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Oct 21, 2011 06:48 AM

What's good in the Islington neighborhood of London?

If you were a foodie living in Islington, where would you eat day-to-day? In particular, what are good places in the neighborhood for breakfast and dinner?

And if there are any amazing places outside of Islington that one could walk to, please point them out as well!


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  1. Hi Neil,

    Debate has raged on these boards before about Islington. It's no food mecca but neither is it the barren wasteland that some accuse it of being. In no particular order here are some suggestions:

    The Bonnie and Wild: Part-time pop-up in a traditional pie shop on Chapel Market. Only on Friday and Saturday evenings but this is run jointly by a game and seafood company and so the produce is absolutely top class. BYO (£3.50 corkage pp) and highly highly recommended.

    The Delhi Grill: On chapel market this is one of the absolute gems of the area. Indisputably brilliant Indian food from a small menu. Word has spread so it's advisable to book nowadays even during the week but cannot recommend highly enough. They also do roti wraps from a stall outside during the day which are excellent.

    Afghan Kitchen: On Islington Green this place is also quite tough to get into sometimes. Very small menu but the lamb and spinach and chicken and yoghurt dishes are superb. And the bread with afghan chutnies is fantastic too although the chutney is fairly potent.

    Ottolenghi: The original, not cheap and very Islington but definitely one of the standouts. Love Yotam's cookbooks, has to be tried.

    The Draper's Arms: In Barnsbury this is a top top Gastropub. Menu always looks to me to be inspired by St John (although not quite so offally). Lovely venue though, great beers and really very good food.

    The Charles Lamb: I think of this as more of a drinking venue but they do a small menu including a Neal's Yard Cheeseboard. Whenever I've eaten there I've always been very impressed, you can't book for fewer than six though.

    The Island Queen and Marquess Tavern also do very good pub food, the latter particularly as it specialises in massive joints of meat which you can pre-order.

    The Elk in the Woods: Looks like a gastropub but is actually more of a restaurant. Nothing showstopping but very competent and interesting food and conventiently central.

    I really like the three Euphoriam Bakeries (two on Upper Street, one on Chapel Market) for breakfast/lunch.

    Byron does good burgers at its price point.

    The Breakfast Club: easy-access no booking venue which does cheerful breakfasts.

    I've never eaten at Fredericks, the Almeida or Morgan M - they are marketed as high class places but they are quite dear and the menus don't inspire me. You have to go further afield for fine dining I think. My girlfriend was uninspired by the Almeida when she went.

    Walking distance:

    If you live at the same end of Islington that I do (i.e. south-ish) then you have very very easy access to Clerkenwell with all the following restaurants within 15 mins walk of the top of St John Street:

    St John itself

    Hix Oyster Bar and Grill

    North Road (newly-starred Scandanavian restaurant)

    The Well: good gastropub with impeccably-sourced meat and fish.

    Vinoteca: Wine store and bar with great accompanying food and great selection of wine to go with it.

    Smiths of Smithfield (maybe 20 mins walk)

    Even closer (10 mins from Angel) is Exmouth Market where you have Moro and its no-booking tapas offshoot Morito, both come extremely highly recommended (by me!)

    Caravan roasts its own coffee in the basement and is my absolute number one brunch destination in the area.

    A new Meatballs place has opened at the bottom of EM and has had good reviews but I've not been yet.

    Not a short walk but 5 mins by bus then 10 on foot brings you to Spitalfields where you have Galvin La Chapelle and for breakfast: Albion at the Boundary Hotel, St John Bread and Wine, the original Hawksmoor (awesome sunday brunch) and Luxx.

    Buying food:

    Sunday 10-2 is the farmer's market at the west end of Chapel Market, South Downs Venison in particular is superb.

    Highbury Barn has Godfrey's butcher and a branch of La Fromagerie - both awesome. Then Essex Road has Steve Hat who Nigel Slater thinks is the best fishmonger in London.

    The Sampler is a pretty revolutionary wine shop on Upper Street where you can try before you buy.

    Depending on you location you may be in delivery range of Pham Sushi on Whitecross Street - for the price it is excellent although you need to be judicious when ordering (stick to the simple sushi and you won't go wrong, some of the hot stuff is weird).

    Final comment - the reason foodies will sometimes turn their noses up at Islington is the preponderance of chain restaurants and other some quite poor independent places. Despite what it looks like I've not named every good place in the area but I've covered quite a few so one piece of advice is don't really dive in somewhere random on a whim - more likely than not you'll be disappointed.

    Any questions or if you'd like a more detailed review of any of the above just let me know - as you can probably tell I have one or two things to say on the matter!

    South Downs
    South Downs College, College Road, Waterlooville, Hampshire, Portsmouth PO7 8AA, GB

    St Johns Restaurant
    24 Sir Thomas Street, Liverpool L1 6JB, GB

    The Barnsbury
    209 -211 Liverpool Road, London N1 1LX, GB

    The Clerkenwell
    69-73 St. John Street, London EC1M 4AN, GB

    Neal's Yard
    6 Park St, London, England W1K 7, GB

    4 Replies
    1. re: ManInTransit

      Thank you for a lovely list - I don't get to spend much time in Islington, but I 've been fond of it from my first visit; it just has a nice vibe. And the Charles Lamb is simply fantastic. Is Masha the pub dog still there?

      1. re: Kelly

        Oh Kelly I hate to be the one to pass this on but Mascha died I think on the 1st September. There was a mass toast to her at the pub a few Sundays ago.

        I should add for Neil that the Charles lamb is a great great pub. The best in angel if not in London. For the food and drink and overall atmosphere.

      2. re: ManInTransit

        Wow, thanks a ton ManInTransit (and everyone) for the excellent advice!

        I tried The Bonnie and Wild - had a great time, despite kind of mixed (but fun) service, and slightly flawed food. A fun atmosphere, for sure! Will be back...

        Good lunches at The Draper's Arms and The Delhi Grill.

        Had a fantastic dinner at Trullo! But I quite like that kind of thing...

        In sum: thanks a ton for the awesome advice!


        1. re: TheAmazingDrScience

          That's great Neil I'm glad to hear you're eating your way round the best of the neighbourhood!

          Interesting to hear your thoughts on the Bonnie and Wild - I've been once since I wrote the reply above and that experience was really disappointing. An astonishingly good venison dish but everything else very poor and a service incident which was really very bad form.
          You have to expect some haphazard stuff from a temporary restaurant and I still think it's a great addition to the area.

          Do keep us up to date on the rest of your eating.

      3. The Compass for dessert, if they've kept their pastry chef from last year.

        In a pinch Shandis has pretty good fesejen. Not Kateh good, but not bad.

        The chocolate at Paul A Young is ok, but the ice cream is a good deal.

        Is Macondo Cafe still around -- remember enjoying their hot chocolate with cognac. Good cakes too.

        If you're walking towards Farringdon, Bistrot Bruno Loubet is superb. Nearby, the Coach and Horses seems to be benefitting from a new chef - I was very impressed with the food recently.

        North Road wasn't particularly exciting when I went a while ago, would easily take Texture over it. Has anyone been to Portal since the chef change?

        1 Reply
        1. re: limster

          Trullo restaurant is great, I wasn't quite as impressed with the Tapas bar.

          Macondo and it's astonishing cakes has sadly closed.

          Good suggestion from Limster on the Compass - stellar desserts last time I went. The whole Sunday lunch there was very good actually, very generous portions of good beef.

        2. I went to Trullo in Islington the other day - a much lauded neighbourhood Italian. The restaurant was full so we were in the bar area downstairs which has a "small plates" menu. The food was good, but I hate small plates if there are more than two of you. I also found it on the expensive side - £6 for three pieces of pumpkin ravioli! Anyway, my verdict is it's probably worth trying the restaurant.

          I don't spend much time in Islington, but I also like the Draper's Arms.

          In nearby Farringdon, I like Moro and The Coach and Horses, and The Ambassador in Exmouth Market used to be good but it's quite a few years since my last visit.

          1. Second the Afghan Kitchen - unpretentiously good, which is a boon in this part of town. Small, but worries about not getting a table are overstated I think - have been there on Saturday night without booking and had no problem. For the price, doubt you will do better near here.

            1. I'm in the further North bit of Islington, so Highbury is my area. I like Iznik for Turkish, San Danielle del Frulli for Italian, Au Lac for Vietnamese. For late dining that goes beyond doner meat on chips, I like Yildiz - I will add that it doesn't beat some of the food I've gotten on Green Lanes though. I can recommend the Sunday brunch at The Globe cafe - they offer the standard eggs, bacon et al but I go in for the Turkish buffet, which is all you can eat hot and cold mezze with hot specials and soup. And very, very good fresh orange juice. Ahem, it's becomming startlingly obvious that I really like Turkish food. The better of the Thai restaurants in my neighbourhood is Coconut Grove - I won't claim that it;s the best Thai food in London, but it is a cute, reasonably priced local option with tasty food. And with Winter running at us fast, I think I'll be back to the Alwyne Castle pub http://www.thealwynecastleislington.c... for a very good Sunday roast.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ultimatepotato

                Good suggestions there - I liek San Danielle and Il Bacio is incredible value for the food it's serving. Garufa is ok as a steak place in my opinion - I don't know what you think UP? It feels like the way they treat you and the quality of the meat has dipped in the last year or so.

                We used to eat basically every Sunday lunch in the Alwyne, I do feel that dipped a bit too recently - running out of dishes too early etc.

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  Despite living around the corner from Garufa, I've never actually gone in - possibly because every time I've thrown it out as an option, I've been dining with friends with various food restrictions (namely meat and not consuming it). Have heard good things about it before, so sad if it has lost the gloss. With the Alwyne - I still visited over summer, but never really had any food beyond chips. I was hoping that the roasts that kept me going through last winter were still at the same level. Perhaps npw that the weather is turning colder they'll up their game again?