Ladies and Gentlemen in Kentish Town
You may not think of Kentish Town as a hub of London nightlife, and you’d be perfectly correct in that assumption. However, it does have at least one delightful watering hole offering some of the better cocktails likely to be found this side of Soho, and it’s situated, somewhat unexpectedly, in a former public toilet. Its off-piste location has meant it frequently makes a splash in lists of weird and wonderful bars in London, including The Upcoming’s own.
This reviewer has somehow walked past Ladies and Gentlemen a few dozen times without ever registering that it was there, although there is a fairly prominent cinema-style sign at the very bottom of the Highgate Road, announcing its presence at the very base of a gloomy flight of stairs. Having expected a fair amount of toilet-related gimmickry, the bar itself is a pleasantly subtle surprise. There are hints of its former life in the tiles that remain on the floor and behind the bar, the shelving constructed out of old piping, and the bits and bobs of plumbing on the walls. Nonetheless, they’ve managed to resist the temptation to strain the theme, which, we can all agree, is a relief.
The cocktails are really very good, and carefully considered to appeal to all levels of drink lover.. That mezcal makes a smoky, savoury appearance in She’s on Fire, where it’s paired with a house aperitif blend alongside lemon, agave and sage. Our number one favourite was the Grand Duchy, a really unusual but not inaccessible blend of vodka, sherry, pear cognac and earl grey distillate.
The hardcore cocktail lover will zero in on the Dirty Martinez, a boozy, complex twist on a classic with Irish potcheen, Antica Formula, white port, overproof rum, maraschino liqueur and bitters. And if you’re not that into your liquor, we can recommend the Never Never Land, a fresh, not overly sweet concoction of gin, sloe gin, blackberry, fig, lemon and soda. The cocktail menu changes up on a regular basis to incorporate new ideas and seasonal produce, so get these while you can.
What Ladies and Gentlemen does incredibly well is spirits; behind the bar you can find the owner Willy Borrell’s Polish Vestal Vodka, as well as the bar’s own Highwayman Gin, which is distilled on site and named for Claude Du Vall, the notoriously dashing gentleman-bandit who haunted this Kentish Town crossroads in the mid-1600s. The emphasis is on enjoying spirits for their own sake, and there’s a rather inventive list of recommended boilermakers to promote this – cider and mezcal are a standout pairing. The venue also runs gin workshops where you can sample classic gin cocktails and create your own gin to take home.
All in all, we can urgently recommend a trip to Ladies and Gentlemen, whether you’re a convenient nearby North London local or coming from a bit further afield. It’s a gem of a neighbourhood bar and it deserves to be flushed with success.
★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Ladies and Gentlemen, 2 Highgate Road London NW5 1NR, visit here.