Heads + Tales in West Hampstead: Easy and complex cocktails for the best of both worlds
Early and late, light and dark, beginning and end: to accompany the great multitude of contrasts with which life is filled, Heads + Tails provides apt drinks to match distinct moods – and two distinct spaces for them. A stone’s throw from West Hampstead’s underground station, the bar is local and stylish at the same time, offering two completely different experiences which can be combined or picked separately at the visitor’s leisure. It’s the brainchild of two industry experts, Will Partridge (of Wax Jambu, Kilburn Ironworks) and Chris Dennis (Sovereign Loss, Disrepute)
Heads is the bright spot located on the ground floor. Pastel palettes make up the decorations and the cocktails on offer are mostly based on clear spirits. Among the aperitifs, there are lots of classics with a twist, like Negroni Sbagliato and West End Spritz, both for the bargain price of five pounds each. Apple Spritz is a refreshing drink to start the evening with. Sweet from the Belsazar Rose vermouth and bubbly from the prosecco, the concoction is not overly dominated by the fruity cordial.
The cocktails, taking inspiration from literature and music repertoires, are stripped of convoluted presentations to focus on the pleasing mixing of their elements, served up with interesting moves-in-the-making by the bartenders. For the syrupy types, Letters to Theo is a very fitting option. The strawberry taste – nicely blending with the Absintheroux, recalling Van Gogh’s drink while writing to his brother Theo – is predominant, balanced with just a squeeze of lemon. Smoke on the Water goes on the opposite direction, with herbal notes and a strong cooling aftertaste from the lime and watermelon.
The best backdrop to enjoy the bright atmosphere of Heads is the green backyard garden. There are also some nibbles on the menu to complement the concoctions. We try the crunchy, though rather salty, lotus and beetroot crisps, the pretty spicy Cajun okra and the colourful Charcoal Tacos. They are appetising bites, based on small-plate concepts, yet none of them properly meet the expectations set by the drinks – but to be fair, the bar doesn’t pride itself on its food.
Going underground, there is Tails. Soft light, louder music, solid wood bar: the space has the distinct feeling of a more dedicated hideout. The atmosphere changes together with the offer, where the cocktails of the house are now based on whiskeys – the dark spirits, precisely. Among the highly interesting drinks available, we decided to go for the Sunset Boulevardier. One ingredient of this concoction is shared by our choice from Heads, but the creativity and the masterly expertise of the bartenders prove how the same element plays a completely different role and successfully brings together dissimilar palates.
The strawberry is indeed nothing less than a hint – in contrast with the sugary injection we expect – leaving extra space for the full-bodied malty character of the Wild Turkey 101, combined with barrel-aged Campari. The stamped ice makes for a classy finishing touch.
Whether you are looking for a casual bar with friendly vibes or for an after-dinner venue with a more sophisticated tone, Heads + Tails offers the best of both worlds.
★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina and Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Heads + Tales, 175 West End Lane London NW6 2LH, call 07926 968 335 or visit their website here.