Its position at London's highest point above sea level made it an inevitable casualty of the Blitz, and it was rebuilt surprisingly stylishly in the 1960s, in what was intended to be traditional coach-house style but actually, with its white clapboarding and rows of symmetrical windows, looks more like a paddle-steamer deposited by the side of the road by some long- forgotten flood.
Nowadays, Jack Straw's Castle's convenient position at a crossroads on the edge of that former plague pit, Hampstead Heath, makes it a popular refuelling place for weekend walkers.
The interior, or at least the clientele, is rather comical. The first thing that strikes you when you enter is a preponderance of pine: horizontal, vertical, stripped and polished and ready for action. And as your eyes clear, and you take in the attractive window seats and the less attractive view of the North End Road, the glimpses of the airy garden with its rioting children and view of the car park (you get excellent views over the Heath from the upstairs restaurant, apparently, but it's currently closed for refurbishment), you also feel a small twitch of amusement start up inside. For virtually everyone in this place is dressed in London Country gear.
There are few sights that deserve an outbreak of ribaldry more than that of a Londoner dressed for the country, especially when the country involved is a quick turn up Spaniard's Way, down to the Vale of Health and back up the hill for a pint and a cottage pie. That preponderance of corduroy, trouser legs tucked into socks, Goretex boots, waxed jackets and checked scarves could only belong on a city dweller. We've been driving Land Rovers through Kensington for years. It can only be a matter of time before every bimbo in Holland Park sprouts a whippet. Cracking chips, though.
Jack Straw's Castle, North End Way, NW3 (0171-485 8374)Reuse content