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Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden area guide

Keep busy in north-west London with Time Out's guide to Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden's restaurants, bars, pubs and things to do

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Considered the chilled little sister of Harlesden, Kensal Green has an arty, bohemian feel (Kensal Green Cemetery, just over the Kensington & Chelsea border, was a fashionable final resting place for Victorian writers and artists, as well as a number of modern-day luminaries) and its cosy, compact terraces appeal to young professionals who can’t afford Notting Hill. Kensal Rise, a few streets east, has blossomed in recent years, with most of the retail action at the north end of College Road where there's a bijou, middle-class vibe, with delis, alternative-medicine treatment rooms and quirky boutiques. Restaurants, cafés and gastropubs also do a roaring trade. Further east, Willesden High Road offers an array of restaurants, shops and takeaways.

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The best bits of Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden

13 reasons to go to Chamberlayne Road in Kensal Rise, NW10
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13 reasons to go to Chamberlayne Road in Kensal Rise, NW10

It’s leafy and suburban, posh and refined, fun and young

Five reasons to swing by Willesden Green
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Five reasons to swing by Willesden Green

There’s a lot more to this multicultural hub than the Jubilee line 

Restaurants in Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden

Comptoir V
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Comptoir V

Even if you’re not vegan and live miles from Kensal Green, you won’t regret making a journey for this. An animal-free sister restaurant to nearby Comptoir Mezze, the smaller Comptoir V features the same Middle-Eastern-themed décor and is instantly welcoming and comfortable. The menu, too, is primarily Middle Eastern and North African, with nods to wider global flavours. There are several ‘big plates’, salads and burgers, but small plates are the way forward here. I usually have no time for beetroot. But I had nothing but admiration for CV’s spicy beetroot hummus, which was creamy, fiery and utterly mop-up-able. An excellent shakshuka was rich, thick and nicely spiced, and tempura-battered ‘vegan dynamite shrimp’ was too intriguing not to order. Did it taste like shrimp? Kind of. But it was delicious, so who cares? Then there was the Moroccan ‘ghife’ bread. Oh my. Similar to an Indian paratha, this was flaky, chewy, buttery (with no dairy, remember), heavenly stuff, perfect for soaking up all those big flavours. The one letdown was a tagine. The sauce had a good flavour, but the vegetable selection was uninspiring. Stick to small plates instead. Desserts were wonderfully indulgent. The ghife-based Moroccan pancakes filled with caramelised biscuit spread were irresistible: it turns out anything on ghife is glorious. The banana and date crumble, swimming in custard, was soon a blissfully gooey mess. To top it off, prices are reasonable and the drinks list is impressive, whethe

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Bel & Nev
Restaurants

Bel & Nev

Appearances can be deceiving. Bel and Nev Dartora, co-owners of their eponymous Kensal Rise café, probably do not know personally every single customer who walks in their door. But after eating a leisurely brunch there on a sunny Saturday, I got the impression that they possibly do. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. Some customers got a welcome or farewell hug. It felt like an at-home drop-in. Bel & Nev have been running their caff in Kensal Rise, around 30 seconds from the Overground station (if you’re walking slowly), since late 2014. They came here from cheffing at restaurants such as Polpo and Bocca di Lupo. They’ve settled in a small place in a non-central location with limited opening hours. The capacity is around 15, with kitchen and serving area at the front of the room. The menu’s short and simple: breakfasts, sandwiches and simple dishes such as soups, salads and baked beans with chorizo. Very little costs over £7, and most breakfast dishes cost less than £5. Everything is made on the premises except bread and muffins from the Bread Factory (owner of the Gail’s Bakery chain). Careful attention to detail showed in a toasted cheese sandwich, made with three different cheeses (Emmental, mozzarella and cheddar) given a spritz of acidity through the addition of pickled red onion (and own-made ketchup on the side). Indecently rich and cooked with precision, it costs just a fiver; some people would regard it as a decent-sized lunch portion for two. The baked good

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Behesht
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Behesht

Long stretches of Harrow Road are fairly unprepossessing, making Behesht a delightful – if slightly bonkers – surprise. The interior is a no-holds-barred hymn to the (real or imagined) aesthetic traditions of Persia. You’re greeted in the lobby by walls festooned with wooden instruments and hung with tapestries, by dashingly aloof waiters with slicked-back hair, and by an amorous pair of green parrots in a large cage. Through to the dining room, and the decor is yet more flamboyant – fountains trickle and songbirds chirrup among pots, paintings and sculptures. The food doesn’t let the side down; portions are enormous, and there’s real complexity of flavour. Kashk-e bademjan – a warm paste of aubergine, walnuts and fried onions scooped up with handfuls of gargantuan flatbread – was a star of the meze-style starters, as was mirza ghasemi, a smoky hot dip of grilled aubergine, eggs and tomatoes. Mains include rafts of tempting grilled meats, but we chose stews slathered in dark, rich sauces – ghorm-e sabzi with lamb, kidney beans, dried limes and herbs (sharp and moreish); and fesenjan chicken that managed the tricky balance of being sweet and savoury without becoming sickly. There’s no alcohol, so the final bill is gratifyingly low: extraordinary value.  

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Sushi Masa

For more than two decades, the wife-and-husband team at Sushi Masa have been dishing up an ample selection of Japanese staples at this inconspicuous Willesden haunt. Little changes, apart from the odd lick of paint, but this is no bad thing. Locals come back time and again, so the dining room is almost always full; even if you’re planning on eating early, it’s worth booking. The chef/proprietor mans the counter at the front, where he crafts all manner of sushi, thickly slicing the faultlessly fresh fish. His wife manages the narrow monochrome dining room with confident authority: greeting regulars, taking orders and overseeing a team of young waiting staff. The extensive menu includes sushi, tempura, noodles, grilled fish, simmered dishes – name any form of classic Japanese cooking, and Sushi-Say probably does it. From the specials list, a generous portion of silky squid sashimi was accompanied by soy-splashed grated horseradish (not wasabi), which had a nose-tingling effect. From the list of reasonably priced set lunches, the salt-grilled mackerel was sweet-fleshed and also large. A cup of cold saké made a decent accompaniment.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden

Kensal Green Cemetery
Attractions

Kensal Green Cemetery

A fashionable final resting place for Victorian writers and artists

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Lexi Cinema

Lexi Cinema

One of London’s friendliest cinemas

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Attractions

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

A beautiful and traditional Hindu temple

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Brent Museum
Museums

Brent Museum

Local history museum featuring interactive displays 

Users say
4 out of 5 stars

Bars and pubs in Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden

The Chamberlayne
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The Chamberlayne

A firm favourite with Kensal Rise locals (and their dogs/babies)

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
The Whippet Inn
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The Whippet Inn

A bar and kitchen on Chamberlayne Road, offering seasonal menus and craft beers

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Hotels in Kensal Green, Kensal Rise and Willesden

Palmers Lodge Hillspring At Willesden Green

Palmers Lodge Hillspring At Willesden Green

This clean, safe hostel is just 10 minutes’ walk from Willesden Green Underground Station with easy access into central London. It offers free WiFi, luggage storage, and a large TV lounge.Guests at Palmer’s Lodge Hillspring at Willesden Green can enjoy free continental breakfasts including croissants, cereals, jams, tea and coffee and juice. The Bike Shed restaurant and bar are on-site, with wooden decking for relaxing drinks. The hostel provides a self-catering kitchen that guests can make use of to fix their own meals.The hostel has both 24-hour reception and 24-hour access to guests via a key card security system. Guests can also use their room keys to access their own in-room safes, and security lockers are available for hire.Laundry and drying facilities are available, and guests can enjoy free use of any of the internet-connected terminals at the hostel.Coach and car parking is available.

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Kensal Green Backpackers

Kensal Green Backpackers

Opposite Kensal Green Station, Kensal Green Backpackers is a 20-minute walk from vibrant Notting Hill. The budget hostel features a 24-hour front desk, free WiFi, a Moroccan-style lounge bar and a Brazilian restaurant.The bright and airy dormitory bedrooms have modern bunk beds and fresh linens. There is also a TV lounge with a DVD library, an internet cafe and 2 fully equipped guest kitchens.The Kensal Green Backpackers bar offers a range of beverages and light snacks. Guests can enjoy Brazilian cuisine in the restaurant, and there is also a coffee shop for light meals and fresh pastries.Just 2 miles from Westfield London Shopping Centre, Kensal Green Backpackers is a 15-minute drive from Wembley Stadium. Kensal Green Underground Station offers direct services to London’s West End.

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Villiers Apartments

Villiers Apartments

Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Villiers Apartments is located in London, 3.3 km from Wembley Stadium. London Designer Outlet is 3.5 km from the property.The accommodation features a seating area. Some units feature a dining area and/or patio. There is also a kitchen, equipped with a dishwasher, oven and microwave. Every unit is fitted with a private bathroom with free toiletries. Towels and bed linen are provided.Wembley Arena is 3.6 km from Villiers Apartments. London Heathrow Airport is 17 km away.

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Kensal House

Kensal House

Kensal House offers accommodation in London, 2.6 km from Portobello Road Market. The property features views of the garden and is 3.4 km from Lord's Cricket Ground. Free WiFi is offered throughout the property.The kitchen is fitted with a dishwasher and there is a private bathroom. Towels and bed linen are featured in this self-catering accommodation.Hampstead Theatre is 3.4 km from Kensal House, while Olympia Exhibition Centre is 5 km from the property. London Heathrow Airport is 18 km away.

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The perfect weekend in the Kensals and Willesden

Browse: Willesden Salvage
Shopping

Browse: Willesden Salvage

Wander around this magical yard filled with everything from vintage road signs to life-size metal horses

Chill: Roundwood Park
Attractions

Chill: Roundwood Park

Willesden's main open space is a Grade II-listed formal Victorian park known for its aviary and wildlife area

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Eat: Parlour Kensal
Restaurants

Eat: Parlour Kensal

Stop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a cup of Allpress coffee at this homely-industrial restaurant

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Dance: Paradise by Way of Kensal Green
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Dance: Paradise by Way of Kensal Green

Live music  cult film nights, cabaret, art shows and supper clubs

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online