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Does this Tuscan-style back garden make the Top 10?

Kentish Town has earned its reputation as home to some of London’s best watering holes primarily on the strength of the ale, or the quality of the kitchens. But during the summer months, the priority moves squarely to outside space.

From pokey back passage to sprawling urban oasis, via roadside tables and improvised pavement reclamation, most boozers offer an alfresco experience of sorts – but where are the real gems?

We hit the high street and immediate surrounds on a mission to rate the key spaces in the hood.

Three well-known pubs notable by their absence are The Grafton, Bull & Last and The Oxford, as both have just outside benches rather than gardens, although they all rate very highly on people watching. And Kentish Canteen has a wonderful sunset terrace – but is about as far from a beer garden as you can get. So here are the results (each category scored out of 10).

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10. Torriano

Sun trap? 3 (1 for the beer garden, 5 for the front)
Swing a cat? 4 But creative use of a small space
Rain cover? 2 You’d have to be truly engrossed in conversation/ inebriation not to make a dash for the interior at the first spots of rain
People watching? 7 At the front. An unusual stretch of town, which on our visit yielded a roller-skating pensioner
Design? 2 Basic boozer stylings

Total: 18/50

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9. George IV

George IVSun trap? 9 This place is scorchio
Swing a cat? 4 The road junction gives the impression of space, but really all you have is a thin line of tables
Rain cover? 1 Those umbrellas are strictly sun shields
People watching? 8 At 6pm, the Spring Studios hipsters are to be found en masse
Design? 1 Faded plastic Homebase garden furniture – come on people, sort it out!

Total: 23/50

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8= Southampton Arms


Sun trap? 2 Hemmed in by tall buildings, there’s no need to don yer shades here
Swing a cat? 3 The toilets feature a bit too heavily in this alfresco experience, as do their aroma
Rain cover? 5 Why stand out and be miserable when inside is the quintessential cosy pub room?
People watching? 9 Real characters gravitate from far and wide to get ale’d up and perhaps have a singsong here
Design? 7 the trees and signage set it off a treat

Total: 26/50

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8= The Pineapple

Sun trap? 6 Snag the right table and you’ll do well
Swing a cat? 6 Deceptively spacious
Rain cover? 4 Notalot
People watching? 6 Old-school, bohemian-types and beer lovers
Design? 4 Functional, but lacking in aesthetic attention

Total: 26/50

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6. Tapping The Admiral


Sun trap? 3 Sadly no seats out front where it’s roasting, but the garden makes best use of an otherwise gloomy passage
Swing a cat? 6 But probably best not to try
Rain cover? 8 The booths are almost huts, so rain is no problem
People watching? 7 Diverse ragbag of regulars is always lively and entertaining
Design? 6 Not mad on the blue fairy lights. Glow is a bit nightclub

Total: 30/50

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5. Junction Tavern

Sun trap? 7 Not bad sundown credentials
Swing a cat? 7 Cool for cats
Rain cover? 7 A big old parasol to shelter under
People watching? 7 Generally on the more mature side
Design? 6 Maybe in need of a slight refresh, but always packed

Total: 34/50

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4. The Abbey

Sun trap? 5 Hemmed in by tall buildings, and east-facing so mostly shaded
Swing a cat? 9 Wa-hey! It’s the biggest beer garden in KT folks
Rain cover? 8 Make a dash for the treehouse
People watching? 8 Pretty good: teens, students and funkateers
Design? 7 Solid; quite magical after dark

Total: 37/50

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2= Camden Town Brewery

Sun trap? 6 Used to be, but not now controversial Dalby St flats block sunset vista across Talacre park
Swing a cat? 5 A rather slim cobbled mews. But it sure gets packed out
Rain cover? 8 You’re standing under the arches, innit
People watching? 10 Great for the beardy and boozy, the hipsters and hopsters
Design? 8 Minimal, but what there is feels very Berlin or Scandi-cool

Total: 37/50

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2= The Vine

Sun trap? 9 The sun feels like it will never go down
Swing a cat? 8 Despite the loss of the back garden in the revamp, the front is still ample
Rain cover? 8 Avoiding the wet is effortless
People watching? 6 Buzzier since Pizza East/Chicken Shop opened, and on weekdays with Highgate Studios lot
Design? 6 For those who remember the broken benches and alarming gradient of the past, it’s a revelation

Total: 37/50

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1. Lion & Unicorn


Sun trap? 9 Both back and front get a good blast of rays
Swing a cat? 10 A hundred moggies could set up a commune here
Rain cover? 4 Best jump inside if the heavens open, cover is sparse
People watching? 7 Not bad, but would have been more lively in the pre gastro days
Design? 9 Tuscan style back garden or more pubby front – both are lovely

Total: 39/50

[/box] [box] For fuller reviews on each click below:
Torriano
Southampton Arms
Junction
Pineapple
Tapping The Admiral
Abbey
The Vine
Camden Brewery
Lion & Unicorn [/box]

Phew. You know what? After all that, mine’s a cup of tea. So where are your favourite spots for an alfresco Kentish Town tipple? And who have we forgotten?

9 Responses

  1. UhOhDaeSu

    Bit harsh to leave out the Lord Palmerston – it has an NW5 postcode after all. Some of the best lighting too so worth going out after dark as well.

    There’s always The Stag or The Garden Gate if you don’t mind the trek and the scrum to get in.

    Reply
  2. Kentishtowner

    All good suggestions but this feature is purely Kentish Town. We love the Stag and Palmerston dearly, but the former is Belsize Park/South End Green, the latter Tufnell Park. Keep ’em coming though…

    Reply
  3. Nick Harding

    The Sir Robert Peel on Malden Road has quite a lot of yard at the back. Welcome on a hot evening especially if you want to escape from the juke box or live music inside. It now always has real ale eg Flying Scotsman. This is a reflection of the general rise in demand. Until a year ago, the one regular family of real ale drinkers had to give advance notice they were going to be around since the publican couldn’t afford risking a barrel going off for lack of demand.

    Re the Camden Town Brewery, don’t give up on the Dalby St flats (see http://www.savetalacre.co.uk). All that has happened so far is the building of the new road which was meant to take 18 weeks and is not compete after 14 months.

    Nick

    Reply
  4. Kentishtowner

    What a brilliant suggestion, Nick – and shamefully we have never tried the Peel. Good news too if Dalby St is stalling.

    Reply
  5. Kentishtowner

    PS – if we’re talking west Kentish Town we’d also recommend Lord Southampton for sun trap seating, views over the almshouses and an almoat completely perfect Victorian interior. But that’s another subject eh.

    Reply
  6. Ian Douglas

    Is the Eagle too far south for you? Or were you put off by the 90s-style Thai food?

    Reply
    • Kentishtowner

      We were trying to ‘Keep it Kentish’ for this particular feature, but we really like the Eagle and don’t cover it enough. And normally it’s well within the jurisdiction, of course.

      Reply

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