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.
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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.
Little Bat Bar
Lately the London drink gods have been rewarding us with bold neighbourhood bars that shake more than just an espresso martini. Little Bat has just swooped into Islington, bringing with it expertise from the team behind Shoreditch bar Callooh Callay. Unlike a bat, things are hardly flipped on their head here – aside from the bar’s name, the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ gimmicks of Callooh Callay are absent – but perhaps that’s advisable in this less edgy ’hood. Instead it’s like an extensive library, with the best seats at the rear: deep armchairs and sweeping semi-circle banquettes in jade leather. The place is not entirely quirk-free, though. You’ll find a photo booth on your way to the bogs, proof that Islington isn’t afraid of a few post-tipple lols. I tried a Rhubarb Swizzle (£9.50), a sweet, long drink with a pleasant tart twist. No offence to the Swizzle, but I wish I’d ordered what my friend was knocking back: the Pan Am Cocktail (£8), a frothy blend of rum, Aperol, lemon, syrup, bitters and egg white that had her grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I suggest heading here before dinner in the area, or else just get comfortable and order in; pan-Asian food from Ziloufs over the road is available for snacking, although we stuck with complimentary popcorn. Staff were overly attentive, but an eagerness to please in the early days is hardly a drawback – it’s far more than you’d expect from its insouciant Shoreditch sister bar. Best of all, and again differing from Callooh Callay, Li
Venue says: “With the launch of our new small plates food menu, Little Bat is offering three dishes for £20 (usually around £9 each). Book your table now”