The best restaurants in Islington
Overlooking Islington Green, Afghan Kitchen is a long-serving local favourite that’s never needed to change its style. The two-floor premises are bright, tidy and compact, with lots of shared tables and a menu of equally straightforward home cooking – think proper breads, hearty, warming stews and filling rice dishes.
Taking its cue from Alsace, this sparky number from Messrs Corbin & King pays homage to the era of grand cafés. Simple but flawless all-day sustenance is the deal, served against a backdrop of cosy booths, wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering lighting. Impeccable service comes as standard.
Venue says Visit Bellanger on a Tuesday & Wednesday evening for their new steak frites & wine and sausage, sauerkraut & beer specials from £14.50
It may be a gluten-free zone, but this branch of the Beyond Bread Bakery is a rousing success – particularly if you roll up for a late breakfast. Naturally the staff of life crops up here, there and everywhere, but the kitchen also does a good line in mini pizzas, quiches and cakes.
The haunt of choice for locals wanting a leisurely martini, seasonal cocktail or some post-work fizz, this cool yet rustic venue also tempts with its wide-ranging menu. There are veggie fry-ups and pancakes for breakfast, various ‘smalls’ during the day and bigger dishes such as slow-roast pork belly with frikadeller (flat, pan-fried meatballs) if you’re famished.
Old enough and wise enough to deserve the title ‘Islington classic’, dapper family-run Frederick’s just keeps on keeping on – driven along by loyal customers who greatly appreciate its lofty conservatory, striking artworks, secret garden and gently fashionable modern European food. Menus change with the seasons at this ritzy local treat.
A class act in the veggie scheme of things, The Gate charms with its modern, monochrome interior, open kitchen, huge windows and on-trend industrial-style lighting. Every dish is beautifully presented, with bespoke condiments complementing the leading flavours, while friendly staff are bang-on when it comes to allergies and special diets.
Despite its longevity on the Islington scene, Isarn still exudes a slinky, contemporary vibe – thanks to its timeless black-and-white interiors and warm yellow lighting. It may look expensive, but the accessible Thai menu remains surprisingly wallet-friendly – especially if you pop in for one of their set lunches or a bowl of pad thai.
While lacking the intimacy of the Bethnal Green original, Islington’s Little Georgia is still a happy find for anyone craving some indigenous Eurasian cuisine. The colourful dining room is stuffed with vintage Georgian artefacts and plastered with vintage political posters, while Tiko Tuskadze’s menu deals in ethnic classics from her homeland.
The location may be respectable N1, but this punk burger chain’s only concession to its Upper Street home is the lifting of an embargo on bookings (hooray!). Otherwise, it’s business as usual: grungy, warehouse-style interiors, signature dishes including the celebrated Dead Hippie burger, fried pickles, hip cocktails and music cranked up to 11.
Tom Oldroyd was chef-director of Russell Norman’s tentacular hit Polpo before going it alone with this diminutive and deceptively laid back solo debut in Islington. Small plates and high-impact flavours from Italy, France and Spain are the kitchen’s calling cards. Wines and cocktails are also seriously good… and (joy!) you can book.
Even if you’ve never heard of Yotam Ottolenghi, you can’t pass the flagship branch of his café-deli empire without stopping to admire the sight. Fronting the long all-white dining room is a huge window display, while each dish is a masterclass of eclectic flavours and clashing cuisines. Downsides? Small portions and a not-so-small bill…
Given its meaty moniker, you’d imagine plenty of rare-breed blood-and-guts action at this sibling of The Smokehouse – and you wouldn’t be far wrong. However, this is a handsomely tricked-out gastropub, not an abattoir, so also expect fine-tuned seasonal cooking backed by some impressive craft beers. Fish fans and veggies aren’t ignored, either.
The owners may be holed up at POTL’s offshoot in Padstow, but this original branch still pulls the crowds with its offer of briny fresh seafood served in a buzzy neighbourhood setting. Menus depend on the day’s catch, although glistening platters of fruits de mer steal most of the limelight.
What was the Almeida Restaurant (opposite the namesake theatre) has been refashioned by D&D London with help from star chef Francesco Mazzei (of Sartoria fame). Swooningly pretty by design, Radici majors in classily reinvented trattoria staples inspired by the chef’s native Calabria, with support from tip-top antipasti and ‘molto, molto buono’ pizzas.
Bigger, lighter and brighter than the Shoreditch original, but with the same white-walled minimalist design and an identical menu, Rök Islington majors in Scandi-tinged dishes smoked over the coals, with much emphasis on pickled, cured and recherché ingredients. Brilliant staff are on hand to decode the intricacies of the menu.
As friendly as its name, this family-run bistro has a trump card up its sleeve in the shape of chef Christoph Lange. Having worked at big hitters including Maaemo and Noma, it’s no surprise that his beautiful, thoughtful dishes are shot through with fancy new-Nordic magic – although the prices are mercifully restrained.
Venue says We just added a few new dishes to our a la carte menus; roasted beef sirloin in the mains and scallops with black pudding in the starters.
The waiters have tattoos by default, the beers are craft and the aromas from a fired-up grill permeate the aesthetically battered, Shaker-style dining room at this ultra-hip gastropub. Top-quality meat, fish and veg are smoked, roasted or grilled over coals or oak, and there’s rare-breed beef with all the trimmings on Sundays.
Highbury’s star Italian has made the restaurant biz look like child’s play since day one by combining irresistible food with spot-on service and affordable prices. It’s home to some of London’s best pasta and there’s brilliant stuff from the charcoal grill too, while a comprehensive all-Italian wine list emphasises Trullo’s true calibre.
Ignore the functional decor and go for the Chinese burn at Yipin, where the vast menu highlights the spicy, earthy flavours of Hunan province alongside more familiar Cantonese dishes and full-frontal peasant-style specialities from Sichuan. Just remember that this is an upscale Chinese in upscale Islington, so the prices aren’t cheap as chips.
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