Area Guide: Islington
Just Opened London’s Area Guides cover a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Sian Meades
If there are two things Islington isn’t short of, it’s restaurants and estate agents. We’re rather exasperated by the latter but tickled pink about the former. That being said, the sheer volume of eateries can make choosing where to go for dinner an exhausting process. Here’s our guide to Islington’s finest.
Best for… crab cakes and Creole
Their Louisiana-inspired menu is full of classic Creole dishes that you may not have had the opportunity to try and we really hope that it starts a little something.
Prawn on The Lawn
Prawn on the Lawn made their name a long time ago, thanks to their fishmongers just off the Highbury and Islington roundabout. When fancy chicken joint Le Coq shut its doors they expanded into the larger space to add a seafood bar to their billing.
A glamorous location it may not be, but it’s proving very popular thanks to the seafood platters and fresh as you like small plates. Husband and wife team Rick and Katie Toogood have also got a restaurant in Padstow. If you always head down this way to pay Trullo a visit, stop a few doors down for an oyster or two.
Prawn on the Lawn, 292 – 294 St Paul’s Road, N1 2LL
Best for… Turkish
Angel is certainly not short of a Turkish restaurant or seven, but there’s one that stands out against the masses and that’s Kilis Kitchen. When you’re after cosy and intimate, the front half of the restaurant is bang on; if you’re with a group of friends, the open area at the back is a winner.
They get all the classics right, especially the lamb shish and puffy bread, but it’s the homemade chilli sauce that’s dished out at your table that really makes it. We’re trying to figure out the recipe.
Kilis Kitchen, 4 Theberton Street, N1 0QX
Best for… Georgian
There are two branches of Little Georgia in London, the other is in Bethnal Green. The Islington post is traditional and goes for Soviet-era decor. Food is traditional which means khachapuri – a delicious cheese bread – and chakapuli – a lamb stew made with cherry plums – in abundance.
Little Georgia, 14 Barnsbury Road, N1 0HB
Best for… cocktails
Hoxley and Porter
The top end of Upper Street is a little tattier than the rest, but Hoxley and Porter is worth the walk (visit 69 Colebrooke Row on the way up). This lush art deco cocktail bar is easily missed and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a restaurant if you poked your head in the window but the cocktail bar is at the back, and what a bar it is.
The lengthy cocktail list has a few impressive twists and the playlist consistently has us dancing in our slouchy chair.
Hoxley and Porter, 153 Upper Street, N1 1RA
Best for… meat lovers
Smokehouse opened in the back end of Islington in 2013 and it’s been impressing ever since. They keep things simple, with good meat and strong flavours and if there’s a group of you, there’s the kind of feasting menu that you’ll be dreaming about for months after. Vegetarians are catered for, but this is definitely one for meat lovers.
Smokehouse. 63–69 Canonbury Road, N1 2DG
Best for… vegetarians
Marking the border between Islington and Clerkenwell, The Gate has been dishing up veggie food since before it was trendy – this veg-loving gastropub opened in 1989.
Everything is healthy, fresh and delicious. It’s can also be expensive – restaurant overheads are still the same even if you’re not serving meat – but every plate of food is well thought out and beautifully presented.
The Gate, 370 St. John Street, EC1V 4NN
Best for… a posh cuppa
Bellanger on Islington Green is a bit of a surprise. Part of the Delaunay and Wolseley gang, this grand cafe might look fancy but actually, it’s relaxed and surprisingly affordable. It’s somewhere that’s a good
It’s somewhere that’s a good all-rounder, then, and you’ll you want to take your parents for brunch, or pop in for dinner after you’ve had a long week. We visit solo when we fancy some cake and half an hour with a book.
Bellanger, 9 Islington Green, N1 2XH
Best for… a cheap dinner
There aren’t many places in Angel where you can get a main course for under a tenner but Le Mercury is an Islington institution.
Always packed across every floor, always the same affordable menu, always easy to have a little too much cheap wine. It’s simple French food and won’t be the finest haute cuisine you ever eat, but you’ll leave very full, possibly a little tipsy and not that much poorer.
Le Mercury. 140a Upper Street, N1 1QY
Best for… an al fresco drink
Elk in The Woods
Camden Passage has, for the most part, managed to remain independent and chain free (let’s do our best ignore Foxton’s) and the mix of indie shops, renowned vintage treasure troves and a bunch of antique stalls will keep your wallet busy.
It’s too narrow to be lined with tables so when you see one outside Elk in the Woods, even if you were planning on going elsewhere, grab it. It’s the ideal people watching spot. They have a Danish theme and dinner can pretty heavy going and better suited to winter, but in summer a glass of wine outside is rather lovely indeed.
Elk in the Woods. 37-39 Camden Passage, N1 8EA
Best for… breakfast
We’ll warn you now: there’s going to be a queue. If you want breakfast at Sunday you either arrive before 10am on the weekend, or you go during the week. Otherwise the queue can keep you hungry for the best part of an hour.
It’s worth it though, especially if you can get a spot in the courtyard garden. They serve meat dishes, but it’s the vegetarian food where they excel. Courgette fritters, huge fluffy pancakes and mushrooms on toast will see you right well into the afternoon.
Sunday, 168 Hemingford Road, N1 1DA
Best for… beer
Earl of Essex
All of Islington’s best pubs are out on the fringes of the hubbub. This is what really makes the area so good; just one street over from the main roads roaring with buses and you’re surrounded by beautiful and quiet leafy streets.
That doesn’t mean the pubs are quiet, though. Quite the opposite. The Earl of Essex has 20 craft beers on, and a decent food menu where every dish on the menu is paired with a pint. Beer comes first here. It’s always busy, and it’s always excellent.
Earl of Essex, 25 Danbury Street, N1 8LE
Best for… ice cream
While we’ve never really felt the need to stick a mini macaron in our gelato, we’re very on board with delicious scoops of the cold stuff in imaginative flavours.
The queuing time rises with the temperature, but it’s worth the wait. The muddy green pistachio is spot on, and the sour cherry absolutely sublime. They’ll even scoop it into a rose for you. It won’t make it taste any different, but you’ll get a nice shot on Instagram.
Amorino, 110 Upper Street, N1 1QN
Best for… a fancy treat
It doesn’t matter why you’re going to Ottolenghi. Whether you’re only popping in for a piece of cake from the bakery up front, or you’re coming for a full on dinner with all the bells and whistles, it always feels like a treat. The shakshuka makes it a popular place to visit for brunch, too.
Top notch ingredients, imaginative food and first rate service keep Islington’s fanciest coming back time and time again. Just don’t go while you’re hungover, the queue and hustle through the bakery will be the end of you.
Ottolenghi, 287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ
Best for… seafood
Galley is the new kid on the block, but we’ve never once seen it quiet. Their outside seating is more appealing than the rest of Upper Street and punters are drawn to the huge seafood platters piled high with lobsters, prawns and clams.
They’ve also got an impressive gin menu so you can wash your oysters down with a martini.
Galley, 105-106 Upper Street, N1 1QN
Best for… curry
Islington doesn’t have many curry houses, but the two it does boast – Delhi Grill and Afghan Kitchen – are wonderful and worth crossing London to visit. It’s always a good idea to chance your arm and try to squeeze into Afghan Kitchen, but Delhi Grill on Chapel Market gets absolutely everything right – even the price.
They’re friendly, they make a mean lassi and every single dish you order will be delicious. We’ve yet to have a dud and the menu is long enough to keep you coming back regularly. Trust us on that.
Delhi Grill, 21 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ