I first discovered West Hampstead a long while ago, driving through en route to Kilburn, trying out a new route via Temple Fortune and Golders Green. Trying to find my way back on purpose however, proved to be something of a different kettle of fish – the deeply unhelpful signs around Swiss Cottage and Finchley Road seem purpose-built to mystify. And when we arrived, we were foxed again – where to park my (soon-to-be crippled) little Peugeot? If only I’d known of Parkopedia then…
Eventually, we found our way in. And a good job too: West Hampstead, NW6 is a little treasure really, unassuming and tucked-away; not flaunting its pedigree, or bustling with corduroy like Hampstead itself, not desolately consumerist like nearby Swiss Cottage, not just plain desolate, like nearby Willesden. Instead West Hampstead is a well-connected little ‘burb, with a rail and underground connection, situated between the A5 and the A41, and based around a little green, and some cute shops. Poke around and you might find Stephen Fry in La Brocca (when he’s not twittering away in some exotic country), or his co-patron of the local library, Doris Lessing. You may see Imelda Staunton in Gourmet Burger Kitchen, or Emma Thompson in the Wet Fish Cafe.
And so, having slaked our thirst on Nandos’ bottomless pop, and consumed an entire chicken between us, off we go investigating.
Oxfam, as ever, is expensive: here particularly so. Amidst the artisan bakers, the independent cafes, and the more upmarket chain and local restaurants, here is a well-stocked, very Oxfam Oxfam, nice and local, but not the cheapest.
Children’s Society is more like it: I ended up with some classic American detective writing from there. All the shops on this stretch of West End Lane, just a little up from the station, are well-stocked: plenty of items to interest, and no duffers; no shops that are really just a waste of time. Cancer Research, Scope and All Aboard are all located up here: the latter was closed when we arrived, but judging by their other stores, would be good.
Definitely a recommendation here then: an easy place to spend an hour, or mooch in a cafe, or come for a nice dinner.
Find: West Hampstead at Google Maps
Transport: West Hampstead is on the Thameslink, the London Overground and the Jubilee Line
Consume with: Nandos’ finest half a chicken.
Visit: Visit Alan Coren, Joseph Lister and Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia at Hampstead Cemetery
Overall rating: four James Last albums