The Husband and I decided to take a stroll around Hampstead this weekend to enjoy the unexpectedly sunny weather following a brief, and rather unseasonal, flurry of snow on Thursday.We started our day at Kenwood House where the range of treats on display at The Brew House Cafe had me abandoning any fleeting concerns about calories and indulging in a slice of red velvet cake.
For once there were actually some outside tables available so we made the most of the opportunity and settled into a sunny spot to watch the world go by. Hampstead is a great place for people watching. I notice more people wearing hats here than anywhere else and have hence come to the conclusion that the more headgear on display, the more affluent the area. We have also been treated to the odd cape and once even saw a tiny dog whose getup was not dissimilar to the kinds of outfits favoured by Lady Gaga. Sadly there are no hats or Lady Gaga outfits in the photo below so I won’t blame you if this leaves you questioning my clearly scientific approach to judging the distribution of wealth across the UK.
After we finished our cake we went exploring. There are so many tucked away lanes and cobbled streets in Hampstead and it’s a great area for getting lost and imagining which house you’d buy if you won the lottery. My favourites are always the tiny, cosy cottages surrounded by wild roses and brambles. Mansfield Place is lined with these on both sides and it’s such a treat to meander between them, breathing in the wood smoke from the open fires and peeking through windows for a glimpse of the lives inside.
After a long stroll we hit Gail’s Bakery for sandwiches then went on to The Flask for drinks (well, tea for me and a pint of Camden Ale for The Husband). There’s a gorgeous flower shop opposite The Flask and the scent from the sea of blossoms on display drifts up the lane towards the independent stores and antiques shop. I turned a blind eye to the prices on this occasion and bought some pretty pink tulips.
Before heading home we hit Melrose and Morgan to grab something for supper. The food is all homemade and the place smells so welcoming; a mixture of coffee, cake and homemade soup. It’s the kind of place where you want to take shelter from the rain and indulge in a pastry or two. We were looking for fishcakes but sadly they were sold out on this occasion so we decided to eat out instead and headed back towards the Heath in search of The Spaniards Inn.
In my opinion The Spaniards is Hampstead’s best pub. It’s steeped in history and as soon as you walk in you’re transported back in time and half expect to see Charles Dickens himself scribbling away in the corner (he actually mentions it in The Pickwick Papers). John Keats was also a regular and apparently penned Ode to a Nightingale whilst enjoying a tipple by the lamp light.
The Spaniards is the kind of place where you can curl up with a good book and a large glass of red and just wile away an afternoon. It’s especially welcoming on winter’s days when the fire is lit and the gales rattle the windows and whip up the leaves on the Heath outside. There are lots of little cubby holes and tucked away areas and the dining room has a real magic about it, with candlesticks burning on crumbling windowpanes and dark paneling hugging the walls. You could easily imagine yourself as a travel-weary smuggler hiding out in a coaching inn back in the 16th century. Sadly, my camera battery ran out so you’ll have to take my word on this.
If you’ve never visited Hampstead I’d highly recommend it. There’s so much to see and do and there’s always the chance of a bit of celeb-spotting (Ricky Gervais lives up the road and can often be seen out jogging….well, okay, I saw him once but I’m told he puts in an appearance on Hampstead’s pavements quite regularly.) There was also an occasion that warranted much debate as to whether the woman walking in front of us was or was not Diane Keaton. The jury’s still out on that one (but I’m 99% sure it was).
Do you have any favourite spots that you visit again and again whatever the weather? I’d love to hear about them. What about great pubs or walks in London? I’m always interested in finding out about hidden gems so if you know something I don’t, get in touch!