The scene One of London’s most characterful pubs, from the outside it’s easy to believe The Spaniards Inn was first built in 1585, its crumbling white-washed brickwork evoking the history within its walls (the pub sheltered the Spanish ambassador from the plague and has been immortalised in both Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker’s Dracula).

However, on the inside a recent refurbishment lends it all the modern hallmarks of a top-notch north London boozer – warm oak tones, soft lighting, a bulging list of specialty beers. While this might make it a snug spot to hole up in winter, The Spaniards really comes into its own in summer, where the sprawling beer garden (complete with cute bamboo huts) makes long, lager-laden afternoons impossible to resist.

Just a short walk from Hampstead Heath, too, it’s the very model of what you want from idyllic English summertime drinking.      

The grub Seasonal pub grub is the menu’s MO, so it can change daily. My date and I begin with the meat board, piled with Trealy Farm cured meats, ham hock terrine, sausage roll, piccalilli and bread. All satisfyingly rustic stuff, but a shout out has to go to the sausage roll, which is the most skillfully palatable combo of pork and pastry that either of us has ever had the pleasure of tasting.

For the main course, I go with sea bass, chickpeas, chorizo and cuttlefish, a dish thick with flavour – the rich heft of the chorizo and accompanying tomato sauce balanced beautifully by the lighter seafood. My dining partner goes simple with a 28-day dry aged rib eye steak and chips, which is decent but doesn’t quite melt in the mouth.

Resultantly stuffed, I can only manage a bite of the homemade peanut butter ice cream, but it’s so luxuriously indulgent that I vow to come back and give it a fairer run.

Behind the bar There are 18 specialty beers, real ales and ciders on tap, from £4 per pint. Wine from £5.70/ £17 per glass/ bottle.Bill please Starters from £5; mains from £11.50; desserts from £6. 

Verdict A pub unlike any other in London – rare. 

%TNT Magazine% stars 4

Spaniards Road, NW3 7JJ  
Tube | Hampstead