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Tiella at The Compton Arms

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  • Canonbury
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  1. Tiella (Tiella)
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This beloved pub's latest kitchen residency delivers hearty and rustic Italian cookery.

When it comes to north London pub kitchens, the tiny one stuffed at the back of Islington’s equally diminutive Compton Arms, is a sacred space imbued with otherworldly epicurean powers. Until recently it was the home of Four Legs, the cooking crew who deftly delivered the best burger in town (all sweetly sloppy smashed Dexter beef, soft brioche bun and melted cheese the texture of velvet) before opening up their own colossally cool pub in Finsbury Park, The Plimsoll. After a turn from Belly’s globally-inspired, locally-sourced dishes, now stepping up to the Compton Arms pass is affable New Zealand-raised, Italy-born chef Dara Klein, who brings her family’s rustic Italian cooking – and her experience at Trullo, Rubedo, Brawn and Sager & Wilde – to this lovely backstreet boozer.

Due to its size (and also its unshowy excellence), finding space at the Compton Arms is always a bit of a bunfight. The evening we decide to sample Dara’s semi-permanent Tiella pop-up, was also the same one that 60,000-odd sweaty music fans descend on the nearby Arsenal stadium for an Arctic Monkeys gig. Fighting our way through the unseasonal leather jackets and flagrant street drinking from warm tins, The Compton Arms glows like a hallowed beacon; a hidden pub that isn’t really hidden at all. It’s packed out with pre-show pint-people, but our wooden trestle table in the beer garden is a scene of relative chill.

The Compton Arms kitchen is a sacred space imbued with otherworldly epicurean powers

Tiella’s menu is largely in Italian but cheery servers will happily translate the likes of ciceri e tria (pasta with chickpeas), just in case you haven’t quite got to the Puglian snacks section of your Duolingo course yet. It’s an enticingly short offering – we’re far from the mammoth scale of Bloomsbury trattoria Ciao Bella here – making the idea of ordering everything seem an achievable feat, but these hearty small plates are deceptively filling. Even the snacks, which included a perfect panelle comprising three crisp and hot Sicillian fritters topped with a tangy marinated anchovy and served with a wickedly pungent and glossy aioli for dipping purposes, are ample in size. A slab of smoked ricotta floating in a pool of sweet honey and vivid, tangerine-coloured Calabrian chilli scooped up with chunks of E5 Bakehouse sourdough was also surely enough to power you through the rest of the night.

Yet we bravely and greedily forged on, with a sharp panzanella packed out with great big hulking tomatoes and coy shavings of fennel, before a pleasingly al dente pasta dish of tagliatelle alle vongole with a generous helping of clamshells that would make Neptune giddy. Then it was time for a moist helping of parmigiano-dusted meatballs based on a recipe from Dara’s mum Maria Pia de Razza’s own cookbook, leading the way to a braised and extremely tender rabbit leg alla cacciatora, the meat plonked on top of a chunky array of slow cooked veggies. 

If everything feels charmingly rough and ready, that’s because it is. Tiella’s menu changes almost week-to-week so don’t expect all of the above to be on offer, but with the confident and classy Klein in the kitchen, you’re in safe hands no matter what.

The vibe Rowdy pub dining – don’t expect hushed reverence but do expect great food.

The food Rustic Italian cookery drawing from the Puglia and Emilia-Romagna regions, by way of New Zealand-raised chef Dara Klein. 

The drink You’re in a pub, baby! Meaning any number of pints, but there are also Italian wines and cocktails as part of the Tiella spread. 

Time Out tip Try and have a chat with the old boys around the bar who've been drinking here since before it was cool.

Leonie Cooper
Written by
Leonie Cooper


4 Compton Ave
N1 2XD
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