Finding a good drink (or three) is not a hard task in N1. If you're looking for a classy, crowded bar with expert cocktail-making staff, go to 69 Colebrooke Row. If a homely haunt blasting tunes is more your thing, try Old Queen's Head. No matter what you're in the mood for, Islington has it all. Check out our favourites in our guide to great bars in Islington.
Think we've missed a great bar in Islington? Let us know in the comment box below.
Best bars in Islington and Angel
‘The bar with no name’, it styles itself – try telling that to a taxi driver. In reality, everyone knows this place by its address, hidden away from the Upper Street hordes on an Islington backstreet. It’s the tiny flagship of bar supremo Tony Conigliaro, noted worldwide for his dedication to the art of the mixed drink: as such, it’s not easy to get a seat here without booking. Punters come for the cocktails, all of which are outstanding.
This big bar rocks an urban bordello and burlesque look with its ruby-red ceiling, tassel lampshades and candelabras, with a solid Wild West saloon-style bar top on which to lean, and the separate ‘Satan’s Circus’ mini-club with dancefloor. But the whole thing kind of works. Sort of. The cocktail list is classic and concise, with mai tais, margaritas and martinis all at £7, while wines are confined to half a dozen reds and whites.
Who are Hoxley & Porter? You won’t find them pulling pints, but a squint at the website suggests a back story about one of them being a Victorian explorer. For this is another theme bar on Upper Street. Not mock Mexican, cod Cuban or faux-Oirish this time, but one that hangs on to the petticoats of the 19th-century colonial explorer look. So there are potted palms, uniformed staff, patterned wallpaper, vintage lighting.
Clarendon Cocktail Cellar
Tucked away in a residential dead zone near Victoria station, this subterranean bar is cute and cosy, but unfortunately lacks pizzazz. The decor attempts to trick people into forgetting they’re still in Pimlico – it’s a mishmash of circa-2010 Shoreditch-by-numbers elements, with the triple whammy of exposed brickwork AND wood panelling, plus metal signs pinned all over the walls. The lack of a solid theme extends to the menu (printed on coasters), where cocktails, all £10 or less, are named after famous paintings – from the Scream (mezcal, lime, cassis) to A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (gin, Oleo Saccharum, lapsang souchong). While these were both overwhelmingly smokey – though they did go down easy – the Son of a Man was a winner. Combining both three- and ten-year aged apple cider brandy with amaretto, peach juice and cinnamon, it was like a perfectly tart, totally potent fruit pie. Staff were warm, and kept us topped up with popcorn to nibble. And props to the playlist: we were lulled with a drinking soundtrack of gentle Americana from the likes of the Shins. A perfectly pleasant bar, but its location – and lack of self-assurance – won’t draw the kind of crowd it seems to be looking for.