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Kilburn area guide

Discover Kilburn's buzzing neighbourhood restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs

Despite being sandwiched between lofty neighbouring Hampstead and Maida Vale villages, Kilburn keeps it real. That’s why frequenters can still pop out for a peaceful pint in a down to earth local pub or sample anything from classic curries to Georgian and Persian feasts in dressed down restaurants. Discover international theatre productions or the latest Hollywood blockbusters in community theatre Tricycle, or hunt out the best vintage bargains to rival stock found at Portobello Road when you visit Kilburn’s famous car boot sales.

What are your favourite Kilburn haunts? Let us know in the comments.

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Ariana II
Restaurants

Ariana II

As well as being a darling of the neighbourhood, Ariana II (I is in New York, though there’s nothing Manhattan-esque here) attracts people from across London with its excellent cooking, budget prices and BYOB policy. The frontage is pretty indistinguishable from Kilburn High Road’s ranks of kebab shops; inside is a small, plain dining room with a few Afghan portraits on the walls (there’s more room in the basement). But you can be certain of a sunny welcome and swift service. The menu reflects the multiple influences on Afghan food – from Arab lands, the Indian subcontinent and further afield in Asia. These show up in dumplings, tikkas and kebabs, but the cuisine has a unique slant too. Plump, moreish leek-filled aushak ravioli topped with ground meat and yoghurt, and warmly spiced fried pumpkin turnovers (bolanee kadoo) with a side of fiery chakni relish (also available to buy by the bottle) make ideal starters. For mains, kabuli palow (a melting, slow-cooked lamb shank buried in a mound of yellow rice dotted with pistachios and peppers) is a must. To drink, order minty yoghurt dough or freshly squeezed juices, and conclude with cardamom-flavoured tea and pastries. A treat.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
The Sanctuary Café
Restaurants

The Sanctuary Café

A few weeks ago we said that a rather dismal café in a post office in Holloway was the first such operation in London. A TO reader tweeted us saying that another had already opened in West Hampstead. And not only was this a café/post office combo, it was situated in a church. Here, happily, the postman delivers only good news. The Sanctuary at Grade II-listed St James Church is a wonderful café, capably run and warmly welcoming. An espresso had cooled off a bit by the time it reached us, but it was well made. Better still was a ham and cheese toastie (part of a range which they heroically resisted the temptation to call Posties). And best of all was a pair of gluten-free cakes, especially a light and airy orange cake: the equal of any we’ve tasted in London. On a Saturday afternoon the place was jumping, literally: there is a children’s play area here, and the kids were out in force. Weekdays are quieter, according to the manager, who also explained how the whole thing came about. When plans were announced to shut down the local post office, St James’s vicar,  Andrew Cain, hatched the idea of moving it to his church. Money was raised, and the new operation – which also includes a shop – opened in July. Profits will go to a local community charity. If you live anywhere nearby, you should go there: St James is a dream of a neighbourhood café. But note that on Sundays, the church is used as a church. By Richard Ehrlich

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
West End Lane Books
Shopping

West End Lane Books

Independent bookshop selling a wide range of new release titles. Also hosts after-hours readings from time to time

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Tricycle
Theatre

Tricycle

A vibrant one-stop-shop for culture in north London, the Tricycle packs a lot into its medium-sized frame: bar, kitchen, cinema and of course a theatre. Long run by Nicolas Kent, whose tenure was marked by pioneering work in the field of verbatim theatre, the current artistic director is Indhu Rubasingham, who maintains a diverse but socially conscious programme. The venue found itself the centre of a national controversy in 2014 after refusing to host that year's Jewish Film Festival so long as it received funding from the Israeli government (then engaged in a bloody conflict on the Gaza Strip). However, matters appear to have been smoothed over, and Rubasingham's tenure has largely been popular and successful. In 2016 it is due to have a £5.5m upgrade that will, amongst other things, increase the size of the auditorium by 25 percent.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs

The Queen's Arms

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in Kilburn

Tamada
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Tamada

Sit back on a beige banquette, sip a glass of rich dry saperavi red and contemplate the seemly surroundings at Tamada. Plate-glass windows look on to quiet, select Boundary Road, and upholstered chairs are tucked into plain wooden tables. True, the pastel-hued walls have large photos of Georgia to bring colour, and some appallingly fine Georgian crooners display their vibratos on the soundtrack, but tourist knick-knacks are kept in check. There’s a small basement for overspill. A kind young waiter provides the wi-fi code without being asked – not that you’d need electronic diversions once the food arrives. Starters are divided into hot and cold lists. The mixed meze looks an enticing choice for two; alternatively, explore the wilder reaches with piping-hot kuchmachi: tender cubes of pork heart, liver and lung in a rich, mildly spicy gravy spiked with tangy pomegranate seeds. Next, plates of dumplings of impressive dimension are worth considering, though lobio is equally hearty: a red bean vegetarian stew the consistency of porridge, boosted by coriander, served with pickled green tomatoes and gherkins. The famed khachapuri flatbread arrived straight from the oven, oozing mildly flavoured cheese (pricey at £7 for a naan-sized portion). To finish, fruity, wobbly Georgian pudding, a zesty opaque jelly covered in ground walnuts, made a mercifully light conclusion to a highly satisfying meal.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Book online
Restaurant Fratelli
Restaurants

Restaurant Fratelli

Located within the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale, Fratelli is a contemporary Italian restaurant set on two levels. The menu offers a selection of authentic Italian dishes with daily specials, such as chargrilled ribeye steak or seared sea bass, while the open-theatre kitchen specialises in stone-baked pizzas.

Toresano
Restaurants

Toresano

Ideally located on St. John's popular Boundary Road, Toresano is a must try for an authentic Spanish dining experience. Known for bringing a taste of home to Spanish ex-pats abroad, this bewitching restaurant offers an amazing array of tapas, perfect paella, and extraodinary entrees. Toresano's flavoursome Steak Antonio and rack of lamb are the stuff that seasoned carnivores thought they could dream of. For those with a sweet tooth, you'll find their Tarta di Santiago, an almond tart, simply divine - but you might be hard pressed to find it served anywhere else outside of Spain. This food is the real deal. A perfect locale for a romantic dinner or special lunch, Toresano brings bona fide Spanish charm to Northwest London.

Kish
Restaurants Book online

Kish

A restaurant in Kilburn serving traditional Persian dishes like lentil soup, lamb stew with saffron steamed basmati rice or smoked aubergine with herbs and whey, as well as classic pan-Middle Eastern offerings like tabbouleh or houmous starters. Freshly baked bread and a range of kebabs are all available too, and be sure to finish off with a traditional Iranian tea.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Book online
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Things to do in Kilburn

Tricycle
Theatre

Tricycle

Kilburn’s compact answer to the Barbican comes in the shape of cinema-cum-theatre, the Tricycle. Aiming to be a one-stop shop for cultured north Londoners it also has an exhibition space that opens out into a vibrant café and a rolling bill of special events that includes Q&As, comedy and one-off shows.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Ben Uri Museum
Art

Ben Uri Museum

The Ben Uri Museum is home to the world's widest collection of work by artists of Jewish European descent. The Kilburn gallery gathers over 1300 works and holds public exhibitions displaying pieces by Marc Chagall, Max Weber and more.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars

Bars and pubs in Kilburn

The Salt House
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The Salt House

The Salt House is one of the warm and welcoming gems of North London. We are a favourite amongst our Abbey Road neighbourhood, London foodies, and visitors from further afield. You may even spot a famous face or two. We cater for a mixture of occasions; you’re just as likely to see a family gathering for Sunday lunch as you are a group of friends meeting up for Friday night drinks in the bar.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Book online
Love & Liquor
Bars and pubs

Love & Liquor

Late-night cocktail bar inspired by Williamsbury in Brooklyn with 1920s cocktails and a warehouse-style interior. Regularly hosts a mix of big-name and underground DJs, particularly at weekends, mostly spinning house, R&B and hip hop.

Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Clifton
Bars and pubs

Clifton

This former hunting lodge is, or was, a pub in disguise. Edward VII had the Clifton declared a hotel so he could pursue his paramours without being accused of doing so in a pub; a large etched mirror (‘Assirati’s Temperance Bar’) is probably another Edwardian ruse. Today, it’s simply a relaxing spot for enjoying a pint. The range of ales isn’t enormous but they’re in good shape, the best bets from a bar that doesn’t offer many surprises. The large front terrace fills with couples and paint-spattered workmen; inside, the dormouse quiet is only broken by the clack of Othello counters or the roar of the crowds on Sky Sports on Sunday afternoons. Diners may retire to the conservatory or the secluded back garden to tuck into the pub grub.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Betsy Smith
Bars and pubs

Betsy Smith

Formerly a shabby local called the Bridge, this pub has been spruced up with a resolutely on-trend ‘junk shop chic’ look – birdcages, charity shop paintings and other vintage stuff. If as much effort went into the food, the owners would be on to a winner. Yet despite the £180 champagne and a massive cocktail list, we reckon the Betsy Smith is all fur coat and no knickers: an apt description for some of the scantily clad punters too. The menu covers all bases (breakfasts, nachos, burgers and bistro dishes like spaghetti with clams), including a long list of pizzas from the wood-fired oven. The pizzas are the best bet, and are reasonably priced; the toppings may be more notable for their quantity than quality, but after a few drinks, they’ll do. The drinks are predictably ‘kerazee’ cocktails served in teacups and teapots to share. The Jaffa is served with a floating ‘Jaffa Cake’ garnish while the ‘Relish the Thought’ brings together honey-roasted parsnip pureé, caramelised red onion relish and a dolcelatte cheese garnish. Sadly, there’s no such imagination with regards to the beers, with only some leaden lagers on show.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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