My Hampstead: Philip Matthews

Each month we speak to a local resident or business owner to get their take on the Village; what brought them here and why did they stay? This month: Hampstead through the eyes of Philip Matthews, owner of The Hampstead Butcher & Providore.

How long have you been a resident / business owner in Hampstead?

I moved to Hampstead in 2008 and opened The Hampstead Butcher & Providore in 2010. Our second shop under the same name will open on West End Lane, West Hampstead in November this year.

What brought you to Hampstead?

I have lived in north London for all of my adult life and have been a frequent visitor to Hampstead. As the kids got bigger and left for university and after selling my previous West End restaurant and bar business, we took the opportunity to downsize and move to the area. The appeal of Hampstead is its urban village vibe, community spirit, the Heath and the cafes, pubs and restaurants. Plus, the ease of access to the West End and City makes it a delight.

How well do you know the area?

As an independent business owner it’s crucial that I’m involved with the local business community. Working together on promoting Hampstead as a regular destination for local residents as well as visitors is an ongoing mission and one that is absolutely necessary in an increasingly competitive retail and leisure environment. Through this I get to form relationships with the owners and managers of the businesses as well as other local groups including schools, cultural centres and residents. Running and walking on the Heath in all seasons means knowing the best places to aim for as the occasion demands. There’s community, seclusion, vistas and incredible detail all to be had on this unique open space.

What was the inspiration behind opening The Hampstead Butcher & Providore?

A few weeks after we moved to Hampstead the last remaining butcher, Steels on Flask Walk, closed its doors. I met with Jo Steele and once I understood that his reasons for closing were not to do with his business performance, I decided that Hampstead must have a butcher. I was looking for a new project and after a year of searching for suitable premises I took what was The Rosslyn Deli and created a plan for a “Butcher +” (our fresh meat accounts for half of our business and the cheese, charcuterie, wines, larder and other fine foods make up the rest).

Has it been a success locally?

Now that we’re established and have a great team of staff in all departments the business is delivering what our customers want. The challenge with a business that relies upon the goodwill and trust of our customers is to maintain the high levels of quality and value that have been established whilst constantly keeping the range fresh, seasonal and stimulating.

How do you keep it relevant – are there any local producers you stock?

Our meat comes from suppliers at Smithfield Market and direct from farms in Suffolk, Kent, Sussex as well as other parts of the English countryside. All of our meat is traceable and we are entirely transparent about the provenance. Our cheese and charcuterie by definition comes from UK as well as Spain and Italy. Much of our artisan chocolates and cakes are produced in England. If the quality is right we’ll go outside of the UK. For example, we have rye bread delivered each week by the producer in France. He brings it over himself!

What would be your recommendation for a newcomer to the area to familiarise themselves?

A new business should join the Hampstead NW3 Business Association. It’s a great source of information and benefits. Residents should go to their local pub regularly! Until our local, The Old White Bear, closed earlier this year (should re-open soon), I’d happily wander in for a drink and chat with whoever else was in there. All of the weird and wonderful of Hampstead from all walks of life love to talk and they’re a great bunch.

Where do you like to go that no one else knows?

The observatory at the top of Heath Street is a gem. It opens through the autumn and winter on weekends and is run by enthusiastic volunteers. I love the Sandy Heath too, especially in the autumn when it takes the surreal form of a woodland moonscape.

How do you like to spend a long lazy weekend morning?

If I’m not hitting balls sideways at Muswell Hill Golf Club then I’ll get to the shop and pick up Cumberland sausages, Blythburgh bacon, fresh mushrooms, a freshly baked white bloomer and free-range eggs and make anyone who’s home a classic English breakfast.

Where do you go for:

Brunch? Ginger and White or Coffee Cup. Both offer a perfect any-day brunch to banish a hangover, but in very different settings Lunch? The Horseshoe does a great lunch during the week and a stunning roast on a Sunday (get in there early)! Drinks? Cocktails at Gaucho is a treat but heading down any pub with local mates sustains the soul. Dinner? If I’m not enjoying my butchers’ own goods then we’ll head to any of Jin Kichi, L’Antica Pizzeria or Aubaine. But we also try to break the habit. Last week we had an excellent evening at The Stag on Fleet Road. Highly recommended!

Where do you go to escape?

It’s really easy in Hampstead. Take a walk up to Mount Vernon, sit in any of the places of worship, take a newspaper on to the Heath… It is possible to disappear for a few minutes or a whole day.

Any upcoming festivals that people ‘must’ see?

The Christmas Festival is held along the High Street. We’ll be selling our own sausages and burgers from one of the food stalls and the lights will be switched on at the end of the event. It’s a cracker!

What is your favourite thing about Hampstead in Autumn?

It’s our busiest time of the year. We’re in the middle of game season and local residents and businesses are starting to plan for the party season. We’ll be taking orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas, catering (we provide canapés, cheese boards and charcuterie platters) and gift hampers. It’s just about the best time of year for foodies and the drop in temperature enhances the appetite.

The Hampstead Butcher & Providore
56 Rosslyn Hill
+44 (0)20 7794 9210