The Wells, 30 Well Walk, NW3

A walk around Hampstead Heath should always be well-timed so that you can end it with lunch in one of the great pubs that sit on the perimeter. The Wells is one such pub that is just south of the expansive heath. It can be pretty easy to lose your bearings once you are surrounded by greenery, so it was touch and go as to whether we would find this pub having entered the heath from the west side, but we managed it in the end, with a little help from an iPhone.

We arrived at 2.45pm on a Sunday without a reservation and I think we were lucky to be seated within 10 minutes. The pub was full to the brim of diners ranging from families and couples to groups of friends. Being a Sunday, there were papers scattered on windowsills for diners to browse. A few tables had opted for chess or scrabble instead. All this gave the pub a homely feel and gently coaxed visitors into having a long lunch.

The Sunday menu had two roasts, chicken and beef, alongside dishes such as seabass with fennel puree or confit duck leg. We ordered a burger, and were pleased to be asked how this should be cooked – something that all too often is overlooked – scallops with pea puree, bacon and red wine sauce and spiced butternut squash soup.

What did stand out on the menu were some quite punchy prices. Tuna with avocado and coriander salad doesn’t sound too extravagant, but was priced at £18.95. Similarly, a halibut dish was £22.50. There were also plenty of options around the more manageable £10 to £15 mark, so be wary if you’re watching the budget.

The burger was cooked as requested, it was clearly freshly made and accompanied by slaw, also homemade. The red wine sauce with the scallops made the dish a little more interesting and worked really well with the minty puree and perfectly cooked scallops. The soup was also very good, a nice amount of spice that, again, made it a more interesting version of a classic.

All this said, The Wells hit the spot with us hungry walkers and we would certainly return on another day, if we are able to successfully navigate towards it a second time. One nice touch was that dogs were very welcome, to the extent that they even had dog food at the bottom of the menu (very clearly labeled as such to avoid confusion).

scallops