‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life*’ – Dr Samuel Johnson
Though it has a litany of flaws it’s tough to argue that London is anything other than wonderful. You can see works of art from every great epoch of civilisation, visit the palace of the world’s longest reigning monarch and get yourself photographed with a waxwork of unfeasibly popular music gremlin Justin Beiber all in the space of an afternoon. However even the most enamoured denizen of the city must yearn to escape for a gentler pace of life once in a while; before commuter rage fully takes hold and robs the last vestments of patience/sanity. The Holly Bush is a beautiful antidode to all of the frustrations of the city.
If you’ve never been to Hampstead, perhaps put off by the immediate associations with MPs with trousers around ankles on the Heath, then it’s worth adding it to your to do list. Though barely fifteen minutes from Euston it feels as if you’ve not only been transported to the countryside but certain nooks and lanes take you back to a time before the proliferation of wheeled suitcases and the need to stare into a phone screen constantly took hold of two thirds of the population.
Along one of these crooked strings of dwellings we find the Holly Bush, and it does not disappoint. Its whitewashed frontage and subtle signage camouflages it well between houses you probably need an oil field to be able to afford. The simple exterior of the Grade II listed building barely betrays a hint of the quintessentially brilliant pub within.
Upon stepping inside you’re greeted by the reassuring hum of voices contained by wood panel walls and generous leather seating. Throughout the pub you get the impression that every item of the décor has been very deliberately chosen and much of it looks like it’s been lifted from the study of someone from Downton Abbey; it’s a good look and perfectly fits the surrounds.
Once you’ve settled in you can trot over to the bar and pick from a good handful of real ales along with all the usual suspects you’d expect from a well-stocked establishment. There’s a bar snack menu to accompany this and you’re likely to make a noise like an excited pig when you realise that the sausage rolls are served on their own special plates.
There’s a weekly pub quiz for which you’re advised to book and an exquisitely posh dining room at the back if you’re looking for more than a bag of deep fried carbohydrate treats to accompany your booze. In terms of what it has to offer The Holly Bush is catering well to its audience and is spot on for the area it’s in.
It is admittedly very expensive but given that the average house price in Hampstead is a cool 1.5 million that’s hardly a shock. The crisp supplier also seems to be taking some very odd sources for inspiration as it’s pretty difficult to understand what it was about Shoreditch which led to a cheese and onion flavour.
Without any trepidation this can be added to the list of pubs Pub Raider would suggest that you absolutely must visit in London. If you’re tired of The Holly Bush, then you’re tired of life.
*It’s worth looking at the full quotation from the good Doctor who was basically suggesting that no one with half a brain would want to live anywhere outside of London. In essence he’s calling his best mate Boswell an idiot for living in Scotland. Nice bloke.