Guide to eating in Kentish Town

Kentishtowner founder and Time Out food reviewer Stephen Emms takes us the length of NW5’s restaurant-rich high street

Fact: Kentish Town’s food scene is as underrated as it is diverse. Some proof? Why, let’s start with a wander along its southernmost strip, just shy of landmark Irish boozer Quinn’s. Here you’ll find the area’s longest running Pan-Asian restaurant Bintang, with its quirky dining room, surprisingly idyllic back garden and fusion menu: try the moreish chicken liver popcorn or signature prawn curry. Nearby are more outlets in the family-owned Maginhawa group’s petite empire: you have Guanabana, for Latin Caribbean-influenced dishes from jerk chicken to steak (it’s also halal and BYOB), Mamasons for “fully loaded” traditional Filipino dirty ice cream, Filipino bakery Panadera, whose delicate egg sando is a thing of beauty (and just a fiver, too), noodle haven Ramo Ramen (main picture above) and vegan bowls at West African Moi Moi Island.  Also on this stretch are elegant risotto specialists Albion’s, oozy pancake-merchants, both savoury and sweet Crepes a la Carte and smash-hit Italian pioneers Anima E Cuore, who caused a sensation when they opened back in 2013 with a daily changing chalked-up menu of next-level foodie dishes, including a fresh take on tuna tartare. Read on for more great Kentish Town restaurants.

Kentish town restaurants: anima e coure
Anima E Cuore: Unassuming high st home of food by chefs with Michelin-kitchen experience

In recent years, the area around the station has levelled up considerably. Here you’ll now find a heady mix of international cuisine, including newly relocated minimalist Japanese restaurant Kami, classic Indian Bengal Lancer, still going strong on the high street here after 40 years, Turkish specialists E.Mono and the new arrival from Green Lanes Gokyuzu, Korean BBQ newcomer Bonga and another local mainstay, the longstanding Ethiopian restaurant Queen of Sheba. A couple of minutes’ walk further is the wonderful Baan Thai, whose Pad Thai we consider to be the best in the area.

Discover Babuji at Secret Feasts. Tickets just £25
Kentish Town restaurants: Babuji

A reinvention of the longstanding Indian restaurant Gulshaan, Babuji’s turquoise exterior and engaging font shines irresistibly opposite Kentish Town tube station. But traditional curry house this is not, with its contemporary wood panelling, glossy teal tiles and pendant lights. Think classic train station café, while the menu serves everything from Bengali bites to traditional Pakistani homely fare The name Babuji refers to owner Mo Miah’s father, who travelled through Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in the late ‘50s before settling in the UK and later starting Gulshaan in 1982. The dishes are inspired by those Babuji encountered in the street stalls and cafés of Calcutta, Mumbai and Lahore – “his three personal favourites,” says Mo. So there are chaats (roadside snacks), biryanis and garam grills, as well curries (tip: try the butter chicken or Dabba Gosht (slow-cooked lamb in tomato sauce). “Our food can be described as Desi style – which simply means home-style South Asian cuisine,” he says. And save room for Falooda, a traditional Pakistani dessert. “It’s a cold milk-based drink with rose syrup, sweet basil, and vermicelli noodles. And it’s gorgeous.”

Reserve you place at Babuji at Secret Feasts on July 12th at just £25 for the meal.

Kentish town restaurants: owner of Rosella, Luca
Luca, owner of ever-popular family-run Italian restaurant and deli Rosella

This part of NW5 is also where you’ll encounter several family-run Italian restaurants, including the Venetian-owned Delicious By Franco, hip new sourdough pizza joint Berbere, housed in former Victorian police cells and, up on Highgate Road, wildly popular local institution Rossella, with its rather glam dining room, deli and café. Arrive early to enjoy a negroni on its pavement terrace – or, in fact, a beer first at nearby taproom the Southampton Arms.

Discover Tangy’s Tasty Stuff @ Rose & Crown at Secret Feasts. Tickets just £25
Kentish town restaurants: rose and crown food

Surely one of NW5’s best craft beer boozers, the Rose & Crown is located on a chilled backstreet location with a magical sunken rear garden alongside a basement comedy venue. Fresh from honing their skills over the past year at Leytonstone’s hip Filly Brook, new kitchen residents Tangy’s Tasty Stuff has just launched a pan-Asian small plates menu. Recommended is curried bone marrow with Malaysian beef and a roti, Chinese cabbage with gochujang, crunchy coated cauliflower, and an expert red curry prawn toast that’s somehow chewy and yet melt-in-the-mouth. “We like to think that we’re a bit of a hidden gem, nestled off the beaten track,” says co-owner Theo. “Unassuming on the outside but buzzing with good vibes on the inside. Expect some of the best craft beers from all over on tap, cracking free live comedy most nights of the week and food from some of the best, up and coming street food vendors.  Our latest resident Tangy’s is serving up deliciously fresh, tasty and tangy dishes and snacks.”

Reserve you place at Tangy’s at the Rose & Crown at Secret Feasts on July 12th at just £25 for the meal with beers.

Kentish town restaurants: The Pineapple
Legendary Kentish Town pub The Pineapple

Ahhhh, pubs! There seriously can’t be a food guide to Kentish Town without a quick scoot around its many neighbourhood watering holes, all of which offer food menus, too. Take your pick from laidback corner pub The Abbey, currently home to Bodeans BBQ in the kitchen, hearty gastropubs The Grafton, The Vine and the Lion & Unicorn, with its three surrounding outdoor terraces and gardens, the snug Lady Hamilton in the middle of the high street, sister to the famous Pineapple, both serving good value Thai menus, backstreet pie dons Tapping The Admiral, and the large dining room in revamped former iconic music venue the Bull & Gate. To top it all off,  new arrival The Parakeet, formerly The Oxford, boasts ex-BRAT chefs serving up unique flavour combos in small and sharing plates: the signature trout, sea herbs and butter sauce is a real highlight.

Discover Never For Ever at Secret Feasts. Tickets just £25
Kentish town restaurants: Never For Ever sharing plate

This Highgate Road venue, with its appealingly bucolic exterior, is something of a multi-tasking space comprising pub, restaurant and bar – or, as the team cleverly call it, a ‘neighbourhood social’. Never For Ever has a loungey interior peppered with houseplants, shelves, books, board games, rugs and leather banquettes: swing by for coffee, light lunch or a full-on dinner. A new small plates menu offers cauliflower croquettes, crispy courgettes with romesco and dukkah, fried chicken, wild garlic and sheep’s cheese and crispy squid, spiced honey glaze and lemon. “The focus of the whole menu is seasonality and sustainability,” says General Manager Jonno. “The signature pizza menu uses a blend of spelt and wheat flour to create a unique, thin and crispy dough: my tip is the lamb merguez sausage, Sicilian olives, red onion, mozzarella, London feta and wild oregano.” Drinks-wise, they only collaborate with the smaller brewers such as local King’s Cross brewery Two Tribes and Lost and Grounded on a range that includes a signature Never for Ever lager. If you’re more of a cocktail person, don’t miss a seasonal spritz on tap, or try a pink gin fizz or cold brew negroni.

Reserve your table at Never For Ever at Secret Feasts on July 12th at just £25 per head.

Kentish town restaurants: Kakki Katsu food photo
Kakki Katsu has a few seats for you to eat their acclaimed katsu curry in-house

Finally, don’t forget to go west: just a few moments’ stroll off the high street is Vietnamese streetfood specialist Pho Ta  in a former backstreet greasy spoon that’s now always packed with lovers of their rich and deeply flavoursome broth. Nearby is also the Japanese katsu and teriyaki joint, Kakki Katsu, who have recently arrived in the neighbourhood, having expanded over to Kentish Town from their Dalston original. They have just two tables, so you’ll want to book.

Discover Patron at Secret Feasts. Tickets just £25
Kentish town restaurants: outside of Patron

A staple of what its owners call “Kentishville” since 2015 – “the area could be compared to the 11th arrondissement of Paris for its eclectic mix of bars and restaurants” – says Jean-Francois – Patron is a classy, dimly lit brasserie serving authentic French food cooked over wood fire. The new dining room is a must-see, boasting period features from its original incarnation as butcher’s shop, including a meat hanger or two. Some signature dishes? Crispy duck confit, hand-cut steak tartare, garlic snails and modern twists such as deep-fried dauphinoise with sriracha mayonnaise or oysters topped with champagne eggs. “We have a passion for producing timeless spaces. Places where time stands still,” Tanzi says. “We love to create special moments for our guests, and we realised that they just don’t want to go after their meal has finished, so our new cocktail bar and dining room Patron Next Door was born. You won’t just leave with a full belly and big smile on their faces, you’ll leave with a special memory, captured and imprinted for a lifetime.”

Reserve your table at Patron for Secret Feasts on July 12th, 5 courses and wine for just £25 per head. Your chance to discover some of the top Kentish Town restaurants at a reasonable rate.

Further still from the main drag, but well worth the detour is the lovely MAP Studio Cafe, which serves homecooked classics downstairs with a gig venue and recording studios on the floor above. And under the Overground arches at Kentish Town West, Camden Town Brewery’s Beer Hall does big salads and pretzel sandwiches (Tues-Sat) on a Bavarian-themed menu by local resident TV celebrity chef Theo Randall. A true Kentish Town culinary crawl really is out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Secret Feasts is your chance to get to know Kentish Town’s restaurants. Book now for £25 meals, on July 12th 2023. 

Read lots more about local food & drinks over at Kentishtowner

Secret Feasts in Kentish Town is supported by Vabel

Read our feature about their innovative approach to home-building in the neighbourhood 

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