A Tale of Two Lions

The Old Black Lion on West End Lane was established in 1751. It was a beerhouse not a tavern, meaning it could sell only beer.

The Black Lion on Kilburn High Road is older. It dates back to 1666. (The Red Lion on Kilburn High Road dates back to 1444! Thankfully now it’s called The Westbury).

Both pubs were rebuilt around the start of the 20th century. The Black Lion in 1898 and The Old Black Lion in 1912.

Click for full-size, taken from The Streets of West Hampstead, Camden History Society

When I first moved to Kilburn, the Old Black Lion was a Rat and Carrot. Yes, carrot. The Railway was a Rat & Parrot. The Rat & Carrot chain was fairly short-lived if I recall. It reverted to being the Old Black Lion.

Only a few years ago, the Old Black Lion underwent a transformation from fairly straightforward pub showing sport to The Lion – which always reminded me a bit too much of an All Bar One.

The Black Lion meanwhile became very popular, and I believe its ceiling is actually listed – if you can list a ceiling.

A few months ago, rumours were flying around West Hampstead that The Lion was closing and being sold. I contacted Greene King, the owners, who assured me this was not the case. It was being refurbed and would be all new and shiny and exciting. It took a while for that to actually get started but the refurb is taking place at the moment.

Then today I was followed on Twitter by @TheBlackLionNW6. Its bio clearly says it is in West Hampstead. The Black Lion in Kilburn (also in NW6) tweets – albeit rarely – under @BlackLionLondon (which might have pissed off some of the other Black Lions within the M25).

“Black Lion” search in Google Maps. “B” is Kilburn’s. West Hampstead’s isn’t there yet

This afternoon, The Black Lion (West Hampstead), tweeted a couple of photos of its dinner and lunch menus. They look quite expensive – it’s competition for The Alice House, not The Railway. At the bottom of the menus (very sensibly) is a website address: www.theblacklionnw6.co.uk. Don’t confuse this with The Black Lion’s (Kilburn) website: www.blacklionguesthouse.com.

I visited the website (of the Black Lion West Hampstead). It’s obviously not quite fully fledged yet, but it does have a contact page, giving its address (295 West End Lane) and a handy Google map. Which shows the location of The Black Lion in Kilburn.

West End Lane is suddenly the Kilburn High Road

With a degree of irritation, I pointed this out to the good people at the new (Old) Black Lion who said that that was indeed a mistake and they’d correct it asap. Hurrah.

In the meantime, the pub opens on April 26th. I am prepared to spend a lot of time explaining to people that there are two Black Lions (like there used to be) on two different roads but in the same postcode area. Before the internet this clearly wasn’t a problem as both coexisted for about 250 years. Now, everyone needs a unique identifier and perhaps “NW6” wasn’t the best one to pick. For a start why not go back to The Old Black Lion, or even call it “The New Black Lion”.

I shall leave the last word to Shannon, whose common sense could have saved the day.

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  • Anonymous

    It looks like it is being turned into another expensive half pub/half restaurant like the awful Alice House (where did they get that daft name from?)
    Ah well, the Railway is still a pub and so is The Alliance. Powers Bar is still cheapish and has good live music.

  • Anonymous

    Didn't Greene King buy the (fairly small) pub chain of which Kilburn's North London Tavern is a member? If so, the menu should be seen as comparable to that of the NLT, which I have always liked.

    • Yes, I believe that's correct. I like the NLT as a pub, less convinced by its food offering though.

  • DottyinLondon

    The website design is identical to the Prince Bonaparte on Chepstow Road (on the 328 bus route), which does have nice, albeit somewhat pricey, food.

    The key for me will be whether the service beats the Alice House. If you're going to charge high prices you have to have the service and quality to match, which is where the Alice House falls woefully short in my opinion.

    • Haha – so it does. http://www.theprincebonapartew2.co.uk/.

      I imagine the NLT is the look it's going for. But food will need to be good at those prices – catapulting itself to the very top of West Hampstead's price points for dinner.

  • DottyinLondon

    BTW, I love this:

    "With a degree of irritation, I pointed this out…"

    In sweary capitals! I've never seen @Whampstead in such a strop 🙂

  • Tom

    I hope there's some quantity as well as quality. With a side of chips or mash, many of those mains are pushing £20, and when you eat in a pub you often want a decent portion of grub. I'm hopeful though; if they get it right it could be a real success.

  • Must admit I've been tempted back to The Alliance recently after so many recommendations on Twitter and a local friend dragging me in. The food was delicious, reasonably priced and the service was good. How many gastropubs does West Hampstead need (or sushi bars, for that matter)?

  • To add to the confusion, the credit card receipt for The Black Lion (West Hampstead) is headed "Old Black Lion"