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Highbury area guide

Keep it classy in north London with Highbury's best restaurants, cafes, bars and things to do

Far quieter than nearby Islington, Highbury is home to people who consider a good brunch part of their daily routine. It's also frequented by the London mayor himself – you can often spot Boris and his straw-coloured barnet padding along local jogging routes. If that's not enough to draw you in, then the area has plenty to offer in terms of elegant restaurants, decent bars and pubs, and ace gig venues.

What are your favourite Highbury haunts? Let us know in the comments.

Love London Awards: this year's winners

Miki's Paradise
Restaurants

Miki's Paradise

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Highness Café and Tea Room
Restaurants

Highness Café and Tea Room

Your highnesses of Highbury, cake and tea are served. The stretch between Highbury & Islington and Arsenal - what estate agents call ‘Highbury Barn’ – now has its first proper cake shop. Highness Café opened at the end of December, and has been luring in passers-by with its window display of charming cakes. The daily-changing selection includes classics such as carrot cake or coffee and walnut cake, as well as more unusual confections including chocolate mousse tarts and gluten-free orange cake. And it doesn’t just look pretty: a slice of Victoria sponge cake, served on vintage china and decorated with rose petals, was buttery, moist and bursting with strawberry jam and cream. If your highness hasn’t got a sweet tooth, there are also savoury options including jacket potatoes and sandwiches. On our visit the café was brimming with young families on the ground floor, while the first floor was more serene - with students hunched over their laptops, typing away to a background of jazzy sounds, unfazed by the distant wails of the toddlers below.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Ink@84 Bookshop
Shopping

Ink@84 Bookshop

A bookshop and cafe that's also open into the evenings so visitors can get a spot of gin with their fiction.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Highbury Fields
Attractions

Highbury Fields

The children's playground at Highbury Fields in Islington is popular, combining old-fashioned thrills (such as a circular train requiring Flintstones-style propulsion, and an excitingly long, steep slide) with more recent additions, such as the flying fox and giant, web-like climbing frames.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Restaurants in Highbury

Tbilisi
Restaurants

Tbilisi

Tbilisi is one of London’s oldest Georgian restaurants and, to our minds, one of the best. Behind a nondescript frontage, the Holloway Road howling outside, it’s a relaxing spot with mustard or dark red walls, wooden flooring and comfortable leather chairs. Knick-knacks are minimal: the odd tourist poster and a stylish display of Georgian wines (try the concentrated red Napareuli). Starters consist of three soups and a choice of meze dips. The quiet, congenial waiter should perhaps have clarified that each ‘combination’ of a bread and two dips was meant for two diners (we ordered two, which would have made an ample entire meal), but each dish was a delight: lovely doughy flatbread filled with feta-like cheese (khachapuri) or mashed beans (lobiani); a spicy liver stew with pomegranate seeds; russian salad sprinkled with fresh dill; ratatouille-like ajabsabdali; and ispanakhi, a light spinach and walnut blend. Main-course stews of chashushuli (tender beef in a tomato-based sauce) and harcho (chicken with a ground walnut sauce, rather like Persian fesenjoon, served with gomi, a polenta-like rice and cornmeal mix) were also appealing. Finish, if you’re able, with tangy baked apple stuffed with ground walnuts and raisins, and waddle off, contented, into the night.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Le Coq
Restaurants Buy tickets

Le Coq

Fifty percent misnomer, Le Coq’s name tells you a half-truth about this restaurant: chicken yes, French no. There is no choice of main course – it’s rotisserie chicken, free-range and organic birds from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. These roasts are served with a seasonal vegetable accompaniment – on our visit, a ratatouille-like caponata. The quality of the meat is apparent: this is poultry that needs no peri-peri marinades to imbue it with flavour. As part of the set meal deals – £16 for two courses, £20 for three – diners do however have a choice of two starters and two desserts. A platter of Italian-style charcuterie included coppa (dry-cured pork) and finocchiona (fennel) salami, made by Picco, just around the corner in Highbury. Desserts were a highlight. The ice cream flavours might include ricotta and candied peel, unusually flavoured with fig leaves and saffron-infused Strega liqueur. This had an appealing and dense clotted-cream texture, with orange and herbal notes. Chocolate tart garnished with crème fraîche and fragments of crushed honeycomb had crisp pastry and the perfect balance of bitter-sweetness. To prevent diners and chefs alike becoming bored of the very limited selection, the menu changes each week, and Sundays will see some other beasts twirling on the spit (pork belly and octopus, perhaps). Le Coq is the brainchild of sisters Ana and Sanja Morris. Their formula is a simple, ever-revolving seasonal menu, at a fair price, with roast chicken at its heart. If yo

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Trullo
Restaurants

Trullo

While evenings are still busy-to-frantic in this two-floored contemporary trattoria, lunchtime finds Trullo calm and the cooking relaxed and assured. A bargain £12 set menu gleans two courses (primi plus either antipasti or dessert) from a daily-changing menu. On our visit, the tempting selection of starters included bright British asparagus with parmesan, and cured trout with wilted spinach and poached egg. Slivers of grilled ox heart were perfectly cooked, with the accompanying roast shallots, beetroot and horseradish almost, but not quite, overwhelming the unexpectedly delicate flavours. Pappardelle with beef shin ragu has been a staple since Trullo’s early days and remains a silky, substantial delight. Seasonal tagliarini with nettles and nutmeg featured an uncooked egg yolk wobbling daintily atop a vast pile of green pasta; when mixed in, it made a wonderfully creamy dish. In opting for the set menu you miss out on the roasts and grills, but as a giant Black Hampshire pork chop and generous cod with cannellini beans and mussels whisked by our table, we weren’t sorry to have missed out on them – after all, where would we have put the succulent loquat and almond tart?

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Iznik
Restaurants

Iznik

You can’t say the husband-and-wife team behind Iznik haven’t made an effort: almost every inch of this cute neighbourhood restaurant has been filled with lanterns, plants, traditional clothing and beautiful tablecloths. There are Turkish star and crescent symbols carved into the chairs and a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk perched by the entrance. It’s all just about the right side of chintzy – and it’s pretty clear that just as much attention has been directed towards the food. The starters were on the small side, but lamb börek benefited from ethereally light pastry, cacik pulled a spicy punch, and calamares was crisp, light and not in the least chewy. Chicken shish, again a bit small, was adequate but the hünkar begendi (lamb stew with aubergine sauce) glowed; the sauce was spectacularly thick, creamy and luscious, and the meat fell apart at the prod of a fork. Iznik’s wine list is well-chosen and helpfully descriptive; there’s Efes beer on tap; and while service was disconcertingly silent throughout our meal, we found the Northern Cypriot owners very friendly when engaged in conversation. Recommended.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Pubs and bars in Highbury

The Lamb
Bars and pubs

The Lamb

The Lamb on Holloway Road offers a warm welcome, forgivingly low lighting and plenty of Irish craic.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Compton Arms
Bars and pubs

Compton Arms

This quiet, unassuming local is hidden away behind the Union Chapel and thus mercifully isolated from the chaos of Highbury Corner. It’s a cosy place, split between a longish main room (with a TV at one end) and a smaller, squarer space on the other side of the bar.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Marquess Tavern
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Marquess Tavern

The Marquess has the feeling of a gastropub slowly morphing back into a boozer. The main bar in the handsome, high-ceilinged tavern was always kept as a place for drinking, but these days it’s the focus of attention, with a short wine list, several beers on tap and a selection of bottled options.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Alwyne Castle
Bars and pubs

Alwyne Castle

There’s plenty of opportunity for alfresco quaffing here with an enormous front garden that spills down the sides of this friendly pub. Looking out on to a main Islington artery, it’s a little bit ‘urban’, but what the garden lacks in blooming greenery, it makes up for in capacity (it holds 300) and a seasonally changing roster of craft beers both native and international. The extensive food offering ranges from bar snacks and sandwiches through salads and hot dishes including Sunday roasts with all the trimmings. Monday to Friday there's a set-price meal at £10 for 2 courses or £13 for 3.

Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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