Whether you’re with the other half or catching up with a friend, Kentish Town is home to some great bars and restaurants. With London reopening to the public this summer, I visited the area for my own date night after four long months at home and went for a French-themed night, since – after all – Paris is the city of love.
Tabac Bar has a smoky (excuse the pun) decor from a bygone era, with exposed brickwork and soft lighting. Its aged original shop front embodies the spirit of the old “tabacs” of France. The true highlights here though are the drinks. As well as the usual suspects among the classics, it’s the boutique cocktails that you want to sample. These include the Holywater, the St Germain Des Pres, Smokers Delight and Purple Brooklyn. The St Germain Des Pres is “a happy marriage of cucumber and elderflower with a spicy finish.” The lime juice and Thai chilli tincture delicately slice through the freshness of the cucumber gin and elderflower flavours and is nice and smooth on the way down thanks to the egg white. Meanwhile the Purple Brooklyn is “July in Provence; all year round in Kentish Town.” This lavender infused vodka is blended expertly with absinthe, lavender syrup, lime juice and egg white for a dreamy aperitif before your meal in Patron Cave à Manger just a few doors down.
Patron Cave à Manger have had a tough time of it in 2020 as they were excitingly supposed to have opened their second restaurant in March on Blackstock Road in North London. While that’s still sadly on hold for now, the original Kentish Road location has reopened and has been welcoming back locals and seeing newbies (like myself) supporting them.
Serving simple, honest, classic French comfort food, this brasserie has been successfully bringing a taste of Paris to our capital since 2015, earning themselves all the plaudits when they first opened, including hard-to-please Giles Coren.
I started with Burgundy Snails, which in their hot garlic and parsley butter were superb on crusty French toast. Who says you can’t have comforting winter food in summer? This was followed by the 8oz Steak Onglet, which is from the Yorkshire Dales. That’s fine with me, support UK trade and less air miles etc. The steak was cooked wonderfully and the juicy meat was complimented brilliantly with the sautéed garlic and thyme. Add a slathering of shallot butter on the side and the effect is perfect, albeit so simple. Frites are a must, of course, and you can choose whether to have these in classic form, truffle or more garlic butter. If there’s room for dessert, which there always should be, then stick with the classics and go for the Crème Brûlée – you can’t go wrong.
Let the hospitable staff do the recommending on the wine for the table and you really will have yourself a perfect date night in Kentish Town.