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Jun 6, 2008 11:22 AM

Montrealers in Finsbury park area for a month--please help!

We're two chowhounders from montreal coming to London the month of July for research (her)/vacation (me). We have a flat near Finsbury Park. I won't be driving so I would love some recommendations walking distance of the area. Does anyone know the best cheap eats (given that I'll need a regular breakfast/lunch place). Also I'd like to know of some higher end restos for the few nights that we'll splurge. Lastly are there any italian espresso places where I might get my fix without resorting to a chain?
Any help would be appreciated and reciprocated (when you're in Montreal--which every chowhound should visit)!

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  1. For coffee head for Monmouth in Covent Garden or Borough Market, or Flat White or Milk Bar in Soho (all on the web ). I like them better than some of the Italian places - more Aussie/Kiwi but they know their coffee and are pretty passionate.

    1. I've lived in Finsbury Park for a while and I think it's a great place for food. If you go down to Stroud Green Road you'll be spoilt for cheap eateries with food from all around the world. One of the highlights is Jai Krishna, a south Indian vegetarian restaurant. If you consider yourself a committed carnivore, don't be put off by the fact it's vegetarian, everyone I know who's eaten there thinks the food is great. It's probably one of the best places for Indian food in London. It's also cheap, and you can bring our own booze. Just pop into the place across the road called Jacks, they have a wide selection of beer. Another great place to go is Petek, they specialise in Turkish food, really great grills and kebabs. Just off Stroud Green Road, on Tollington Park there's a cafe called Front Room; that's great for breakfast and lunch. As for coffee, Taste of Italy used to be a great place I used to go to a lot. I think it's changed hands now though as it doesn't seem to be what it was, it's probably worth a try though for coffee. There's also a couple of gastropubs up the far end of Stroud Green Road, The Noble and The Old Dairy, which are worth checking out. There's a couple of good pizzerias as well, La Porchetta and Pappagone.

      Depending where you are in Finsbury Park, you can get to some good areas for food reached via a longish walk or short bus ride, such as Stoke Newington, Crouch End or Canonbury. You don't really need a car in London and there's two tube lines at Finsbury Park and you can get into central London in about 15 minutes.

      1. Ah spli beat me to it! Welcome to Finsbury Park -- food options within walking distance depend on which side of the tube station you live on. You’ll be spoiled for choice in any direction. Though if you are a hankering for a great cup of espresso you may finding the choices on offer a bit underwhelming. There are no chains in Finsbury Park, which is a blessing as far as I’m concerned, so you won't be able to resort to them. Others may disagree but it’s hard to find a good coffee (and bread!) in London -- though it’s not impossible as noted in the previous post, you just have to travel to get it.

        Blackstock Road is the high street south/east of the station and home to many Arabic and North African shops and cafes, though the all-male cafés feel intimidating to me. There’s one ‘fancy’ café called Good for Food that offers a decent breakfast and sandwiches in a nice setting -- with a large communal table in the back and tables out in the rear garden.

        You’ll find a variety pubs and restaurants (including Small and Beautiful; PizzaDelique; T-Bird bar) as you travel south on Blackstock Road, which eventually becomes Highbury Park just after the Old Arsenal football stadium. At Highbury Barn, there’s a small parade of shops around the recently refurbished Highbury Barn pub including the cheese shop La Fromagerie, Italian deli Da Mario, legendary butcher Frank Godfrey, and a well-regarded Turkish restaurant Iznik.

        A new [coffee/tea] café opened recently that looks inviting. I don’t know the name but it’s at the corner of Lucerne Road just before Highbury Barn and hope to check it out soon.

        Stroud Green Road is the high street north/west of the train station. The lower end, as you walk from the station, is home to many Afro-Caribbean food shops and halal butchers, as well as Pak’s cosmetic and wig empire (on special this week: 3 wigs for 10 pounds if you’re in the market for synthetic hair).

        On Stroud Green Road itself you find: Petek (Turkish); Los Guadales (Colombian); Pappagone (Pizza / pasta); La Porchetta (Pizza / pasta); Hummingbird (Jamaican / Caribbean); Miso (Japanese/ Chinese / Thai); Dream River Café; Jai Kirshna (Indian vegetarian) plus many others. Taste of Italy recently changed ownership and is called something else I think. The tables outside provide a nice setting, the coffee is fine. You’ll also find the main supermarket, Tesco.

        Other restaurants of note off Stroud Green Road are The Front Room on Tollington Park; Arianne’s Café on the corner of Fontill and Lennox roads -- which is quite nice on a sunny day as they have outdoor seating I front. The Faltering Fullback pub (my local) is a must to visit at least once. It’s on Perth and Ennis Roads.

        At the top end of Stroud Green Road you’ll find The Dairy pub and restaurant and The Noble a fancier gastro-pub plus other small shops and a butcher

        If you continue on up the road, which becomes Crouch Hill, you’ll find the lovely village-like Crouch End on the other side. Crouch end is a neighborhood that almost everyone falls in love with on first sight. Too many places to mention in this post but worth the visit.

        On busy, busy Seven Sisters, just outside the station there a Lidl, the German discount supermarket next to the park and a small Tesco Express convenience store .

        If you’ll be close to the north side of the park, on Green Lanes, you’ll find a small shopping centre, which contains a large Sainsbury supermarket, continuing north on Green Lanes is a main parade of shops and chock-a-block with Cypriot and Turkish restaurants, cafes and shops, including Yaser Halim my favorite fruit and veg with bakery next door and definitely worth a visit.

        To the east of Finsbury Park is another village-y neighborhood Stoke Newington more laid back and bohemian or what passes for it these days than Crouch End. Church Street east of Clissold Park is where you’ll find most of the genteel action. Stoke Newington High Street is a busy through road and home to just about every ethnic group in London.

        8 Replies
        1. re: qnseats

          Thank you so much to qnseats, philD and spli for their advice. We have landed in Finsbury Parc (are on Tollington Parc Rd) ended up in Soho tonight where we had terrible Chinese at New China and excellent coffee at Bar Italia. Have dutifully copied all your advice and plan to explore the neighborhood in the next few days and report back. Does anyone know the new name of "Taste of Italy" or its location?
          Also, though I'd like to resist sounding like a stalker and realize that this is not a meet and greet site I have put my e-mail in my profile for any chowhounders who'd consider meeting up for a bite or a tour of their favorite parts of N. London.

          1. re: daimon4

            Is this New China on Gerrard St in Chinatown? What dishes did you get? I'm been curious because their menu features dishes from Sichuan and Shandong, as well as Cantonese dishes, and often places like that tend to specialize in one cuisine, while providing the rest (typically Cantonese) as a way of satisfying the general populace. So even a bad meal could be useful information -- would be grateful if you can share, thanks!

            1. re: limster

              That's the one. I didn't want to post negative reviews of my first meal in London but was not impressed by New China. Had the veggie spring rolls which were filled with bean sprouts and not much else--the dough was also very thick (like the frozen spring rolls you make at home), basically tasteless. Then had a half peking duck served "mu chu" style (with the hosin, mu chu pancakes, cucumber and scallions). This is one of my favorite dishes and I was very excited about it. Sadly the duck was not duck at all but little pieces of fried (and burnt) duck fat with a meager amount of meat. Strike two.....then my partner went for a cantonese seafood and noodle dish which she described as gross and salty. I tried it and agreed--it did sport a healthy number of fat shrimp and squid though. Did not try any Sechuan dishes but should have. The atmosphere is very nice (though the servers gave a bit of attitude when we didn't order alcohol--jet lag you know). The resto was clean, full of customers and people seemed to be enjoying themselves so perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes. Is there a good place in Chinatown for peking duck???

              1. re: daimon4

                Thanks for the info. A friend had mentioned good things about their Sichuan food, perhaps that's the area of the menu that I'll look into when I try them sometime.

                I haven't really seen an honest to goodness Shandong place yet, so no real tips for the Peking duck. Perhaps other hounds will chime in.

                1. re: limster

                  Its not Chinatown but one of the best Peking ducks is to be found at Min Jiang on High Street Kensington. It's on the top floor of a hotel and overlooks the Kensington Park -- a beautiful spot for a leisurely lunch (albeit expensive).

            2. re: daimon4

              Hi there daimon4. Some friends of ours live in Finsbury Park and I will quiz them tonight for their recommendations when I go over to their house to visit. I'd be happy to show you a bit of London town although I live in the South - my e-mail address is in my profile. :-)

              1. re: daimon4

                I don't know the new name of Taste of Italy, but it's on Stroud Green Road very near the junction with Tollington Park Road. It's next to one of the estate agents (there's two at that junction, on opposite sides of the road), Christopher Charles. You can't miss it.

              2. re: qnseats

                I love this thread and this post! I've already gotten some good response to requests for updates in other threads, but if any of you would like to comment on which of these places are still around and still good, I'm all ears.

              3. If you like Italian our local favourite is Il Bacio on Blackstock Rd (Nr Old Arsenal Stadium end). The two original Il Bacio's are in Stokie. Great service and good honest food, we love one of their starters called Carta Musica. Sunday afternoons are real family affairs and the place get's packed but service is never slow. Agree with all other posts, there are so many options in the area, you'll be spoilt for choice. If you get a nice weekend, catch a 4 or 19 to Highbury Barn and go to the famous La Fromagerie pick up some fresh bread, cheese, ham and some fruit from the fruit and veg store a couple of shops up, some drinks and walk across to Highbury Fields (200metres away) and have a lovely picnic in the park.. beautiful..

                8 Replies
                1. re: Tbar

                  Have just joined Chowhound. I live just off Blackstock road and agree with all the above. My parents live "up North" where there are very few Turkish Restuarants and alsways love going to Yildiz for the mixed grill, although last time dad had "thesticles" which were tasty if a bit chewy. The Imam Byaldi there-aubergines and tomatoes slowly stewed-are delicious. Also recommend Il Bacio especially the sardinian specialties. Happy to show round the area especially if we get a break in the weather!

                  1. re: greeneyesN4

                    thanks to everyone for their recommendations...I see that a month is not going to be enough time to fully explore the culinary treats in the area. One problem being that I keep getting dragged to crap restaurants like tonight when we went to the Gourmet Pizza Company (had the bacon and goats cheese pizza and 3 glasses of Pimms --it's kinda like sweet sangria--I liked it). Lunch at the BFI cafe was ok, roasted pepper and brie sandwich came on stale-ish bread but the fries were fabulous. Must find good eats tomorrow or I will lose all chowhound cred....will be shopping (didn't bring cold weather clothes) on Oxford street--recommendations?

                    1. re: daimon4

                      Head up to Marylebone High Street and have lunch in La Fromagerie, which is just off the main drag, on Moxon Street. While you're there you can buy some great cheese (I particularly recommend a French brie-like number called Coulommiers). Then pop next door to The Ginger Pig for some killer sausages. You could also get fish and chips from The Golden Hind, or sushi from Tomoe on Marylebone Lane (I haven't been but highly recommended on these boards).

                      And for killer pizza you need to come down to my local neighbourhood joint in Brixton (other end of the Victoria Line to you)!

                    2. re: greeneyesN4

                      I went to Yildiz last night, funnily enough, with my friend who lives off the Blackstock Road. I had adana kebab with a tomato and yoghurt sauce - quite good but not up to the standard of my favourite restaurant in the bit of Turkey we visit regularly! My friend says the lamb cutlets or the quail are to die for.

                      She also recommends Il Bacio, a Mexican place called Exquisito, and Au Lac, a Vietnamese restaurant towards Highbury.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        I'd forgotten Au Lac. Often cycle home via Liverpool Road and pop into Viet Garden about 1/2 way up on the L going north. Delicious pho although it sometimes leaks if taking it home as a takeaway.

                        1. re: greeneyesN4

                          word has it that a Vietnamese place is opening in the spot on Stroud Green Road where Symposium used to be.

                          1. re: qnseats

                            I noticed that last time I walked past. Looks like similar branding to a place on Curtain Road off Old Street, so it could be related to that. I haven't been to it so can't vouch for it, I hope it's good though.

                            1. re: spli

                              Many apologies for the very late/long post---just wanted to thank everyone again for their recs. It was fabulous having a sense of the neighborhood as soon as we arrived. I've forgotten many of the restos/meals I had but here are the few I remember...
                              Finsbury Parc area:
                              Front Room --liked the atmosphere and some of the food (good sandwiches and salads), breakfast and coffee were only so so---wait times were long as well

                              Pappagone pizza -- amazingly good Gelato, ok pizza

                              Jai Krishna and Mauritian place -- both closed when we tried to go

                              Petak --loved the food

                              "new" taste of italy -- better coffee than the Front room but not fab--pastries were stale as well

                              Old Dairy -- nice pub, good fry up

                              Little resto on the same side of the street further towards Crouch end (the one with the Godfather photos on the wall)--best fry up I had in London, excellent sausages

                              there was also an excellent Vietnamese place on Blackstock rd.--forget the name

                              London in general
                              Best coffee-- Bar Italia
                              worst coffee-- Monmouth (seriously folks--what the $%^&? too acrid, not hot, only have brown sugar to sweeten (which changes taste completely)
                              Also good--- that place near the seven dials that is a sporting goods store--I only managed the walk upstairs once but it was worth it

                              Best bakery: Baker and Spice in Knightsbrige--most melting, wonderful mozz di buffalo I've ever had--everything was amazing and worth the $$

                              Best terrace: Resto in Regent's Park(name?)

                              Other memorable places:
                              Mother mash
                              east african inspired indian resto in Southhall (madhus ?)
                              dosas in East Ham (right across the tube station)
                              High tea at the Orchard in Cambridge
                              Gastropub near Lemminton Spa
                              JAFFA CAKES!!!!

                              I regret not having spent enough time in Finsbury Parc exploring the neighborhood (never made it to crouch end) but there's always next time...