With Highgate Village above you, Tufnell Park down the road and Archway right outside your front door, there’s plenty to be said for life On The Hill. We’ve picked the best of the area, and you can find out more about them below.
Lively. Creative. Well-connected. Neighbourly. Just a few of the words used by Archway locals to describe the home they love. And they’ve been adding many more to that list in recent years.
Investment has seen the area’s public spaces transformed, local hidden gems polished up and shining even more brightly, and a crowd of new cafes, restaurants, shops and people moving into this once undiscovered area.
With so many pubs being snapped up by chains and turned into homogenous gastro-horrors, it’s a revelation to find one that’s truly individual. The St John’s Tavern, an Archway institution since it opened 18 years ago, is one such pub.
Housed in a listed building on Junction Road, it’s independently owned by Nic Sharpe. There are flashes of anti-chain defiance everywhere. Cookery books are piled on shelves. The U-shaped bar wraps itself around a tapas kitchen, complete with joints of Spanish Jamón dangling on butcher’s hooks.
Around a long table made from old wine crates, a group of strangers are chatting and cheers-ing, disagreeing and discussing. They’re at a weekly wine tasting with a difference – one exploring not just wine, but our five tastes and how they complement and clash with one other. It’s this innovative and inclusive approach that made Theatre of Wine a winning addition to Junction Road when it opened seven years ago.
A few minutes walk from Hill House, spilling proudly down Holloway Road, is a gaggle of stalls that would look more at home in some leafy European square. Piles of floury loaves tower over delicate French cakes. Wafts of fennel-marinated roast hog clash with the zing of homemade Greek salad. Cheeses from every corner of the continent sit beside organic meat from a family farm in Kent. And at the end of the market, the vegetable and second-hand bookstalls compete for most colourful display.
The very first trader to join the market ten years ago, John has been a well-loved fixture ever since. His stall, Word on the Street, sprawls from its pitch, tables straining with close to 1000 second-hand books. But forget daigging through dusty piles of pulp to find the good stuff; John’s is an expertly curated collection. However obscure your tastes, John’s got a recommendation under his flat cap, he’s been selling books on and off for most of his life, and has not one, but two literature degrees. No wonder the locals call him The Pavement Professor.
Bringing a blast of Mediterranean sunshine to the market is Greek-born Jonida, whose stall, Yum Us, is a celebration of her country’s best eats. Having learned to cook back home, she uses traditional recipes to make vibrant Greek salads, warming moussaka and glistening stuffed peppers. But it’s her pies that have been pulling in regulars from across London since she joined the market five years ago. Not that you’d know it. Her throaty laugh is forever ricocheting through the stalls, an uplifting descant to the market’s happy hubbub.
The grandchildren of bakers in south-west France, Amandine and her cousin Paul spent their childhood waking to the smell of fresh croissants, dipping Madeleines in their afternoon milk and having bad days soothed by grandma’s special coconut cake. Now they run Jacques et Lillie, a stall named after their grandparents, using their secret recipes. They make six types of cake – the grandparents are keeping the other recipes a secret for now – and each one is a marvel. Try Les Cannelés de Papi, a traditional Bordelais pastry with a custard centre and, as ‘Papi’ insists, a crunchy caramelized crust.
The further you walk up Highgate Hill, the more city life seems to ebb away. And by the time you reach the top, as leafy squares and gorgeous old pubs spring up around you, you could be in a quaint countryside hamlet. The bucolic bolt hole you’ve actually strolled into is Highgate Village, where the pace is slow, the historic charm is protected by a conservation body, and the independent businesses have no intention of being forced out.
This traditional independent greengrocers and florist has been around since 1888.
This should always be your last stop before home – with so many books in every genre imaginable, you’re bound to come out fully laden. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations – the staff are lovely – and don’t miss the local history section, which has beautiful hardback coffee table books filled with old photos to fill your new home with.
Perfect for those who like a little history with their hops. The oldest part of the building – the stable block – dates back to 1663, and there are still two 17th-century horseboxes on display. And with a wonderfully wobbly interior, resident ghost and more famous former patrons than you can shake a (perfect, oozing, homemade) scotch egg at, it’s the height of story-filled charm.
Less than fifteen minutes walk from Hill House is historic Waterlow Park – 26-acres of open space, buzzing nature and community fun. In springtime you’ll find the manicured borders at their most spectacular, and ducklings gingerly testing the two natural ponds. Summer sees the expansive lawns fill with picnickers and barbecuers.
Hiding among the modern bustle of Fortress Road is a perfect sliver of history. In a tiny building, at least half the width of anything else on the road, Chrissie Charlton and Vicky Fullick spend their days practising the 15th-century art of letterpress printing. They opened Harrington and Squires, a design and letterpress printing business named after Chrissie’s college letterpress tutors, in 2005.
“The people who live here feel very attached to the area and we’ve got way more than our fair share of people who are invested in making it a real neighbourhood. We call ourselves Archwegians but it’s difficult to say what a typical Archway person is because we have a proper mixture. That’s a lovely thing and makes it a very interesting place to live. It’s authentic London.”
Stephanie Smith, founder of Archway Market and Archway With Words
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