The historic Magdala Tavern, in Hampstead, has opened its doors once again after seven years of closure, with experienced landlord Dick Morgan at the helm.

Magdala bar
Photographs: Magdala Tavern

Known locally as ‘The Magy’, the much-loved tavern has a long and illustrious history as a local watering hole. Most notably it was here that Ruth Ellis, infamous for being the last woman to be hanged in the UK, shot her boyfriend Desmond Cussen in 1955.

Skipping forward a few years, in 2014, despite protest from the community, the Magdala Tavern was closed and for many years was at risk of re-development. Dick, who also owns the Sussex Arms in Twickenham and the Express Tavern in Kew, was able to take over the lease in 2019, and has been hard at work ever since. He’s brought modern touches to the pub while carefully retaining its historic character.

Opening its doors at 11am each day, and 8am on Sundays, visitors to the Magdala Tavern will be greeted by warm wood panelling, with daylight flooding through the original stained-glass windows. Visitors can grab a cosy corner table, or relax on the plush, red leather sofa seating. Lush green pot plants adorn the windows to bring the outside in, and an open bar and open kitchen space create a buzzy, lively atmosphere. 

The pub begins pouring pints at noon, and beer-lovers can take their pick from a choice list of 20 keg beers including Lost and Grounded’s Keller Pills, Big Smoke’s Cold Spark, and Deya’s Steady Rolling Man, with seven cask beers or ciders as well.

Magdala Big Smoke

A love of the hospitality industry runs in the family. The Cold Spark beer is provided by Dick’s son, James, who owns Big Smoke Brew Co in Esher, Surrey. There are cocktails on offer, made with small-batch spirits such, as Negronis and Bloody Marys, a list of fine wines, and bottles of malt whiskies line the bar for those in search of a dram. 

While enjoying a pint or two in the welcoming atmosphere, guests at the Magdala Tavern can enjoy bar snacks which take their cues from both traditional British dishes and Italian influences, drawing on both head chefs’ — Marco Pitzus and Daniele Cotronei — time in the kitchen at Polpo and Spuntino. Every Sunday, in true British pub style, Daniele and Marco will dish up proper roasts for lunch.

Dick said: “I was born and grew up in Hampstead, and my grandad lived opposite the Magdala Tavern, so re-opening the pub is a real homecoming. We’ve been really careful to add a few modern details while keeping the old pub’s heart alive.

“The most important aspect of any good pub is the community around it — we’re really looking forward to welcoming everyone for a quiet coffee and a read of the papers, a reunion lunch with the whole family, or a few pints at the bar with friends.” 

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