Upper street runs right through the very heart of Islington, which means an excursion here involves rubbing shoulders with glam mums and their pushchairs and socialists waving their bottles of Moët about. There’s no denying it: this patch of London has a certain chichi reputation, and it’s very much deserved. ‘How chichi?’ we hear you ask. Well, there’s a gluten-free bakery... and a sugar-free bakery. Just metres apart. So, yeah, very chichi.
Much has changed since the days of Charles Dickens, who described Upper Street as ‘among the noisiest and most disagreeable thoroughfares in London’. In the 1970s it became a hotspot for radical leftwing politics, home to countless Trotskyist activists and London’s first feminist bookshop. Not long after, however, Upper Street became the place where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown reportedly made a pact that would see the former take the Labour leadership in 1994. It’s like ‘House of Cards’, except everyone’s really, really polite.
Nowadays, it’s fancy, beautiful and very delicious. The road is home to some of the finest eating and drinking in London, from Ottolenghi to 69 Colebrooke Row. There’s culture galore too, with an amazing independent cinema and a true jewel in London’s music-venue crown. Whether you’re after fine dining or raucous gigs, Upper Street knows what’s up.
Settle into the plush seats at Screen on the Green for a superlative film-watching experience. For newbies: the bar is in the same room as the screen. What more could you want?
Catch a show at The Almeida. Headed up by Rupert Goold, this is one of London’s most exciting theatres. Shows here often transfer to the West End after their run.
Some of the best – and most inventive – cocktails in the city at 69 Colebrooke Row from drinks maestro Tony Conigliaro.
If you want your liquor hard and your floors sticky, head to Slim Jim’s Liquor Store, with its strict ‘no suits’ door policy and ceiling full of hanging bras (yes, really).
West Indian-themed cocktails at Hoxley & Porter, a bar inspired by colonial times and decorated with antique chairs and palms in pots.
Enjoy a pint while watching a piece of new theatre at King’s Head Theatre Pub. A quintessential London thespian experience.
Inventive home cooking, north China-style, at Chinese Laundry, a restaurant and bar with fantastically kitsch décor.
European-inspired small plates at Oldroyd. A tiny but mighty restaurant from the chef behind Polpo.
Salads, but not as you know them, at Ottolenghi, the original outpost of the cookbook superstar.
Impossibly pretty pastries, cakes and macarons from bright and breezy posh patisserie Belle Epoque.
Posh fish and chips from Vintage Salt. Imagine you’re in a Cornish fishing village as you tuck into some seasonal British seafood.
Spectacular lampshades and retro furniture at twentytwentyone. This is definitely one for (deep-pocketed) design fans.
A bottle or two from The Sampler wine merchant, a shop with 1,500 wines from across the world, 80 of which you can try in-store.
If you only do one thing…
Go to a gig at the gothic, candle-lit Union Chapel. It’s one of London’s most atmospheric venues.
By Gail Tolley Who’s more of a prosecco socialist, really
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