Well loved Hampstead local named best pub in London

What a difference a year makes.

After surviving a tussle with developers last year, The Duke of Hamilton pub has dusted itself down and been crowned best pub in the capital.

The Hampstead boozer has cleaned up its interior and its beers to be named pub of the year by Fancy a Pint website’s reviewers - seeing off competition from 12,000 London watering holes.

The treasured village local has transformed itself from spit-and-sawdust pub to a low-key celebrity hang-out and springboard for young singer songwriters.

Pitch up on the right night and Gail Porter could be seen pulling a pint for former 10,000 metre world-record holder and regular David Bedford, as troubadour Ed Sheeran’s dulcet tones fill the pub.

Owner Steve Coxshall, who also runs The Barnsbury pub in Islington, said: “I was quite choked up when I found out about the award. The most important thing was to keep it as a pub and keep it true to what people want it to be.

“It’s a well kept pub with lots of passion and I would like to see the stigma of an old man pub be replaced. It’s for the younger generation as well.”

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But the pub, in New End, has not always been in such rude health or been such a favourite with the Hampstead set.

Former landlord Michael “Woody” Wooderson is alleged to have told multi-award-winning comic Ricky Gervais where to get-off, when he came up to the bar asking for a bowl of chips.

When Mr Coxshall took over the reins at the beginning of the year he found the pipes had allegedly not been cleaned for almost two decades.

He quickly cleaned-up the pub’s act and so far it has featured 48 different beers from across the country to the delight of Hampstead’s real ale enthusiasts.

Hampstead Town Cllr Chris Knight said: “This place was going to be turned into two houses and Hampstead would have lost part of its soul.

“Steve came along and the campaigners were delighted. But no-one knew quite what was going to happen.

“It’s a showcase now - the pub to be at. He has taken great care to keep it something for the community.”

Dean Fetzer, of Fancy a Pint, said: “It was the clear winner. It’s got good beer, atmosphere, the staff are friendly and the locals don’t look at you funny when you walk through the door.

“It’s all about the experience for us. As we say, it’s about going to the pub.”

The Southampton Arms in Highgate Road, Kentish Town, which has already won CAMRA’s best pub in Greater London award, picked up the 2011 visitors’ award.

The Sir Richard Steele in Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, also picked up a reviewer’s award.