The Spaniards Inn, London NW3 Restaurant Review

The Spaniards Inn
Spaniards Road
London NW3 7JJ
Tel: 020 8731 8406

The Spaniards Inn has a huge amount to fascinate. Firstly, it’s a traditional 16th century coaching inn full of character and original features. Secondly it has an intriguing history, being mentioned in both Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Highwayman frequented the area and it is thought that the infamous Dick Turpin was a regular. The inn is opposite the former toll gate on the main road to London which was then some two hours away by horse-drawn carriage. Nowadays Hampstead Heath is considered part of the capital and just a short journey from the centre of the thriving metropolis, and yet The Spaniards still has the air of a pub in the country.

On the evening I visited, although nearly the end of March, snow was still on the ground and the inn couldn’t have looked more olde English and welcoming. The interior, which has recently been re-furbished, is all about highly polished oak, with traditional wood panelling, original beams, thick walls, low ceilings, log fires, traditional snugs, and a general feeling of comfort.

The welcoming staff showed us to our table which was a cosy candlelit oak booth. I began with a satisfying bowl of warming beetroot, apple and horseradish soup, complete with apple segments, a good bite of horseradish and the velvety tang of beetroot which all jostled for first place on my palate. My guest had a well presented plate of char-grilled cuttlefish with peas, mint and lardons which he pronounced as tasty.

To follow, from the seven main courses, I had an inviting plate of free–range Gloucester Old Spot smoky flavoured sausages and mash with cider gravy. Nowadays, with so many horror stories about where food is coming from, how reassuring to know that one’s plate is coming from a reliable source. Here the food is all cooked from scratch which is another feather in its cap and hence the relatively concise menu. My guest had a plate of chicken hotpot, with bacon, ale and picked onions, which he declared an ideal dish for the cold winter’s night.

To drink, we tried a bottle of Reserva Carmenere Maipo Valley 2011 Chilean red. With its hints of pepper and blackcurrant spice and pleasing blend of tannins it was a noble fortification for the freezing temperature outside.

To conclude, we shared an indulgent slab of bread and butter pudding laced with brandy and currants, served with a rich buttermilk ice-cream.
The Spaniards Inn is perfectly situated for walkers coming from Hampstead Heath needing sustenance. For the ale enthusiast there is a plethora of speciality beers and real ales to sample, and at weekend’s brunch is on offer followed by Sunday lunch which is served all day or until supplies run dry. Parking shouldn’t be too much of a problem as there is a large car park complete with a doggy wash area which I think must be fairly unique – well, I have certainly never seen one before!

Just before we left the landlord showed us a volume of intriguing stories, mostly written by previous residential staff who over the years claim to have seen ghosts here. I wasn’t really surprised. A pub with this much history is going to have secrets and that I think is part of its charm.

Louise Elgin. March 2013.

A three course dinner for two with a bottle of wine and water is around £40 a head.

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