The best restaurants in Islington
This long-running restaurant overlooking Islington Green is so well loved it has never had to change much. The two-floor premises are bright and clean, with spring-green and grey paintwork, simple blond-wood tables and stools, and no decoration beyond a few pot plants. The menu of Afghan home cooking is equally straightforward: eight dishes (three meat, one fish, four vegetarian), with the focus on hearty, warming stews featuring plenty of yoghurt and mint, and subtle rather than fiery spicing.
The Upper Street branch of Antepliler is certainly glitzier than its more functional Green Lanes counterpart. Obviously, the Islington location called for something more memorable, hence the neon-blue mosaics on glossy black walls, and chunky chandeliers dangling from every ceiling. This Ottoman nightclub style might be an acquired taste, but the menu, which specialises in dishes from Gaziantep, is an instant winner – think braised lamb atop smoked mashed aubergine, and koftes slow-cooked in pomegranate sauce.
Venue says: “A relaxed, all-day, traditional French restaurant on Islington Green. Join us for a simple cup of coffee with cake or enjoy a 'grand repas'.”
This Islington-based Wolseley spin-off from Corbin & King, with its polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering lighting, is a gorgeous art nouveau homage to the Alsatian brasseries that proliferated in Paris during the Belle Epoque. The abundance of cosy booths ups the atmosphere ante, while the food is simple, yet flawless: try the excellent veal schnitzel, or the towering choucroûte, and finish with the amandine, a three-nut ice cream smothered in butterscotch sauce. Service, as ever, is also impeccable.
This cool yet rustic bar-turned-restaurant is still the haunt of choice for locals wanting a leisurely martini, seasonal cocktail or glass of bubbly after work. It’s hard not to be tempted by the menu, though: all-day breakfasts range from homemade granola with poached pears and yoghurt to pancakes stacked with smoked bacon and homemade blueberry ice cream; specials on the dinner menu include juicy onglet steaks with herbed mushrooms and veal jus.
Venue says: “A family-run restaurant in Angel established in 1969. Menus from £15.50 (two courses), plus private dining options and weddings.”
The slightly ritzy plush of Frederick’s entrance cocktail bar, the surprising spaciousness of the dining room beyond, the striking 1980s artwork, the lofty conservatory and pretty hidden garden – all these factors combine to convey the idea that a meal here is a bit of a treat. Menus change with the seasons, with the likes of pan-fried scallops on celeriac risotto topped with shaved truffle in spring, and gourmet barbecue dishes courtesy of a Big Green Egg in summer.
This award-winning vegetarian restaurant is a class act, with a modern, monochrome interior, open kitchen, huge windows and on-trend industrial-style lighting. Every dish is beautifully presented, with bespoke condiments to complement the leading flavours: think couscous-and-feta fritters with spiced carrot dip, heirloom beetroot tart with flaky pastry and a creamy herb sauce, and cheese-filled aubergine schnitzel with fiery horseradish cream. Friendly staff accommodate food allergies and intolerances with practised ease – an added bonus if you’re dining with a group [there’s always one ;) ].
Despite its longevity on the Islington scene, this long dining room still has a slinky, contemporary look thanks to its timeless black-and-white interiors and warm yellow lighting. It may look expensive, but its menu remains surprisingly wallet-friendly. Set lunches (bento boxes filled with curry, spring rolls, rice and fruit) offer particularly good value, while the à la carte mixes stalwarts such as pad thai with more unusual dishes (whose fiery spice has been dialled down for tender Western palates).
While lacking the intimacy of the Bethnal Green original, Islington’s Little Georgia is still a happy find for anyone craving the hearty Eurasian cuisine of Georgia. The colourful dining room is stuffed with vintage Georgian artefacts and plastered with vintage political posters, while the menu, whose dishes are made by owner Tiko Tuskadze on site, is full of classics such as khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and tabaka (spiced poussin with plum sauce and rice).
It may have opened a branch in respectable N1, but this punk burger chain’s only concession to its neighbourhood location is the lifting of its embargo on taking bookings (hooray!). Otherwise, it’s business as usual: grungey, warehouse-style interiors (the walk to the heavily graffitied loos can feel a little apocalyptic), signature dishes including the celebrated Dead Hippie burger, fried pickles and calorific mac-and-cheese, plentiful cocktails, and music so loud you might as well be in a club. In other words: great fun.
Venue says: “Oldroyd offers a daily-changing European menu built around the best seasonal British ingredients.”
Tom Oldroyd, who was chef-director of Russell Norman’s tentacular hit Polpo from the beginning, knows a thing or two about feeding Londoners so well they want to come back every day for a week. At his deceptively laidback solo debut, with its fresh blue-and-white decor, the concise menu isn’t limited to Italy: smoked-haddock croquetas and goose rillettes share space with truffled gnocchi or caviar-flecked shrimp-and-clam tagliatelle – all delicious. Wines and cocktails are also seriously good – plus (joy!) you can book.
Find more great grub in London
The ultimate guide to eating out in London – you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, simple but stunning food from some of the world’s most exciting chefs, Michelin-starred restaurants with starched linen napkins and places where you’ll have to eat with your fingers.
You could be forgiven for thinking this Victoria Arcade spot, run by a pair of brothers, is all about the coffee. It does, of course, serve a decent cup of Joe but the main focus here? Sicilian street food. That means a hefty list of arancino, filled with things like veal ragu, or ricotta, spinach and cheese, or butter, bacon, pistachio and basil pesto. Or Nutella, if you want. Lasagne features too, as well as parmesan and pesto ravioli, calzone and pizzetta. Eight different granita are also available, alongside desserts such as cannolo, traditional Sicilian cassatina and fedora cake, made with ricotta and toasted almond flakes.
Venue says: “Come to get the real proper arancino and cannolo!”