The North London Guide
Many would describe London as a series of villages, each with its own architecture, mom and pop shops, and quirky characters, and nowhere is that more true than in North London. The villagers of Hampstead and Primrose Hill are lucky to live near two of the most gorgeous parks with beautiful views of the city below, while Islington’s charm lies in its quiet, tree-lined streets, which house many of London’s politicians—Brexit Boris included—and classic, old-school gastropubs. Meanwhile, King’s Cross and punk-ish Camden are both undergoing a major revamp, leaving their village roots behind with glitzy restaurants, shops, and theaters moving in and luring the tourists along with them.
69 Colebrooke Row69 Colebrooke Row, Islington | +44.75.4052.8593
The lab above the bar is where resident mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, concocts recipes for his unique and delicious cocktails. Despite being open seven days a week with live jazz every Sunday night, the vibe is relaxed and cool. Make sure to reserve beforehand, as it’s a small space, or try the offshoot at the Zetter Townhouse.
West Hampstead Farmers’ Market205 Iverson Rd, London NW6 1XF, UK | +44.20.7833.0338
Highlights include veggies from Kent, a Greek stand with plump olives, the Wild Country Organics lettuce stand with a variety of all-organic greens like mustard, rocket, and others you've never heard of, plus a Celtic baker with a really nice variety of breads and baked goods.
Harry Morgan29-31 St. John's Wood High St., St. John's Wood | +44.20.7722.1869
Here, the sandwiches are as heavenly as the bagels, smoked fish, and latkes. You can get your orders to go or linger and people watch.
Panzer’s13-19 Circus Rd., St. John's Wood | +44.20.7722.8162
Located in St. John's Wood, Panzer's caters to its American expat neighborhood with hard-to-find US ingredients like Hershey's chocolate chips and Mexican corn tortillas. They also carry plenty of Italian specialty foods and their greengrocer is one of the best in London for unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Pomona179 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead | +44.20.7916.2676
Pomona is the quintessential neighborhood grocery store. It's the kind of place where the shopkeepers can tell you rich stories about every single item in there. Despite this intimacy, the selection is surprisingly complete. With produce, dairy, meat, fish, and even a bakery, you can pretty much do all of your grocery shopping in this perfectly tiny spot.
Gail’s Artisan Bakery64 Hampstead High St., Hampstead | +44.20.7625.0060
With locations all over the city and some of the freshest, most perfect bread we've tasted, you can pretty much count on Gail's for any dinner party. They have a constantly changing list of varieties as well as pastries, light salads, and prepared foods. The ingredients are all completely organic and chemical-free. Pit-stop on Friday or Saturday for a loaf of their unbeatable challah.
Melrose and MorganOriel Hall, Oriel Place, Hampstead | +44.20.7794.6727
The freshly made food at this beautifully laid out shop is a good take-away lunch option. You'll also find plenty of tempting cheeses, meats, wines, and oils. The emphasis is on British-made fare but there are carefully-selected and very tempting exceptions like preserved lemons and jars of Spanish beans. There's a second location in Primrose Hill.
The Hummingbird Bakery405 St. John St., Islington | 020.7851.1795
The Hummingbird Bakery landed in Notting Hill in early 2004 to become the home of quality American baking in London. Today it has five branches across the city in Soho, South Kensington, Spitalfields, and Islington, and is famed the world over for its delicious cupcakes and other sweet treats and desserts.
Real Food MarketKings Cross Sq., Kings Cross | +44.20.3291.1956
Real Food Market launched their food festivals back in 2007, well before the organic and local food movement really took off in the UK. Though they still organize amazing festivals, they’ve expanded to two full-scale farmers markets with easy, accessible weekday hours. While you’ll find some produce here, the emphasis is really on prepared foods—in addition to ready-to-eat street food, you’ll also find cheese, jams, breads, smoked meats, and some of the city’s best pastries.
The Little One Coffee Shop115 Regents Park Rd., Primrose Hill | +44.75.1890.8822
As its name suggests, this café and creperie is tiny, though that doesn't hold it back: For one, they work with sustainable, green coffee providers to bring new beans to customers every couple of weeks. For two, their pastries are house-made and include Brazilian pao de queijo cheese puffs and the most decadent fruit muffins ever. Most coffees are to-go, though in warmer weather there are a couple of seats available right outside the shop.
Ruby Violet3 Wharf Rd., Kings Cross | +44.20.7609.0444
With its first parlour in Tufnell Park, ice cream innovator Ruby Violet has joined the ranks of major restaurants like Caravan and Dishoom and opened right in the middle of the action in up-and-coming Kings Cross. Now the droves of tourists, students, and area locals get to treat themselves to the incomparable concoctions—chocolate sorbet, licorice, and masala chai among them. Take it to go, or in the colder months, huddle in their gem box of a dining room behind the bar.
KerbGranary Square, Kings Cross
The Food Truck mothership in London is Kerb, which rounds up the best of the small independent trucks and stands and brings them to neighborhoods across London on a weekly basis, incubating and enabling an endless pool of talent. After all, they've seen everyone from Pizza Pilgrims to Bao blossom into restaurants. Check their website to catch them everywhere from Granary Square near Central Saint Martins to underneath the Gherkin each week. Plus, they've recently taken over the formerly mediocre Camden Market and made it great again, filling it with the city's best, including Killa Dilla and Blu Top icecream.