£30 - £49
16 Flask Walk, Hampstead, NW3 1HE
“A lovely quaint restaurant with an amazing interior”, this bijou French enclave (with doors opening onto cobbled Flask Walk) has been serving Hampstead quietly for a good long time, matching a rather sedate neighbourhood atmosphere, decorative mirrors and close-packed tables with eager, charming service and a menu of resolutely bourgeois bistro cooking. In the evening, you might kick off with a warm salad of honeyed figs, beetroot and crispy goats’ cheese or a creamy casserole of snails with mushrooms, flageolet beans, carrots and parsley, before sampling coq au vin, pistachio-crusted rack of lamb or basil-infused sea bass fillet partnered by sweet potato. For dessert, consider white chocolate truffle cake or crème brûlée with seasonal fruit. Lunch is a simpler – and cheaper – affair (grilled Toulouse sausages with bean ragoût, for example), and the “delicious” wine list does its job.
More about La Cage Imaginaire
£50 - £79
73 Heath Street, London, NW3 6UG
Don’t be deceived by Jin-Kichi’s higgledy-piggledy interior: the outmoded decor, tired furnishings and closely packed tables are no indication of food quality, which is pretty darned impressive. With chefs lined up behind a robata grill, it’s no surprise that skewers are a speciality. Yakitori, the typical chicken and spring onion combo, sets the benchmark, but there are much more unusual options, from ox tongue to chicken skin crisped with salt, or delicious quails’ eggs dappled with teriyaki sauce. Other hot stuff includes stewed pork belly and grilled salmon jaw, but don’t overlook the sushi; the raw fish is glisteningly fresh (try the rolls packed with silky yellowtail and avocado). As an alternative to the expensive and limited wine list, drink hot or cold saké, or shochu cocktails (grapefruit sour, for instance).
More about Jin Kichi
66 Heath Street, London, NW3 1DN
On the quieter side of Hampstead, overlooking the Heath, this indie joint is a “great weekday go-to” according to one fan who appreciates its “excellent pizzas and wonderful surroundings”. L’Antica’s USP is the caputo flour they use as the base for the dough, which is fermented for 24 hours so that it puffs up perfectly in the wood oven to create a crisp base and still-squidgy border. The toppings are also of outstanding quality – think creamy buffalo Mozzarella, verdant fresh basil, pork sausages from Naples and grilled king prawns, plus a version smeared with Nutella for those with a sweet tooth. Appropriate aperitifs of Prosecco, Campari, Aperol Spritz and Bellinis are generously served with olives and a small bruschetta to kick-start your meal, and there’s a decent wine list too. Thankfully, L’Antica is “busy but not overly so”.
More about L'Antica
£30 - £49
30 Well Walk, London, NW3 1BX
“Great pub, lovely food and friendly staff”, notes a fan of this gentrified Georgian pub – a fetching asset in the green and pleasant Hampstead hinterland. The ground-floor bar is well stocked with real ales, board games and comfy sofas, while the smart upstairs restaurant cuts a dash with its white linen tablecloths and a menu of aspirational assemblages. A plate of confit duck with celeriac purée, greens and devilled sauce is pure gastropub; alternatively, keep it traditional with smoked haddock kedgeree and a soft-boiled egg or Cumberland sausages and mash. The char-grill knocks out dry-aged steaks and posh burgers, while daily specials might bring venison fillet with butternut squash purée, parsnip gratin and blackberry jus. To finish, play it safe with strawberry pavlova or dark chocolate pot. In keeping with its gastronomic ambitions, The Wells’ wine list runs deep, with plenty of desirable options by the glass or carafe.
More about The Wells
£50 - £79
£30 - £49
64 Heath Street, London, NW3 1DN
Lucky north Londoners don’t have to travel far for prime Argentinian steak – Gaucho Hampstead is every bit as accomplished as its central London brethren. The chain’s reputation has been carved from its impeccable beef, offered in a range of weights and cuts: from juicy rib-eyes to the most tender of fillets. The meat is so good, it’s hard to fathom why anyone would want anything else, but the menu is an exhaustive read featuring ceviches and empanadas to start and spatchcocked chicken or slow-cooked lamb to follow. Look out for desserts featuring dulce de leche; they’re bound to be a treat. Also of note are the sultry cowhide interiors, cool and confident service, and the far-reaching wine list including a ‘fine and rare’ section to match the best of the meat.
More about Gaucho Hampstead