As the traffic hurtles on through, Kentish Town can seem like the neighbourhood north London forgot. Squashed between hectic Camden Town, refined Highgate and bohemian but moneyed Hampstead, Kentish Town might appear to some to have little to offer. Yet it is cherished by its residents.
Only recently they voted resoundingly for a Neighbourhood Plan that, among a raft of other measures, seeks to protect the view which greets everyone leaving Kentish Town station of the open green spaces of Parliament Hill Fields. It’s a view that could be threatened if the Regis Road Industrial Estate is ever redeveloped.
Estate agent Clive Nunes, from the local branch of Winkworth, has worked in Kentish Town for nearly 20 years. He says people used to buy in the district because it was cheaper than Highgate or Hampstead, but now they come because they want to live there.
“It is a well-connected neighbourhood popular with young professionals and City workers who hop on Thameslink Trains — Kentish Town’s unsung heroes — and are in Farringdon in less than 10 minutes.”
Victorian terrace houses large and small characterise Kentish Town, and those in Kelly Street, Falkland Road and Leverton Street are much-photographed for their brightly painted exteriors.
The district also offers warehouse conversions, new flats and estates of social housing. Gospel Oak has the Lissenden Gardens mansion flat estate, built from 1898-1906, and the Dunboyne Road estate designed by Neave Brown in the Seventies “golden era” of Camden council housing.
On a former industrial site at the junction of Camden Road and St Pancras Way, Camden Courtyards is the largest local development. Barratt Homes is building 164 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats, including 82 affordable homes, with two internal courtyards and a residents’ roof garden.
Two show flats opened last week for off-plan sales and prices start at £620,000 for a one-bedroom flat, £819,500 for a two-bedroom flat and £1.15 million for a three-bedroom flat. The homes will be ready early next year. Call 0844 225 0032.
The former PizzaExpress building at 187 Kentish Town Road lay empty for two years but Uplift Property is now converting it into a new cinema and event space, with 12 flats above. Prices of the flats have not yet been released but buyers can register their interest with estate agents Hamptons and Greene & Co, on 020 3451 1544.
The Maple Building at 39-51 Highgate Road is set among a cluster of former industrial buildings that have a strong architectural presence in the road.
This former furniture factory, later a clothing manufacturers, is being converted into 50 flats with seven penthouses by the Linton Group. One-bedroom flats start at £545,000, with two-bedroom flats at £865,000 and three-bedroom flats at £1,375,000.
The penthouses will be released next month. Visit themaplebuilding.com or call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
The Furlong Collection in College Lane is development of 18 two- and three-bedroom houses from developer Four Quarters which will be ready to move into in November. Ten three-bedroom houses remain and prices start at £1,185,000. Call Hamptons and Greene & Co on 020 3451 1544.
In Leighton Road, the same agents are selling a new-build development of nine two- and three-bedroom flats which will be ready by the end of the year. Four flats remain. Two-bedroom flats start at £895,000 with three-bedroom flats from £1.1 million. Contact number as before.
Housing association Newlon Housing Trust will soon be launching Camden Court, part of Barratt’s Camden Courtyards development. Eighty-two affordable flats will be ready from next spring — 44 for social rent, 21 for intermediate rent and 17 for shared ownership. Call 020 7613 7480.
Winkworth agent Clive Nunes says there are many long-term renters in Kentish Town who have made a positive decision to rent rather than buy. The two French schools have brought many French families to the district, who often rent locally before they buy.
Kentish Town was once a staging post. Now families want to stay, although the cost of trading up from a one- or two-bedroom flat to a house often forces them out of the area.
NW5 covers all of Kentish Town and parts of Chalk Farm and Tufnell Park. Gospel Oak is in NW5 and NW3, the Hampstead postcode.
Winkworth estate agent Clive Nunes says the best roads are often driven by proximity to popular state schools; for example, the roads around Lady Margaret Road are close to the “outstanding” Eleanor Palmer Primary School and the Patshull Road area is in the catchment of The Camden School for Girls comprehensive.
Up and coming
West Kentish Town is generally cheaper than the roads east of Kentish Town Road.
Kentish town station, on the Tube’s Northern line, has Thameslink trains to Farringdon, Blackfriars and St Pancras.
The Overground runs from Kentish Town West and Gospel Oak to Stratford via Highbury & Islington, and Gospel Oak to Barking.
Buses include the C2 to Victoria via Oxford Circus. Kentish Town is in Zone 2. An annual travelcard to Zone 1 is £1,296.
Camden council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for the 2016/2017 year is £1,359.38
Shops and restaurants
Kentish Town Road is the area’s high street although the town centre stretches into Fortess Road and Highgate Road. There is a good mix of high street chains and independent shops, cafés and restaurants.
There are branches of Lidl, Co-op, Greggs, Costa Coffee, Iceland, Subway and McDonald’s. Recently the planners held out against a branch of Starbucks.
Longer-established independent shops include Earth Natural Foods, a very popular organic supermarket; Phoenicia Mediterranean food hall; The Owl Bookshop; Harry’s Fine Food, for meat and fish, and Blustons, a local ladieswear institution with a listed shop front, recently reopened as a clothes shop under new ownership.
New chain eateries include Franco Manca for sourdough pizza and Wahaca for Mexican street food. Beef & Brew steakhouse has an Angela Hartnett-trained chef at the helm.
The Fields Beneath is a coffee shop under Kentish Town West station, named after the title of a history of Kentish Town by local author Gillian Tindall, first published in 1977.
Camden Town Brewery and taproom is next door under the railway arches, although this craft brewer has been acquired by Stella Artois brewery AB InBev.
Where Kentish Town Road merges into Camden Town there is a row of little restaurants with an alternative, studenty feel.
Try Bintang for Pan-Asian food; Arancini Brothers for handmade Italian risotto balls; Zing for Chinese takeaway; Guanabana offers a blend of South American and Caribbean cuisine, and Anima e Cuore, a seemingly modest café, is, locals say, the best Italian restaurant in Kentish Town, if not London.
Kentish Town’s top gastropub is The Bull & Last in Highgate Road. Locals frequently vote for The Pineapple in Leverton Street as their favourite Kentish Town pub.
Soho House has settled in Highgate Road with a trio of its brands: Pizza East, Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger. Patron Cave à Manger in Fortess Road describes itself as a slice of Paris in Kentish Town; there are plans to open a deli nearby.
Queen’s Crescent Market, one of London’s oldest street markets, is held every Thursday and Saturday. There is also a farmers’ market every Saturday in the grounds of William Ellis School in Highgate Road.
Kentish Town is a closely grained urban neighbourhood with little green space. However, Parliament Hill Fields and Hampstead Heath are close by.
Cantelowes Gardens in Camden Road has sports pitches and a skate park. Long-established Kentish Town City Farm is in Cressfield Close off Grafton Road.
Leisure and the arts
O2 Forum is a leading rock music venue in a fine Art Deco building in Highgate Road. Lion and Unicorn Theatre is above the pub of the same name in Gaisford Street.
The Zabludowicz Collection in Prince of Wales Road is a leading modern art gallery with a programme of events. Annroy in Grafton Road is photographer Rankin’s gallery. The Torriano Poets hold regular poetry events at the Torriano Meeting House in Torriano Avenue.
There is swimming in the beautifully restored Victorian baths at Kentish Town Sports Centre in Grafton Road and there is open-air swimming in the listed Parliament Hill Lido in Gordon House Road next to Gospel Oak station.
The arrival of two French schools — Collège Français Bilingue de Londres (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Holmes Road and La Petite École Bilingue (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Vicars Road has brought many French families to the area.
Kentish Town has top-performing state primary schools — they are all rated at least “good” by Ofsted. Those judged “outstanding” are: Eleanor Palmer in Lupton Street; Torriano in Torriano Avenue; Gospel Oak in Mansfield Road, and Holy Trinity and Saint Silas CofE in Hartland Road.
The Camden School for Girls (ages 11 to 18) in Sandall Road, the top-performing local comprehensive, gets an “outstanding” rating. There are three state comprehensive schools in Highgate Road, all judged “good”, and these are Parliament Hill (girls, ages 11 to 18); William Ellis (boys, ages 11 to 18) and La Sainte Union RC (girls, ages 11 to 18). Students from these three schools and nearby Acland Burghley (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Burghley Road, which is currently judged to “require improvement”, share a sixth form called LaSWAP.
Two other local comprehensives are rated “good”: Holloway School (co-ed, ages 11 to 16) in Hilldrop Road and Haverstock (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Haverstock Hill.
There are top-performing private schools in nearby Hampstead and Highgate.