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Traditional boozer is back with a bang!

It’s top marks to The Darty – pub that was rescued by locals – for daring to be different

01 March, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

The Dartmouth Arms came back from the brink of extinction. It now serves roasts, stylish burgers and whiskey-marinated chicken

MORE than two dozen pubs vanish every week in Britain. Yet the number of new breweries is at a record high.

This curious paradox will ring a bell with every fan of the traditional boozer.

Pubs are under pressure but the survivors are pouring fabulous pints. The topsy turvy story of The Dartmouth Arms in NW5, known locally as “The Darty”, is a case in point.

This centuries-old hostelry, tucked away near Hampstead Heath, was on the brink of extinction.

New owners Faucet Inn turned the top floors into flats then tried to flog the building.

Locals fought back and registered the pub as an Asset of Community Value, which means the owners were obliged to offer the lease to the community.

For two long years it remained closed with an uncertain future. Then, finally, a new landlord stepped up – Andy Bird, who runs the wonderful Chesham Arms and Nelsons Head in Hackney.

He clearly loves pubs and good beer more than property deals. In less than a year, The Dartmouth Arms was awarded “Pub of the Season” award by the Campaign for Real Ale.

So what’s it like? The new incarnation is a proper, family-and-dog-friendly pub – which is a mighty relief. This is a neighbourhood drenched in high-end gastro pubs, where pricey food is the main draw.

The bar offers more than a dozen beers – some cask, others key-keg – with many from upcoming London breweries. (One Mile End Brewery in Whitechapel is a current favourite).

The décor is warm and dark – preserving the Victorian feel of the place. Pot plants dangle off high shelves, board games teeter above the fireplace and the music is eclectic and never naff.

The new menu focuses on creative burgers – stylishly served with a knife stabbed through the bun.

There are six riffs on the theme, all priced around £10, with names such as Mary Bo Peep and Butternut Squash My Heart.

Don’t bother with the classic beef burger – it’s good but unremarkable. The mushroom burger is a humdinger: a juicy textural mix of garlicky field mushroom, slippery roast pepper and crisp lettuce. A lick of chilli jam adds fiery heat.

Carnivores should choose the tender lamb shoulder, with the crunch of an onion bhaji and cooling notes of mint yoghurt. (The whiskey-marinated chicken is a winner, too – I still dream about that barbecue sauce).

Extras (all £3) include two well-constructed salads and hand-cut chips. We later dug into a large ice-cream sundae (£7) for dessert. Bar service is always excellent; the kitchen can sometimes be a tad slow.

Top marks to The Darty for daring to be different. The food does not compete with the fancy fare served nearby – but that’s a wise move.

There’s a pub quiz on Thursdays and roasts on Sundays, when a pianist called Jan pops in from 5-8pm to tinkle the ivories.

Last word goes to a relieved local: “So pleased someone managed to save it and put it right”.

The Dartmouth Arms
35 York Rise, NW5
020 7267 1605


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