The air. That’s one of the first things you notice in Muswell Hill. In the leafy Edwardian terraces of this northerly suburb the air quality is noticeably better than in London’s lowlands. ‘You’ll also find the best views in London up here,’ says long-term resident Chris Ostwald.
Live and learn
Chris runs Crocodile Antiques and The Scullery Cookshop. ‘It’s come a long way,’ he says. ‘When I moved here it was run down, with an arty, alternative side. Now it’s becoming rather chi-chi.’ Indeed, Chris discerns a pattern whereby people move from more exclusive areas like St John’s Wood, gaining change from their equity and a quieter life. Families are attracted to the area because of schools like feted comprehensive Fortismere, whose catchment area, reckons Chris, ‘can cause your house price to lift about 20%’.
Red bricks and mortar
One of the chief joys of Muswell Hill is its red brick Edwardian architecture. ‘Most of the Hill was created by builders James Edmondson and William Jefferies Collins at the turn of the 20th century,’ says Chris. ‘Muswell Hill houses have good proportions,’ he adds. ‘They’re wider than Victorian properties, with details like tiles in the hall and stained glass in windows and doors.’ Connoisseurs flock to Collins’ Rookfield Garden Village, a sub district that ‘has an Arts and Crafts style’.
Hive of activity
Muswell Hill’s main streets, radiating from the roundabout, offer a mix of high street chains and quirkier options like W Martyn’s tea and coffee shop, Walter Purkis’ fishmonger and a cheese shop called Cheeses. And along Avenue Mews are workshops and vintage stores.
Eating and drinking
Muswell Hill is about fun rather than fine dining, with a preponderance of family-oriented places like Carluccio’s, Pizza Express and Giraffe. Weekends see queues for breakfast at Chris’s Crocodile Antiques café, while Friday night brings a line at the Toff’s fish and chip shop. Fasta is a ‘fresh pasta bar’ and the Chriskitch deli is raw, chic and ‘artisanal’. As for drinking, O’Neill’s is known as The Church Pub after its former incarnation.
Within Alexandra Park there’s a boating lake and a Sunday farmers’ market, and the lovely Highgate Wood skirts Muswell Hill’s western edges and has a brilliant café.
‘Muswell Hill is an attractive area to live in with a mix of architecture, but predominately Edwardian properties, and we see many buyers moving here because of the schools and boutique style shops,’ says Andrew Hunt, sales manager at KFH Muswell Hill.