Giles Coren: ‘Hopefully trendy Kentish Town restaurants will push up house prices so I can f***-off to Hampstead’
Celebrated food critic Giles Coren has said the arrival of trendy restaurant group Soho House in Kentish Town could bring about a transformation similar to that in New York’s Meat Packing District.
Kentish Town has been undergoing a Gallic revival thanks to a French school which opened a year ago – and the area’s change of fortunes has been welcomed by Mr Coren, a long-standing resident.
Long known as a hub for creative types, Kentish Town has now become a magnet for wealthy French people who are flocking to the area in droves due to its proximity to the Eurostar terminus at St Pancras station and the Coll�ge Fran�ais Bilingue de Londres (CFBL) in Holmes Road.
But the last year has also seen the arrival of gourmet coffee shops and a trio of trendy Soho House-owned restaurants – Pizza East, Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop – in Highgate Road.
Mr Coren, who has lived in Kentish Town for 18 years and originally moved to the area because he “could not afford to live anywhere else”, welcomed the arrival of Soho House and said: “That’s the really big story here. The same group helped transform the Meatpacking District in New York. Hopefully it will push up house prices to �4million and I can f*** off and live in Hampstead!”
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But he said the changes in the area were not new.
“Kentish Town has been going up a long time,” he said. “There is nothing to spoil. I have always liked it – it’s a diverse, vibrant area.
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“It’s a shame there are chain shops like Pret a Manger and Costa Coffee, but they are better than pound shops and all-night grocers which sell rotten vegetables and survive by selling fags and alcohol to 12-year-olds.
“I would like to see the library and independent shops like Owls Bookshop stay.”
Estate agents also commented on the French effect.
Stefan Benarroch of Oliver’s in Kentish Town Road, said: “Most of the houses are going to French people. This wasn’t the case prior to the school, which has been a big draw.
“More recently, they are coming over because of the new government, which they feel has created an anti-entrepreneurial environment.
“A lot of them are not settling in South Kensington as it’s more expensive. Plus it’s nice around here.”
He estimates that house prices have risen by 8 to 10 per cent but does not believe the area will be completely gentrified.
“It’s always going to be eclectic round here with the mix of council and private homes,” he said. “There will always be media types.
“It’ll always be Guardian-esque around here. But it’ll never be like Belsize Park.”
But not everybody has welcomed the arrival of the French. Residents near the school have complained about the extra traffic.
Kentish Town councillor Jenny Headlam-Wells said: “I receive negative comments from local residents, for example, about thoughtless car parking by school parents who live some way from Kentish Town and deliveries from food suppliers at antisocial hours in the morning.
“Council officers and I are working with the school to remedy or mitigate these effects.”