DRINK: The Grafton, NW5

We were SO excited when this place opened. As real locals we’ve watched it turn from a miserable, wasted space with horrible carpets and cold empty corners, into a buzzing little venue that has become our Friday night regular spot. (And several other days besides…)

We love it. Everything has been stripped back, and there’s now a spacious light bar on the ground floor, with huge windows and a variety of tables, pews, chairs and bar stools (some a little ricketier than others!). There’s old–fashioned standing lamps, pictures on the walls and some ingenious decoration in the loos, as well as a piano and an upstairs function room. At the centre of everything, the huge bar curves round on all sides, from behind which there is a great selection of beers and ales, as well as some really well-priced and well-chosen wine – Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio are both excellent at less than £5 for a good-sized glass, as is their most expensive bottle of red (£25) – a rich, velvety Cote du Rhone, amazing value at this price

At the beginning the focus was on drinks, with food slowly being introduced. But the food offering continues to grow, and currently there’s scotch eggs to rival 10The Bull & Last’s (OMG) available every day, roasts on Sundays, small menus mid week and at lunchtimes; and I’ve already blogged about my love for the Street Food they do on Friday nights. There’s alternate quiz and open mic nights on Thursday and pinao singalongs on Sundays, as well as various events at the weekends including clothes exchanges and most recently a Christmas market.

We have loved getting to know this new place, and its new lovely owners, who make every effort to remember you and say hi. Just the thing to make your local feel like a local.