My next Taverns in Town foray took me to some of London’s affluent northern suburbs. It is a steep climb up the hill from Highgate tube station into the village: A very thirst inducing journey, even on a bitter cold winter day. So it’s fortunate that Highgate has some excellent pubs on offer.
In 1973 Taverns in Town chose The Flask from a choice of many pubs to be discovered in the village:
“Today the Flask is an attractive village pub on the outskirts of north London, extremely popular and rarely uncrowded. Its façade is beautifully proportioned from an architectural point of view, a perfect example of an eighteenth century tavern; its interior likewise leaves little to be desired in a physical way, and has been well preserved. The building has necessarily undergone a succession of minor alterations; but essentially it is the same Flask as it was in 1767.”
Further research suggests that a pub has been on this site since the early 17th century and possibly earlier. The oldest part of the building is the stable block which dates from the mid 17th century, while the main part of the building was built, as Taverns in Town suggests in around 1767. The name of the pub is related to the natural spring water from Hampstead Heath being sold in flasks to weary travellers. Indeed there is another pub of the same name in Hampstead itself.
The book goes on to talk about some of the famous visitors over the years, most notably William Hogarth the artist famous for his engravings of Gin Lane and Beer Street. As an old coaching tavern there are links to Dick Turpin, the legendary highwayman, who is said to have evaded justice in the pub cellars.
There is also a paragraph on the Highgate tradition of ‘swearing on the horns’. This basically involved swearing an oath confirming one’s dedication to merriment and debauchery and kissing a set of horns. That’s the kind of dedication I could make, but alas I was not offered the chance while I was there.
On my visit the pub was packed with diners enjoying their Christmas holidays in the warren of little rooms, passages and nooks, with open fires roaring. This made it rather difficult to get a decent interior photo, so these are borrowed from the pub’s website. There was no sign of the pub ghost on this visit, but further reading suggests that she can be quite cantankerous. The clientele of this world is what you might expect of one of London’s most affluent suburbs and the prices for beer and food were in alignment too. These days this is a Fuller’s pub and stocks their standard range. A welcome addition is two local guest ales, which on this occasion were from Signature Brew and Clarence & Fredericks.
This is a really nice pub, but perhaps one to come to for a meal, rather than just to drink. If you are in Highgate, be sure to pop in. This is a worthy diversion from The Bull or The Duke’s Head.