Angel delight: eating and drinking in London's Islington

By Lucy Dodsworth, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on London.

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London's Islington has a huge range of places to eat and drink to suit all tastes and budgets. Here are a few of my favourites, whether it's for a celebratory dinner, cocktails or just coffee and cake

Just a short distance from central London, the area of Islington may not be that well known to visitors, but it's home to an amazing selection of bars and restaurants. Centred around Upper Street, which stretches north of Angel Tube station, there is something to suit all tastes, budgets and occasions. So if you're visiting London, why not get away from the usual tourist areas and try out one of these, or come and see what other delights you can uncover.

Eating

For a special occasion...

If you're out to impress but on a budget, try Le Mercury (140A Upper Street, London N1 1QY; 020 7354 4088; www.lemercury.co.uk). Set over three floors, it's perfect for a romantic dinner, with a cosy open fire and candlelight. They serve classic French bistro dishes – from moules marinière to slow roasted pork belly and crème brûlée. And it has the bonus of being much less expensive than you'd think. Starters all cost £3.95, mains £7.95 and desserts £2.95, with a choice of about eight of each on the menu at a time. It's also very close to the Almeida Theatre so you could combine dinner with a performance.

Nestled among the antique shops and stalls along Camden Passage is 40-year-old Islington veteran, Frederick's (Camden Passage, London N1 8EG; 020 7359 2888; www.fredericks.co.uk). It has an old-style classy atmosphere, with attentive service and a spacious, bright dining room with a vaulted glass roof. There's also a pretty walled garden tucked away, where you can eat in the summer. Their food is described as 'modern European' with dishes like pan-fried duck and rabbit and herb gnocchi. Mains range from £14-£24 but they also do a good value set lunch or pre-theatre menu (£17 for three courses). There's also a huge wine list (200 at last count), and they run monthly wine tasting evenings.

For everyday eating...

It's hard to walk past Ottolenghi (287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ; 020 7288 1454; www.ottolenghi.co.uk) without being tempted in by the delicious cakes and meringues piled up in the windows. Owned by chef Yotam Ottolenghi – developing celebrity status with his cookbooks and Guardian newspaper column – it's part of a small chain with four London branches. The menu changes daily but the focus is on Mediterranean food with colourful salads and meze plates for sharing – like ricotta-stuffed courgette flowers or grilled aubergine with pomegranate (around £8 each). You can grab a takeaway or eat in at one of the big communal tables. Their weekend brunch is especially popular, so get there early to avoid the queues.

S&M (4-6 Essex Road, London N1 8LN; 020 7359 5361; www.sandmcafe.co.uk) – aka 'Sausage and Mash', rather than anything more racy! – is the place to go for some 'great British grub'. It's a retro-style cafe which featured in the film Quadrophenia, and still feels like stepping into a film set. Take a seat in one of the booths and tuck into classic British dishes like toad in the hole, shepherd's pie and of course sausage and mash. Their tasty sausages are made by a local London company, and you can choose from a range including pork with chorizo and chilli, lamb and mint, or veggie mushroom and tarragon. Prices around £8.50 for sausage, mash and gravy – and leave room for a spotted dick or crumble of the day.

Euphorium Bakery (79 and 202 Upper Street, 26a Chapel Market, London N1; www.euphoriumbakery.com) bake a fantastic loaf, with daily specialities ranging from blue cheese and pesto to raisin and cinnamon. They also do a wide range of cakes, with the carrot cake and apple tart especially recommended. There are three branches around Angel, but my favourite is on Chapel Market, where you can sit outside and watch the hustle and bustle of the market stalls, selling everything from fruit and veg to beds! (open Tuesday-Sunday).

Drinking

For Saturday nights out...

Public House (54 Islington Park Street, London N1 1PX; 020 7359 6070; www.boutiquepubs.com) is hidden away down a side street off busy Upper Street, so tends to be a bit quieter. Inside the style is shabby chic, with mismatched antique furniture, gilt mirrors and moody lighting. The bar staff are laid back and friendly and they sometimes have a pianist playing. They don't serve big-name branded drinks but instead have some unusual cocktails – try the mulled cider on a cold winter's day – and an interesting wine list which might tempt you to try something different. It's not cheap (cocktails from £7.95), but is a great spot for a date or drinks with the girls.

If you're after more of a big night out then try Keston Lodge (131 Upper Street, London, N1 1QP; 020 7354 9535; www.kestonlodge.com). Doors across the building's front open up onto the street in the summer or you can huddle up in the leather booths in winter. It's a buzzy place with a friendly atmosphere and mixed crowd. The knowledgeable bar staff mix a good range of cocktails, from the classics to some new inventions like their own Keston Spy (blackcurrant and lemon vodkas, cloudy apple juice and bitters). DJs play until late on weekends, with a “no house, no techno, no Girls Aloud” music philosophy!

For lazy Sunday afternoons...

To help you recover from the night before, The Compass (58 Penton Street, London N1 9PZ; 020 7837 3891; http://thecompassn1.co.uk) is tucked away at the end of Chapel Market, so you've got a better chance of finding that elusive Sunday lunch table. It's a light and airy place with a few tables outside and an open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work. They do a great choice of Sunday roasts – importantly all served with Yorkshire puddings! – using high-quality ingredients, and also have a fantastic cheeseboard.

The nearby Angelic (57 Liverpool Road, London N1 0RJ; 020 7278 8433; www.theangelic.co.uk) is a bit more well-known so you'll need to get in early to claim a prime spot on one of the leather sofas. They usually have the Sunday papers so you can settle in for the day. As well as offering another good Sunday roast, they do a range of tapas-style mini plates to pick at. And if you're feeling up to it then they have a few real ales on tap and a extensive wine list, otherwise there are some freshly squeezed juices to help you detox.

For something different...

The Sampler (266 Upper Street, London N1 2UQ; 020 7226 9500; www.thesampler.co.uk) is more a wine shop than a bar but their tasting machines make it a great place to try something new and get you out of a wine rut! You load up a prepaid card and then put it into a machine to get a sample of whichever wine you fancy. There are usually about 30 different wines available to taste at a time, at all price ranges. Tastes vary from about 75p up to £10 for something world-class, and all the wines are for sale if you find something that takes your fancy.

Sleeping

Most conveniently located for the area's bars and restaurants is the Hilton London Islington (53 Upper Street, London N1 0UY). It's a modern building attached to the Business Design exhibition centre, so is popular with conference-goers. You get the usual Hilton facilities with clean modern rooms from £109. It's very well located, being right on Upper Street, though is set back enough to not be too noisy, and only five minutes' walk from the Tube station.

A bit further away but with a bit more character is The Luxury Inn (154-156 Tottenham Road, London N1 4DY). This B&B is about 15 minutes walk to Angel, in a stylish architect-designed building whose high ceilings and skylights give it a bright, open feel. The bedrooms share a lounge and kitchen where you get a self-service breakfast in the morning, and the owner is full of information about the area. Doubles from £75.

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More information on Angel delight: eating and drinking in London's Islington:

Author:
Lucy Dodsworth
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.25
Average: 4.3 (4 votes)
Total views:
237
First uploaded:
19 October 2010
Last updated:
4 years 23 weeks 2 days 11 hours 8 min 17 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Food and Drink, Nightlife, Short Break
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
food, wine, drink

Lucy recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Hilton London Islington
N/A
2. The Luxury Inn
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Community comments (8)

Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Another brilliant London guide from Lucy. As a London local, I know that her recommendations are sound and I love the way she takes a little pocket of London (as she did with her fantastic Bloomsbury guide) and thoroughly opens it up for it up for visitors to enjoy.

I didn't think there was anything she could tell me about eating in Islington that I didn't already know (I work nearby and food is my passion), but I had never heard of Le Mercury. I am very keen to try it!

Ottolenghi is a must, Fredericks is lovely in the summer, Keston Lodge is great for drinks (although last time I went it smelt like nappies, hopefully they have sorted that out now!), and the sampler is lots of fun.

I would add to the list The Drapers Arms, a great gastropub with a lovely courtyard to spend a sunny Sunday (or curl up by the fire in winter); Almeida, French cuisine also near the Almeida theatre; Trullo, very reasonably priced Italian cuisine from one of Jamie Oliver's proteges (rave reviews mean you need to book well in advance); Regina Margherita for more trattoria style Italian food, including awesome pizza al metro (pizza by the metre); and Isarn, very reasonably priced Thai from Alan Yau's sister.

It's true, there are plenty of reasons to visit Islington with an empty belly!

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Thanks Victoria, both for the lovely comments and also for the extra suggestions - there's a few I've not tried there so that'll keep me busy (and full) for the next couple of months!

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Lucy, you should be so fat! Or do you just take photos of other peoples platefuls? Anyway, I like the guide as an add on to all the London stuff and I don't know Islington at all but would be prepared to have a "sample" or 2 (great idea!) next time I'm Camden way

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Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Lucy

Your guide does exactly what your title says it will, it does not neeed to do anything more, so I have no problem with that. This is an area of London I know pretty well, having spent a good part of my working life there and distilling its best pubs and restaurants into a feature isn't easy, so well done.

I recommend Le Mercury, the food is good value and delicious, but I have yet to try the Sampler, so next time I'm there I'm going in. Also worth a visit is the Hope and Anchor, one of London's great music pubs.

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Rating:
4
0 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Lucy,

Clearly you know the area and what's on offer and if I ever find myself heading for Islington I'll probably print out your guide and take it along.

My only problem is you haven't told the reader anything about Islington as a place. In fact it's more of a restaurant, pub and hotel guide rather than a travel guide.

Having said that, there is so much detail with regard to your recommendations that I'd certainly trust your views.

Your photographs are good too but I do have a thing about people. I just think pictures say more if they have someone in them.

For instance your picture of the two mojitos at Keston Lodge or the bar at Public House would be so much better, in my opinion, if there were someone enjoying the drinks or soaking up the atmosphere.

Maybe you, and other readers, wouldn't agree. However, what we can agree on is that you have produced a pretty useful guide for anyone heading for a night out or two in Islington.

What do other readers think of Lucy's guide? Let us know your views.

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Thanks for the feedback Kevin, afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on the people in photos front though - other than portraits I'm more of an abstract/ landscape/get those people out of the way kind of photographer!

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

A good useful guide for anyone going to the area. I would have liked a bit about things to do, apart from eating and drinking. Having said that, the info on eating, etc., was very good and Le Mercury certainly sounds like a bargain.

Good that you included a couple of well positioned, comfortable nightstops, and told us their prices. One might not always look up a Hilton for a reasonable night's stay, but you provided the info on their excellent rates for us.

This is an example of an insider's knowledge of an area, happily shared with us.

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Thanks Myra. I had trouble keeping down the word count as there are so many places I could mention. In terms of other things to do, there's not much in the way of usual tourist attractions but there are some good theatres (Sadlers Wells, The King's Head and the Almeida) which you could combine with a trip to the restaurants. There are also some good markets (Camden Passage for antiques and Chapel Market for a bit of everything else) and a Canal Museum, plus a lot of exhibitions are held at the Business Design Centre.