Highgate: the insider’s guide

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The village itself might have a reputation as one of the more exclusive parts of London, but that doesn’t stop it from being a welcoming place to spend the day, whether to gulp in fresh air in one of its expansive green spaces or sip a pint at a local watering hole. Often regarded as the quieter sibling of Hampstead – connected, geographically, by the Heath – the area has seen an influx of independent shops in recent years, cropping up on the high street and showcasing artisanal products at fair prices. Here are our favourite spots – both established and new to the neighbourhood.

Where to eat and drink in Highgate

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    The Red Lion & Sun

    Best for: stocking up the cellar after a Sunday roast

    As pubs go in the area, there are few more celebrated and closely guarded by locals than The Red Lion & Sun. Independently owned, the space is packed most evenings – with regulations in place from summer 2020 to allow a certain number of reservations – so it’s essential to book beforehand to get one of the prime spots in the main dining room overlooking the lavender-lined beer garden. Run as a public house since the 16th century, the place has a traditional feel inside: light-washed wooden panelling, large wooden tables and mismatched oak chairs. While the Sunday roasts are big-hitting – with vegetarians catered for just as well as meat eaters – it’s the takeaway wine that makes this a special find. With bottles from across the world on offer, from Burgundy whites to Argentinian reds, punters can expand their grape knowledge while supporting a neighbourhood venture in the process.

    Address: The Red Lion & Sun, 25 North Road, London N6 4BE

    Telephone: +44 20 8340 1780

    Website: theredlionandsun.com

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    The Flask

    Best for: heralding Highgate’s history

    Now unequivocally a rite of passage for visitors travelling to the village, The Flask has become the go-to for Highgate residents – including those famous few who have settled in the area – to order a craft beer and sink into one of the warm-lit, cushion-covered corners. Don’t be put off by its modest exterior; the pub is a maze of interconnecting rooms, all wooden-beamed and filled with laughter from seated groups playing tattered board games and flicking through books left on the shelves. As stalwarts go, it’s a must-see: ask the waiter for the exhaustive list of patrons who have called the joint their local, from Karl Marx (who is now buried in the nearby cemetery) to painter William Hogarth and, more recently, a Croydon-born, lithe-legged supermodel who lives around the corner.

    Address: The Flask, 77 Highgate West Hill, London N6 6BU

    Telephone: +44 20 8348 7346

    Website: theflaskhighgate.com

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    Chango Empanadas

    Best for: unassuming, authentic Argentinian

    You might have walked past Chango Empanadas without even realising it’s there – pristine, prim and emblazoned with a tea-and-saucer emblem that makes it look like an average, run-of-the-mill coffee shop. It’s, refreshingly, so much more – the high street has seen many establishments come and go, but this space, the second in the Chango chain, has managed to hold on with a substantial fan base of locals vying to get the sizzling empanadas that are made on site daily. The spiced chicken, packed with fresh chilli and cayenne pepper, is a must-try. It’s certainly worth visiting as one of the final check points in your journey down the high street – there are frozen versions of the best-loved renditions to take away, too.

    Address: Chango Empanadas, 82 Highgate High Street, London N6 5HX

    Telephone: +44 20 7622 4797

    Website: chango.co.uk

    The Pavilion Café

    Best for: family-friendly fun

    The café might feel a fair walk from the main hub, but as places go for whiling away the weekend with little ones it’s unparalleled in terms of ease and accessibility. Nestled in the middle of Highgate Wood, the place has a large outdoor seating area and is ideal for those keen to social distance and enjoy some peace and quiet. The comprehensive menu focuses on fresh produce and the chef tweaks the offering as the seasons change, with dishes ranging from little pots of freshly picked plums to large slabs of steaming-hot pizza scattered with foraged mushrooms and fresh herbs.

    Address: The Pavilion Café, Muswell Hill Road, London N10 3JN

    Telephone: +44 20 8444 4777

    The Highgate Pantry

    Best for: pastries in pink-hued surroundings

    The pantry is hard to miss when entering the village; its terraced front is painted – rather brazenly when compared to the neighbouring shops – in a glorious, almost otherworldly baby pink. Mirroring that pretty doll’s-house style are the sweets and savouries inside; balanced daintily on all manner of serving dishes and presented in the window for passers-by to peruse (and, often, purchase). While the café isn’t loved as wholeheartedly by the locals, who perhaps see it as too much of an indulgence to drop in regularly, it’s still a welcome spot for visitors to refuel at before continuing north towards the heath. The red velvet, while sometimes not displayed in the glass cases at the front, is the sell-out, if not for its absurdly large portion, then for its slightly salty cream-cheese filling and warming hint of spiced ginger.

    Address: The Highgate Pantry, 57 Highgate High Street, London N6 5JX

    Telephone: +44 20 8340 4747

    Where to visit in Highgate

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    Sacred Distillery

    Best for: sampling and supporting local produce

    Sacred Spirits might have been operating for more than 10 years in North London, but its shop has only just made its way onto the high street, selling an impressive selection of in-house-distilled spirits in laboratory-style, hand-blown glassware. Gins are spiced as desired: our favourite is the cardamom, with the coriander a close, surprising second. It also hosts small tasting events – the Negroni Club offers the opportunity to understand the processes that go into making the producer’s award-winning vermouth and gin.

    Address: Sacred Distillery 50 Highgate High Street, London N6 5HX

    Telephone: +44 20 8340 2817

    Website: sacredgin.com

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution

    If, like us, you failed to make the most of all the debating classes and netball lessons at school, there’s no time like the present to capitalise on the activities available at HLSI. Applications to become a member are welcomed from both locals and those living in outside boroughs – with a slight hike in price for those further afield. The 19th-century hall, positioned a stone’s throw away from picturesque Pond Square, offers academic courses on subjects including architecture, music and even tree identification. Not all options are quite so involved, though: membership also allows you to sit for an hour or two with a book borrowed from the library and a freshly brewed pot of tea.

    Address: Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution, 11 South Grove, London N6 6BS

    Telephone: +44 20 8340 3343

    Website: hlsi.net

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    OmVed Gardens

    Best for: getting back to all things green

    OmVed might just be the neighbourhood’s best-kept secret. It’s such a silent, undisturbed space that we were only alerted to the presence of this expansive urban landscape, a mere three-minute walk from the main strip, by a fellow foodie and resident. The centre was set up to facilitate discussions, suppers and collaborations on the topic of food in its purest form and there are regular events, from learning how to propagate herbs to foraging for flowers to dry and turn into bouquets. Most are free, but require booking beforehand.

  • Highgate: the insiders guide


    Best for: celebrating ceramics

    Founded in 2018 by gallery director Claire Pearce, this studio-shop is filled with various ceramic and porcelain forms – some organic, some abstract, others fit for purpose – and pretty tea sets for sale near the tills. Since opening its doors, the space has provided a platform for various makers, both national and international, to showcase and sell their designs. Prices vary considerably, with some pieces being clearly more of an investment, although it’s possible to pick up a high-quality dainty mug for a fair price.

    Address: Highgate Contemporary Art, 26 Highgate High Street, London N6 5JG

    Telephone: +44 20 8058 4644

    Website: throwncontemporary.co.uk

  • Highgate: the insiders guide

    Waterlow Park

    Best for: playing, lolling and stretching

    Highgate isn’t short of open spaces. Waterlow Park still reigns supreme, due in part to its close proximity to the high street’s cafés and coffee shops. It’s the ultimate place to grab a bite and take to the grassy slopes; the most popular spots being the sun-soaked steps by the Lauderdale House Café and the rolling hills that stop just short of the duck pond. Yoga classes are held every Monday at the House, open to all levels and offering a range of techniques from asanas (posture-based) to pranayama (breathing-focused).

    Address: Lauderdale House Café, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG

    Telephone: +44 20 8348 8716

    Website: lauderdalehouse.org.uk

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