The Magdala Tavern is famous for being the pub where, in 1955, Ruth Ellis broke up with her lover – by shooting him.
This didn’t seem to put off the punters, though, and The Magdala continued to do a roaring trade thanks to its legendary status until the mid-2010s, when it was shuttered and almost turned into flats.
Now, after another two years of uncertainty, it’s flung open its doors again and is a great little spot to know about, tucked just off the edge of Hampstead Heath.
The Magy’s new incarnation is a joint venture between Twickenham Green Taverns (who run a couple of independent pubs across the capital) and Big Smoke Brewery. Inside, they’ve lovingly restored the pub to its former glory: wooden floorboards, stained glass windows and the original wooden bar have all been polished up and set off with some simple vintage light fittings and reclaimed furniture.
The dining menu here offers up classic pub fare, taken up a notch or two. If you’re mainly stopping by for drinks, they do a nice line in fancy snacks like tempura soft-shell crab with yuzu guacamole; chorizo & goat’s cheese arancini; and toasted sourdough to dunk into smoked mackerel pâté with caramelised radish. And for mains, you can expect the likes of pie & mash; rib-eye steaks with bone marrow butter; and Cornish mussels with chorizo and white wine – all joined on Sundays by whole lamb shoulder on the bone; roast chicken, beef brisket and veggie wellingtons. It’s also worth knowing that they do an insanely good value breakfast on weekends, with pancakes, eggs Benny and Half Englishes only setting you back a fiver. If you want to spend a little more, though, you can donate through your bill to help them make meals for locals in need.
As you’d expect from a brewery, beer’s at the forefront here: you can get Big Smoke brews on draught, plus another two dozen or so guest keg beers on tap behind the bar. Big Smoke also specialise in small-batch gins, and the wine’s exceptionally good value too – glasses hover around the £4 mark, while Champagne will set you back a princely £5.95.
NOTE: The Magdala Tavern’s open daily, with food served 12-10pm (from 9am weekends). You can just walk in, or book a table on their website HERE.
The Magdala Tavern | 2A South Hill Park, Hampstead, London NW3 2SB
PS: You might spot bullet holes in the custard-coloured tiles covering the front of the pub. These were actually drilled by the landlady in the 90s during a late-night lock-in. Apparently, the real bullets hit every other building except the pub.
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