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The Magdala Tavern, NW3

2A South Hill Park
NW3
NW3 2SB

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Reviews (Current Rating Average: of 10) Add Review see review guidelines


Please Note: This review is over a year old.


Tris C left this review about The Magdala Tavern

This pub closed early last September but has been saved with the upper floors converted to residential use. It is owned by the team behind The Stag just down the road and The Mall (W8), both of which despite not being fault-free, are worthwhile operations.

First off, let's clear something thing up once and for all: the chipped tilework to the front was not caused by Ruth Ellis's bullets, but was applied at a later date for effect. Externally the pub is unchanged - the Charrington's stained and banded leaded lights remain and the name 'Tavern' has been reinstated. The once 'compact' beer patio has been decimated to make way for the apartments' entrance. It's now just three wall-mounted wooden slatted benches to sit about 9 as an emergency smokery.

Previously the pub had a two-bar format - retained - and the right-hand CAMRA heritage-listed bar with its wood panelling and alabaster fireplace has survived unmolested. The piano and TV have gone, a muted jazz track played on the stereo. Furniture is a conventional combination of low round tables with round stools, vinyl upholstered, burgundy velour banquettes, a high table with high chairs, and stools to the bar so that bar hogs can block out other drinkers. Paintwork is smokey blue with a white ceiling, the floor is bare boarded. The lighting now employed renders the space painfully gloomy, even in broad daylight. To the rear is a function annex called The Rigsby Room; perhaps it suffers from rising damp? The tiny central bar's only beer engines front onto this bar and above is a new square section tubular steel gantry, which seems to be a pub's fashion accessory de nos jours. A vapist sat in the corner practicing his dark, smelly art which isn't on.

The right- and left-hand bars have a shared but split entrance and at the mid-point both have access to the lavatories. These have been completely reordered and are a vast improvement. They are somewhat Art Deco and a little worn and chipped so must have been reclaimed; perhaps they are original Art Deco?

It is however the left-hand bar that has undergone the most dramatic change. Long stripped of its original décor, this was once a stark white room with a custard coloured wood floor, sturdy pale wood furniture and a coffee table and sofa to the rear and a rather unpleasant open kitchen to the side; no longer. The kitchen has gone and with the addition of a central partition with some etched glass, has been transformed into a kind of snug. The room appears to have been opened up quite a bit and is less formal than before. The floor has been painted pale grey and should wear well. Walls below window height are bare wood panelled, whilst above the picture rail are now clichéd bare brick. To the window wall are spherical opaque lanterns with such low wattage bulbs that this bar is about as dark and gloomy as the other. Tables are round and wooden with what look like old classroom chairs. To the windows are high stools painted pale grey which serve a perimeter beer shelf - under which are charging sockets - which also seems to have been constructed from reclaimed wood. This side of the bar features a new pale green and white tiled bar back - which looks like something from a 1950s' hospital - but there are no pumps. It seems more geared towards serving food and displays breads and cakes (not covered) in the manner of a branch of Gail's or Pain Quotidien. To the side is an office canteen-style glass compartment housing ready made salads and charcuterie. Towards the lavatories is a rather wonderful old Kelvinator.

Just three ales on offer which is a pity: Fuller's London Pride, Gipsy Hill Brewing Company's Beatnik (£2.15 a half) and Hammerton Brewery's N1 (£4.40 a pint). Both were on good form. To the bar's rear wall are twenty chrome taps dispensing who knows what as none is marked. Service was efficient and friendly. Food is served from a basic menu and prices are given in 'units' rather than £s, i.e. 4.5 rather than £4.50 which is pretentious, unoriginal and just plain naff.

I've been coming to this pub for over 40 years and it has changed a lot; it was once a rough builders' pub. In its last incarnation, the pub's best aspect was its great staff. Now though on the down side there are only three ales, and yapping dogs in the main bar - where food is served - lose the place at least two points but on balance vapists, style oddities and stygian lighting aside, it's a big improvement and hopefully its future will be secure.

On 31st August 2015 - rating: 5
[User has posted 996 recommendations about 981 pubs]


Please Note: This review is over a year old.


hondo . left this review about Magdala

Plans to re-open a much-loved and historic pub in South End Green have been announced less than two weeks after it closed its doors.
The Magdala in South Hill Park will re-open under new owners in the New Year, having closed on Sunday, September 7.

On 23rd September 2014 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2719 recommendations about 2662 pubs]


Please Note: This review is over a year old.


John Bonser left this review about Magdala

Opposite Hampstead Heath Station ( North London Overground Line ) is The Magdala – the “Tavern” part of the pub’s name has seemingly been dropped. It’s a pub with two contrasting, interconnecting rooms and which is still probably best known as the pub outside which Ruth Ellis shot her lover in April 1955 and subsequently became the last woman in the UK to be hanged.

The main room on the left is a gastro pub operation with a featureless and bright interior of bare floorboards and long wooden tables and, in one corner, the ubiquitous open kitchen.

The much smaller room on the right is, carpeted, cosy and, by comparison, characterful. It includes half height wood panelling, a small original panelled bar counter and a fine marble surround fireplace. Seating includes some comfortable, upholstered chairs, although the rather garishly coloured fabric on some of the chairs does jar. On the wall in this room, a framed article tells us the story of Ruth Ellis and how she met her fate in July 1955. Apparently, there used to be a plaque outside and some bullet holes ( believed to have been introduced by an enterprising former landlord ), but these seem to have gone. The pub retains the green tinged leaded windows telling us that it used to be a Charringtons house.

The surviving 1930’s interior in the right hand room earns the pub an entry in the CAMRA book of London Heritage Pubs.

On my recent Sunday lunchtime visit, the right hand room had a good customer mix – a few venerable Hampstead locals, several groups of diners ( revealingly, preferring to eat here rather than the larger room ) and a few runners who had been out on Parliament Hill. A silent TV was showing France v Ireland in the Six Nations.

Beers on were Doom Bar, Greene King IPA and, notably, the rarely seen Bays Bitter from Devon which was £ 3.50p and a pleasant pint.

I like the way that this pub has retained two contrasting areas. I’d probably call in again if passing through

On 14th March 2012 - rating: 6
[User has posted 560 recommendations about 560 pubs]


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Malden man left this review about Magdala Tavern

The right hand room on entering is where most drinkers congregate, and has a more "pubby" feel than the bare boarded open area next door where the food servery is located. The bar has wood panelled walls, decent seating at solid square and rectangular tables, although there is one sofa at the end of the room. There is a piano in the room too, and a TV on the wall which was switched off. A rather attractive marble or perhaps alabaster fireplace sits in the middle of the room. The large leaded windows have those stained glass green bands with amber corner inserts that I've noticed in many pubs, I've a feeling it may be an old Charrington's feature.
Three handpumps, Pride, GK IPA and guest Woodforde's Nog. Several beer mats over the bar back suggest a decent rotation policy for the third beer. There are a few board games to borrow stored behind the bar. They also had stocks of London Drinker.
Handy for Hampstead Heath station.

On 17th August 2010 - rating: 6
[User has posted 1687 recommendations about 1663 pubs]


Please Note: This review is over a year old.


Steve C left this review about Magdala Tavern

This place still has a two bar format although the left hand side is more of a restaurant with an open kitchen and diners aplenty. The right hand side is much smaller and it can be hard to find a seat, but it retains a pleasant old boozer feel.

Until last night (Saturday) I hadn’t visited for three years and I have to report that it hasn’t really changed much except that I was surprised to find it to be the quietest pub in the area with only about ten people in the whole establishment. This was fine by me as it was the first time I had been in and had a comfortable pint. The American barman was very friendly and the Hampstead locals in attendance were polite and harmless as ever. There is a plasma screen which was off and there is no sport or music aired in here. There is some outside seating at the side of the pub which is fenced off from the path and road.

There was a very limited standard draught selection available, but there are three hand pumps adorning the bar which were serving up Greene King IPA, Pride and Davenport’s Busy Fool. It is ok in here if a seat can be found in the bar area, but I would probably leave if the only space available was in the restaurant area as it is not very comfortable as one feels one has to whisper.

On a historical note, it was outside this pub where Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman in the country to be hanged, shot and killed her lover David Blakely on Easter Sunday 1955.

On 7th March 2010 - rating: 5
[User has posted 3586 recommendations about 3565 pubs]


Please Note: This review is over a year old.


Rex Rattus left this review about Magdala Tavern

This seemed to me to very much a pub of two halves. It still retains its original two-bar format, hence its inclusion in CAMRA's inventory of London's heritage pubs. The bar on the left has been stripped out and appears to be the sort of minimalist bar that you might find in a Young's pub; the much smaller bar on the right, however, retains its inter-war feel, with dark wood panelling, carpeted floor, and the original bar counter – thus giving it a more traditional pub feel. All the windows seem to still have the original leaded lights round the edges. No prizes for guessing which bar I preferred, and where I spent my visit. The clientele seemed to be polite, well-spoken, probably well-heeled, locals.

The real ales on were GKIPA; London Pride; and Leeds Brewery's Samba, the latter advertised as a fruity summer blonde. I went for the Samba of course, which I found to be pretty lifeless for a blonde, but maybe it usually performs better. Blondes usually do. Anyway, this is a reasonable pub. Not great, and certainly not as good as some other Hampstead pubs, but OK for a swift sojourn.

On 23rd September 2009 - rating: 6
[User has posted 2577 recommendations about 2495 pubs]