PUB SPY: the Flask at Highgate and its Hampstead namesake

PUBLISHED: 10:47 13 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:04 07 September 2010

BY BARRY REYNOLDS I have never seen people queue for a drink the way they do in the Flask in Highgate. It is all very civilised as if they were waiting to use an ATM machine. It may be because there is only one small bar with three people serving and there is little elbow

I have never seen people queue for a drink the way they do in the Flask in Highgate. It is all very civilised as if they were waiting to use an ATM machine.

It may be because there is only one small bar with three people serving and there is little elbow room to force your way to the front, brushing aside the regulars drinkers at the bar, as you do in most bars.

It may also be that the drinkers who frequent this pub on Highgate West Hill are civilised and have been brought up to be polite even when the great thirst is upon them.

On the Sunday when we visited most opted for the beer garden, the temperature racing into the high teens, even though the sun refused to poke out from behind the clouds. The interior can be a bit stifling, with its rabbit warren of rooms giving very little chance for the air to flow freely. It would be bliss in the winter, instantly cosy after a hard trudge through the snow - or the sleet, now that global warming is upon us.

It was early afternoon when we stepped inside so I opted for a glass of the Deuchars IPA, although they had Timothy Taylors Landlord and London Pride on tap, a range of brain-freeze lagers and an extensive wine list. There was also plenty of decent looking food on offer, everything from pork pies (£3.50) to roast beef or chicken (£9.90) and char-grilled halloumi with tabloulleh (7.90). All very tempting but a little too early for my entourage.

Looking around it was easy to see that this is a family-friendly place, with toddlers in every nook and cranny, parents doting on them in between a sip of pinot grigio and a quick bite of a wild boar sausage. Outside, it was mainly the younger set, discussing the relative merits of the latest hedge funds - or was that just my prejudice seeing all that disposable income being invested in Fruli strawberry beer and Suffolk cider?

So, after a quick half, it was to the other side of the Heath to the other Flask, the one in Flask Walk, which was nowhere near as crowded, with much bigger rooms, better air circulation, and room for the punters to sit at the bar.

This is a Young's pub with three or four real ales, the sort of place you would not be embarrassed to take your Camra mates to. In deference to them, I didn't even bother to look at the lagers on tap.

It was an older crowd here, evenly spaced throughout the panelled and wood-floored rooms, talking quietly, some on their own reading papers, getting in a couple of drinks before going home for the Sunday roast.

There are outside tables here, too, but only a couple in Flask Walk, and three on the beer veranda - far too small be called a garden.

While I was busy getting in the beers (and a couple of bottles of Victorian lemonade for the ladies), the hunger came over my companions - not the full-blown, let's have the roast, but a cheese platter just to tide us over.

And a generous portion it was too - a blue, a soft cheese and a sharp Cheddar. If you are in the mood for sharing, the pub (along with more and more pubs around the country) offers sharing platters, an English version of tapas. There is the smoked fish platter, which is self explanatory, and the British platter of Suffolk pork and home hock terrine, black pudding, Shropshire black ham and Lancashire blackstick cheese with piccalilli and bread (£12).

There is no doubt the Highgate Flask is the more hip pub, but I felt most at home in Hampstead, so I stepped up to the bar for the second pint and relaxed.

Highgate Flask,

77 Highgate West Hill,

020-8348 7346.

Hampstead Flask,

14 Flask Walk, Hampstead, 020-7435 4580.


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