Some pubs in London have fallen into the trap of becoming generic, empty, soulless gastros, with no pizzazz or excitement. This is certainly not the case with Betsy Smith, a surreal new boozer that invites you to explore its unusual interior with a child-like imagination.
You will find the mystic wonder of Betsy Smith just a five-minute-walk from Kilburn High Road tube. From the outside it looks like a normal pub, but as soon as you enter, you’ll find a vintage treasure trove of treats. Above the main entrance there are a few flamingos suspended upside down from the ceiling, as is a light fixture with a topsy turvy chair attached to it.
The main area looks like any ordinary bar, but venture to the back because this is where the true magic happens. The back is split into a few sections including a rickety mezzanine space, a cavernous cove and banquettes to the sides. But the devil is in the detail: on the backs of the very comfy chairs are an assortment of animals dressed up as people, for example a rather serious badger dressed up in a suit. At the back, bird cages are suspended from the ceiling and these act as light features. The wallpaper in the mezzanine is scratch and sniff. Yes, really. In the ladies bathroom there is an initially confusing mirror, which is actually a fairground mirror that makes you look funny and wonky, and it’s these little weird and wonderful eccentricities that help make this bar so special.
As the Betsy Smith has to compete with other bars in the area, it hosts music nights on Fridays and Saturdays and is open until an impressive 3am. These nights consist of an interesting blend of soul, funk, classics and mash-ups. Understandably, this means it can get quite busy. However, visit during the week or early evenings and it is quite chilled and low-key. It is also worth noting that there's a dedicated table service in place to fuel the vibe.
When it comes to the menu, the Betsy Smith has one special offering: pizza. Having their own pizza oven on site means that the pizzas are fresh and taste fantastic. Ranging from £7-£9, they are huge and a represent a great deal. The base is thin and crispy with loads of melted cheese and chunky toppings. They don’t scrimp on ingredients and it may be advisable to share one, as it is quite difficult to get through one on your own. There are also a few main dishes you can try if pizza isn’t your thing. The Betsy Burger (£9.50), for instance, is a thick beef patty, a large piece of bacon and gloriously melted cheese. Served with a massive portion of chunky chips and a side salad, it is mighty and satisfying choice.
There’s no messing about with the drinks here; it’s all about the cocktails. The menu has five fantastic pages of fruity delights, ranging from £6.80-£8.50, so you are completely spoiled for choice. Their most inventive cocktails are detailed under the Tea Tails section. These are £12 and your drink comes in a white china teapot with flowery, dainty tea cups to drink them out of. It feels like you’re having an adult tea-party and it is great fun.
Even though cocktails are a big selling point, there's no need for beer drinkers to fret as there are a few on tap such as Sagres and Staropramen for about £3.75 a pint.
The Last Word
The Betsy Smith is a fantastical place, where you can act like a child again and immerse yourself in a surreal adult playground. Let the fun commence.