High Barnet is the best place to live in London, the UK, and maybe the world
Look out for the painted chewing gums
Last week Edgware claimed to be the cultural capital of London. In reality, everyone knows High Barnet is the bigger, better north London rival.
Barnet is the Beyonce Knowles: the queen of the north. Edgware is the Solange Knowles: the lesser, scrappier, irrelevant counterpart that no one really remembers. Edgware is standing in the shadow of its outstanding sibling – High Barnet – and it always will.
Celebs live here
Whether it’s seeing Emma Bunton tucking into some smashed avocado on toast in Boyden’s or bumping into Kimberly Walsh snacking on cashews in Waitrose, celebrities love Barnet. Other local luminaries include Zayn Malik and Cheryl Cole.
The legendary high street
Barnet High Street caters for everyone, though it specialises in card shops and opticians. Everyone has a birthday and everyone has eyes, so this seems like a pretty clever decision by Barnet.
On the Hadley Wood end, you’ve got the Prezzo, Pizza Express, and the Bentley showroom all within 200m of each other; Barnet is upmarket and sophisticated and anyone who says otherwise has clearly never been.
This classiness continues as far as Barnet Church, with the arrival of the town’s newest additions: Carluccio’s and Patisserie Joie de Vie. Indeed, some have gone as far as saying Barnet is the “new Highgate”, as it is packed full of young, yummy mummies mooching in The Present or Starbucks.
On the other hand, at the opposite end of the High Street you’ll probably find a group of QEGS buying Freddos in the blue and green shops or getting a new set of acrylics done in Glamorous Nails.
The diversity of this High Street is undisputed and celebrated unironically by the residents who live there.
The local legends
You know the ones: snake man who carries a snake staff and wears all black leather and sunglasses. Gary – the friendly landlord of The Mitre with his adorable German Shepherd. That guy during the noughties who went up and down the High Street painting chewing gums for a living. If you were lucky he’d take requests.
We’re spoilt for choice with pubs
The Reks is the closest thing you’ll get to a club in High Barnet, and if you want to bump into the rejects from Oceania Watford it’s perfect. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more civilised, then there are more than six pubs all within walking distance from one another: like the Arkley, the Gate, the Black Horse, the Lord Nelson.
Living in Zone 5 has its perks. For example, you can pass out on the night bus coming back from a night out in central and not worry about missing your stop: 9 out of 10 times, the bus driver will wake you up when the bus terminates on the High Street. Plus, you’ll bump into your classmates who you haven’t seen since primary school on the top deck and can offer him some of that Chicken Cottage bucket you picked up on the way home. It’s a nice episode of nostalgia.
The end of the line
If you grew up in Barnet you probably spent your teenage years pre-drinking K Cider you bought from the green shop on the Northern line on your way into central for a night out. Now you’re working, you may complain about the 40 minute commute, but it’s not really that bad. You’re guaranteed to get a seat on the way in, so you can sit smugly behind your Metro watching as increasing numbers of sweaty, claustrophobic commuters squeeze onto the carriage.
The Spires shopping centre has to be the most fascinating social urban experiment ever conceived, and its evolution is a Barnet native’s favourite topic. Shops shut down every week – and new ones open. Remember when it had an Oasis and a Topshop? There was even once talk of a Nando’s opening. Its current iteration includes cultural offerings like a Costa and an Orchid Retreat Spa.
You probably grew up drinking Smirnoff Ice in King George’s playing fields or walking your dog by Jack’s lake. Being on the outskirts of London, High Barnet isn’t short of parks and fields. With the city less than 30 minutes south and the countryside 30 minutes north you basically have the perfect compromise.