but the three-storey venue now houses a secret supper club and a late-night speakeasy cocktail bar downstairs.