Hurtling through salubrious West Hampstead in my banana yellow Dodge Challenger on a freezing Thursday evening, I swung elegantly into a parking bay, platform shoes gliding across the pavement as I blazed a trail into Bobby Fitzpatrick. Almost… but not quite. Born in the 1980s, I cannot claim to have experienced the true razzmatazz and hedonism of the psychedelic seventies, but the era-themed pizzeria and rum and cocktail bar in West End Lane certainly goes some way in making up for it.
Serving up deep crust American pizzas and an eclectic assortment of rum-based cocktails, the recently opened venue encapsulates the travels of the eponymous gambling and rum-loving “legend” in a retro-style, two-level venue made up to resemble a 70s party house.
The latest opening from Urban Leisure Group, which counts Heist Bank in Paddington and Coin Laundry in Exmouth Market among its portfolio, claims to be a “tongue-in-cheek, fun-spirited addition to West Hampstead” that “takes 1970s aesthetic to the extreme; all furniture and fittings, down to the last sheet of loud patterned brown wallpaper, are authentic in design”.
Brightly-lit, scrabble-style entrance lettering echoes the relaxed vibe, but the signage is unfortunately well-obscured to the non-Hampstead orientated eye by a substantial zebra-striped awning.
Step inside to find photography and paraphernalia from the 70s adorning the walls and bar, which acts as the focal point. Past the speakeasy-style bar on the entrance floor, you will find a quaint kitchenette area mocked into a handy den, ideal for a more intimate catch-up. Adjoining the kitchen is a casual seating area, recreated with throwback velour-upholstered chairs in a true ode to the vintage.
A crackling Ferguson television reminds you of the times, as you descend the short flight of stairs to basement level. Once again, Bobby Fitzpatrick’s rum-orientated cocktail bar is the centrepiece of an area bookended by a dimly-lit dining room featuring potted plants, shrubs and home-style pictures, alongside a more lively – yet reassuringly laid-back – living room.
As part of the sample menu for the press launch, Sharking opted for a signature piña colada (Havana Rum, coconut, lime, pineapple) slushy (housed in novelty Slush Puppie-style vats) to start. The taste was smooth and refreshing, with the usual piña colada sweetness assuaged by the slushed ice. Next up was a Tequila Sunset (Olmeca Altos tequila, lime, pomegranate, orange), delivering a tropical pang to the taste buds with a refreshing citrus aftertaste. What followed was more tequila, this time in the form of “Sexy Ting” that combines Olmeca tequila, lime, ting syrup and a dose of fire for added effect. If you’re not into tequila or rum, you can plump for beer, cider or a large punch to share with your mates, including the Eunice Gin: Beefeater, Aperol, grapefruit, lime, pomegranate and soda. Meanwhile, disco lights illuminate the bar area and waiters frenetically serve up slices of hot pizza, garlic doughballs and chicken nuggets to sate guests’ boozy palettes. The classic cheese and tomato and pepperoni oozes cheese and delivers a crispy crust, while the tandoori chicken and lamb donor varieties are a real hit with customers, said one of the waiters.
Kicking back in the living room, Sharking gawped at another old school television – this time a Rediffusion micro commander TV that sits inoffensively in the corner atop an old wooden cabinet – and chuckled at the kitsch wallpaper as we contemplated whether the Pretenders would make another comeback. All of this was another reminder that you would be as comfortable sipping a cup of tea in the genial surroundings of your nan’s living room, as you would be knocking back cocktails in a blaze of nostalgic glory.
Bobby Fitzpatrick is ideal for a few midweek tipples with the better half or a jovial shindig with pals at the weekend. The food, while basic, is enough to keep you interested and a good accompaniment to a drinks and cocktail menu that is nicely experimental. If you’re keen to throwback a few rums – and the years – this joint is worth a visit.
Contact: Bobby Fitzpatrick – 273 West End Ln, London NW6 1QS. Ph. 020 7433 1989. Website.