Every now and then, you want to go out for a good Sunday lunch. There's something so good about going out for Sunday lunch - having a nice meal, reading the paper and so on, with perhaps a nice stroll afterwards. But the food has to be good. A crap Sunday roast is not satisfying nor pleasing.
Today on a whim we decided to head for somewhere where a good Sunday lunch would be almost guaranteed. Today we headed for the poshness of Hampstead. Our bible on the pub tour, Ted Bruning's London By Pub.
London by Pub is a book of pub walks around London. If by walk you mean as a way of getting from one great pub to another. The walking is mostly, to be honest, a needs to an end.
The Freemason's Arms
Not wanting to take in all eight pubs the book suggests in Hampstead, we made a choice to try and have lunch at pub 5 - The Freemason's Arms. The book promised us railway-compartment bars, elaborately glazed partitions and a London skittle alley.
Unfortunately the book is now out of date when it comes to this pub. It's been 'tarted' up since, and I didn't spot any partitions and the overall look and feel didn't suggest that skittles were encouraged (although by all accounts, skittles do get played there a lot).
To be honest, we didn't get beyond the main bar. Whilst two handpulls were present, neither the London Pride or Landlord were actually on and the place was pretty busy and full of kids. We headed elsewhere.
The Freemason's Arms, 32 Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London NW3
Elsewhere was pub 6, Magdala - not an exactly attractive pub on the outside but rather pleasant inside, and some pleasant, simple stained glass windows. It also had an interesting sounding menu, so it was the place we chose to dine.
My beef was, to be frank, lovely. A good quality piece of meat, cooked wonderfully, served with lovely thick gravy (far too many places serve weedy, thin, weak gravy - this isn't one of them) and of course roast potatoes and vegetables. Catherine's aubergine and sun-tried tomato pasta however didn't fare as well, being a bit gloopy.
It was all washed down with some pints of Fuller's London Pride (Greene King's Abbot Ale and IPA also being available) whilst we read the Sunday papers.
Magdala, 2A South Hill Park, Hampstead, London NW3
Having had our fill of beer, a stroll was in order to Hampstead Heath - conveniently located near our lunch spot. We wandered around for some time, past the bathing ponds and thirty-something couples complete with dogs, until we found the cafe, purchased a cup of tea and sat down to listen to the Crystal Palace Brass Band who were playing in the bandstand.
Now I do like a brass band in the outdoors, and if you ever do happen to be up north during the brass band competitions, there really is no finer way to spend an afternoon - ale and brass bands. It really works.
The band finished around five and we headed on, slowly past more dogs and couples, towards Hampstead tube, before diverting off to pub 2, the Duke of Hamilton.
The Duke of Hamilton
Although declaring itself to be a free house, this is a Fullers zone, with Pride and ESB on tap, along with Fullers' new blonde ale, Discovery and interestingly Weston's Old Rosie cider on handpull.
Above the bar were some interesting glass panels and Apparently Oliver Read was once a regular here. It was friendly and pleasant, and we rounded off the afternoon with a drink on the benches outside.
23 New End, Hampstead, London NW3
Having had our lunch, beer and stroll it was time to head back to the tube, for the delights of sitting underground for an hour. Still, a nice afternoon has to have some drawbacks!