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Islington area guide

Discover great restaurants, bars, pubs, live music venues and shops on offer in N1

© Heloise Bergman

Islington isn’t just for the champagne socialists – its boutiques, bars and restaurants offer something for the weekend, whichever way you lean. With a vibrant arts scene and big-name Islington clubs drawing headline bands, N1 is guaranteed to offer a daytrip or big night out that gets your vote.

What are your favourite Islington haunts? Let us know in the comments.

The best bits of Islington

14 reasons to go to Upper Street in Islington, N1
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14 reasons to go to Upper Street in Islington, N1

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.  Do this   A photo posted by James Verlinden (@citizen_jxv) on Apr 16, 2016 at 12:34pm PDT Settle into the plush seats at Screen on the Green for a

13 reasons to go to Southgate Road, N1
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13 reasons to go to Southgate Road, N1

De Beauvoir Town is every bit as middle-class as it sounds. Thankfully there’s loads to see and do along its relaxed, handsome main thoroughfare. Poised between the traffic-choked Dalston strip and manic Essex Road, Southgate Road quietly goes about its business with some of the best cafés, pubs and delis in this neck of the woods. When they hear N1, most people think straight away of Angel, but unlike chain-choked Upper Street, Southgate Road has proper Islington class. It’s mostly free of high street shops and traffic, with the beautiful Rosemary Gardens and Regent’s Canal at one end, De Beauvoir Square just a stroll away, and rows of pretty Georgian terraces lining it and the streets nearby. This is the jewel in the De Beauvoir crown: a proper looker. And make no mistake – it’s posh round here. There’s more organic veg, artisan bread, locally roasted coffee and vintage furniture than you can shake a hand-whittled stick at. No surprise, then, that the two best boozers – The Rosemary Branch and The De Beauvoir Arms – are upmarket watering holes. But unlike your local blah-blah gastro joint, each hosts a year-round programme of theatre and performance. Hackney cool meets Islington style: that’s Southgate Road in a nutshell. It’s the perfect place for a sophisticated Sunday. Drink this   A photo posted by @avetusta on May 22, 2016 at 1:29am PDT A hangover-busting flat white at the funky 52A Coffee House, a cool little shop with eclectic furnishings and awesome

15 reasons to go to Caledonian Road, N1 and N7
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15 reasons to go to Caledonian Road, N1 and N7

Michel Foucault, the great theorist of nineteenth-century power, would have had a field day with the Cally. To Victorian Londoners, there was something about this mile-or-so-long stretch between King’s Cross and Islington that screamed, ‘Erect disciplinary facilities here!’ Formerly Chalk Road, in 1861 the street was renamed Caledonian Road after the Royal Caledonian Asylum, which had moved to nearby Copenhagen Fields. The Great Northern Hospital was here until 1884, Pentonville Prison was built just south of the asylum in 1842 and the recently closed HMP Holloway is a few minutes away from the top end. It’s a forbidding legacy, but today’s Cally Road, throbbing with the down-to-earth character and multiculturalism you’d expect from a working-class slice of London, is practically unique in leafy Islington. With cheap global cuisine, happy-hour bars and pubs, cool galleries and even a prog-politics bookshop catering to Cally Road’s sizeable student population, the area is an antidote to the artisan delis of Clerkenwell and moneyed crowds in Angel. The skint students, as well as Bangladeshi, Ethiopian and other immigrant communities make the Cally one of the most authentically ‘London’ parts of the borough. Even though the Victorian hospital and asylum have disappeared, Cally Road will always be an institution. Eat this   A photo posted by halalmapper (@halalmapper) on Aug 21, 2016 at 2:58am PDT A ‘pimp steak’ dog from New York-inspired Big Apple Hot Dogs. There 

You know you live in Islington when...
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You know you live in Islington when...

Islington is one of the most restaurant-dense areas in the UK and home to Europe's third longest escalator - as well as the decomposing bones of lots of famous people, including Douglas Adams and Jeremy Beadle. If Foxtons is anything to go by, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to ever buy a pad in the area with its exploding property prices too, so enjoy being an Islingtonite while you can. After all, you know you live in Islington when: Breakfast at Sunday, Hemingford Road Emily Gibson ...you gained five pounds when you first moved here. This is because Islington - like relationships, pregnancy and ligament damage - is very fattening. Blame Smokehouse, Meat People, and a never-ending galaxy of chorizo-strewn, syrup-soaked pancake options elsewhere. Breakfast just isn’t breakfast without at least half a pint of hollandaise sauce. <img id="451709c3-96cc-9657-8cde-64c0f1418ba5" data-caption="" data-credit="" data-width-class="" type="image/jpeg" total="73770" loaded="73770" image_id="102880176" src="http://media.timeout.com/images/102880176/image.jpg" class="photo lazy inline"> ...there's always somewhere new to eat. Never mind that Upper Street probably has more restaurants than any other street in the capital, the arrival of MEATliquor in a few weeks' time is looking to be the highlight of your year. <

Restaurants in Islington

Tierra Peru
Restaurants Book online

Tierra Peru

From the Andes to the Pacific, the highs and lows of Peruvian terrain help to explain its varied cuisine. But what was going on behind the scenes at this small Essex Road eaterie to account for our visit’s ups and downs we could only guess at. Things began badly after our booked table was given away – though a couple of complimentary pisco sours helped keep us sweet. The starters were a success. Grilled baby octopus appeared smothered by black Peruvian botija olive cream, yet the sauce was light as sea foam and the olive flavour vibrant. A ceviche was fantastic, the fish barely coaxed out of rawness. At this stage, the owners’ decision to move on from their original Camden market stall seemed justified, so it was a shame that one main – lightly battered fish and cassava – arrived unacceptably lukewarm. And the seafood in a creamy picante de mariscos stew seemed too subdued and insubstantial. The lengthy menu, trying to cover all their nation’s culinary bases, probably doesn’t help. Decor is simple – polished dark-wood tables, long brown banquette, white walls adorned with colour photos – and the drinks list includes Peruvian beer, wines and Inca Kola.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Book online
Meat People
Restaurants

Meat People

Alfredo’s, then a little S&M (the former Sausage & Mash café, that is): as Islington landmarks go, this position is a prime cut, now carved out by Meat People. The 1920s Grade II-listed building with its tiled ceiling, wooden panelling and steel-framed windows still evokes the ocean-liner era, even with its vibrant yellow banquettes. The current trend for steak and burger places means that competition in now hotter than a Josper grill. Meat People is no Hawksmoor or Meat Liquor, though – it’s a neighbourhood joint. We opted for the Meat People Platter, a board bearing a selection of their main courses: slow-grilled beef short ribs, onglet steak and Iberico pork. The standout piece was the onglet, tender and yielding and cooked medium-rare as requested. The other two cuts had had a less profitable time on the grill. The pork was too blackened – the charring overpowered rather than offset the cut’s underlying flavour. The rib meat required a few chews too many, but the chimichurri garnish was good. Beetroot and a handful of broad beans, although incongruously cold, nicely accompanied the pan-fried sea bream. The most exciting part of the dish was the huacaina sauce, a Peruvian mix that included white cheese and yellow chilli. This is not a Latin American restaurant, but the chef happens to be Argentinian. A South American influence continued into the light desserts. Slices of caramelised banana were joined by a creamy scoop of dulce de leche ice cream, and slivers of lime rin

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Food Lab
Restaurants

Food Lab

A clean, somewhat rustic and brightly lit setting in which to enjoy a quick cuppa or bite to eat, while you catch up on a bit of work. Or sit down for a meal in their restaurant earlier, where they serve fine Italian pastas, seafood dishes, risotto and more. There are also a few products such as Tuscan olive oil, jam and pickles to buy from Food Lab's shelves.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Mahal
Restaurants

Mahal

Indian restaurant on Essex Road in Islington serving traditional Indian dishes to eat in or takeaway. Closed on Monday.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Islington highlights

Flashback Records
Shopping

Flashback Records

Just a stone’s throw from the cavernous Haggle Vinyl (No 114-116), but a million miles away aesthetically, Flashback’s mostly second-hand stock is treated with utmost respect. There are usually a few boxes of bargain basement 12-inches going for pennies outside the front door, but inside stock is scrupulously organised. The ground floor is dedicated to CDs, with rock and pop alongside dance, soundtracks, soul, jazz and metal, while the new stock of urban and dance records, especially 1960s psych, garage and hip hop, is a well-kept secret among DJs. The basement, though, is vinyl only: an ever-expanding jazz collection jostles for space alongside soul, hip hop and an astonishing selection of library sounds (regularly plundered by producers looking for samples). Those not inclined to rummage can search out long lost gems on its website. For a more ramshackle experience, head along to Haggle.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Little Angel Theatre
Theatre

Little Angel Theatre

Tucked away in the back streets of Islington, Little Angel Theatre is a hub of passionate puppeteering activity. Established by South African John Wright in 1961, Little Angel Theatre is London’s only permanent puppet theatre and stages diverse productions devised here or by visiting companies. In a quaint twist that reveals the artifice behind the magic, the compact 100-seat theatre shares its space with the workshop where the marionettes are carved and developed. There’s a Saturday Puppet Club and workshops and events to inspire the next generation of puppeteers. The shows are very much geared up for audiences of children, so expect to share the auditorium with chatty young'uns. Tickets are around £8-£10 for kids and a little more for adults. See more children's theatre in London

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars

Bars and pubs in Islington

69 Colebrooke Row
Bars and pubs Book online

69 Colebrooke Row

This tiny place, a short walk from Upper Street on an Islington backstreet, is where bar-wizard Tony Conigliaro first came to widespread prominence. Conigliaro has a laboratory upstairs, producing unique cocktail ingredients which find their way into the drinks here and at his other venues. The cocktails here actually seem much straightforward than many people expect, with fewer (and less weird) ingredients than those found at many other London bars, although there’s real dedication evident in every sip. There’s a serene simplicity in mixes such as Death in Venice: campari, grapefruit bitters and prosecco. The visual style is classic jazz-age, and a pianist provides the soundtrack. Conigliaro’s fame and the bar’s size mean that it’s best to book, but the prices, given the reputation behind the place, are extremely reasonable.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Book online
Earl of Essex
Bars and pubs

Earl of Essex

The first thing you might notice on entering this backstreet Georgian pub is the beautiful island back-bar with a ’60s ‘Watney Red Barrel’ sign; the second will probably be the vast hymn-type board advertising that day’s beers on offer. Staff are constantly hopping up on to chairs to change the names as kegs run out – it’s that sort of place. Nowadays, almost every new pub tries to sell itself on a ‘craft beer’ offer, but not all manage it on this scale. There are 11 on keg, five or six on cask, plus a couple of quality ciders. The range covers Britain from Devon to Cromarty via Ilkley, before jetting off to the Continent, Scandinavia and the USA. And it gets even better – there’s usually one beer pouring from the on-site Earl’s Brewery. Staff are happy to offer tastings and know their stuff. On the menu, dishes are all listed with beer recommendations. Whether we really need a suggested beer match for a fishfinger sandwich I’m not sure, although it’s a nice touch. Like most things in this pub.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Lord Clyde
Bars and pubs

Lord Clyde

A quality makeover, this, a few bus stops north of the spaghetti junction of bars around the Angel. It’s a big place to keep busy with return custom, with the huge interior supplemented by an umbrella-festooned front terrace (‘The Deck’), but the owners succeed thanks to excellent food, decent ales (Harveys Sussex Best plus a guest, such as Hook Norton’s Old Hooky or Cotleigh’s 25) and a pub-like atmosphere with nods to modern manners. Lending itself to peaceful newspaper perusal at lunchtimes, ideally in the big armchair by the open fire, the Lord Clyde also suits the pre-party crowd, with music at conversational level, San Miguel, Amstel and Aspall Cyder on draught, and superior, own-made bar snacks (sausage rolls, scotch eggs). Lunchtime meze, Harveys-battered haddock and chips, and Sunday roasts (served until 7pm) provide further sustenance.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Barrio North
Bars and pubs

Barrio North

Venue says: “The first (and some say best) of the Barrio familia Barrio Angel has built a reputation for all things tequila and rum, agave and cane.”

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The perfect weekend in Islington

Watch: Almeida Theatre
Theatre

Watch: Almeida Theatre

Soak-up cutting-edge performance at an internationally renowned theatre

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Explore: Candid Arts Café
Restaurants

Explore: Candid Arts Café

Stock up on coffee and cake and arty chat at a bohemian, charity gallery  

Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Eat: Chinese Laundry
Restaurants

Eat: Chinese Laundry

Enjoy a mighty medley of Chinese cuisine at an eccentric venue

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Watch: Screen On the Green
Cinemas

Watch: Screen On the Green

Veg out to a cult classic at one of the country’s oldest cinemas

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars

Love London Awards: last year's winners

Ottolenghi
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Ottolenghi

Hit cookbooks have made this flagship branch of the burgeoning Ottolenghi empire a point of pilgrimage for foodies the world over. Those Americans brunching nearby are as likely to be tourists as local émigrés from the banking sector, and back in the US they’ll rarely have seen french toast as fat and fluffy as the version found here. Made from brioche and served with crème fraîche and a thin berry and muscat compote, it makes a heady start to the day and, regrettably, tends to prevent further indulgence in tempting muffins and pastries. If you’re not seeking a sugar-high, alternatives include welsh rarebit, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or a lively chorizo-spiked take on baked beans served with sourdough, fried egg and black pudding. The queue at the front contains much takeaway custom for the lavish spread of taste-tingling salads, cakes and other nibbles such as flaky cheese straws. In the evening (when bookings are taken), the cool white interior works a double shift as a smart and comparatively pricey restaurant serving elegant fusion dishes for sharing. Expect the likes of grilled quail with smoked chilli chocolate sauce, potato, pak choi and sesame – and expect to have trouble snaring a table. The three other branches are smaller, operating as deli-shops rather than restaurants.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Coffee Works Project
Restaurants

Coffee Works Project

Upper Street and its tributaries have more than their fair share of cafés and restaurants, but a decent coffee shop is still hard to find there. Coffee Works Project is the first proper new-wave coffee bar to spill its beans near the Angel, drawing in a mix of chatty families and creatives hunched over their laptops. A changing selection of three filter coffees is advertised on a blackboard above the bar, and friendly staff are happy to explain their distinct flavours. A caramel-coloured Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (served in a glass jug) was so light that it looked more like a black tea. We were advised not to add any milk to it, since this would hide its delicate floral notes. The brew didn’t need any sugar either – it was inherently sweet. But for a proper caffeine hit, choose the flat white. Served in a glass, the Kiwi classic was strong and smooth without any trace of bitterness. Behind the bar, a windowed fridge reveals British charcuterie (from Moons Green) and Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses, which are used in the café’s sandwiches, salads and on cheese and charcuterie boards. There’s also a selection of cakes: the ginger and cardamom cake sprinkled with pomegranate aril, looked pretty but disappointed with its crumbly dryness. Better though was a thick slice of banana and chocolate cake: it was moist and generously crammed with dark chocolate chunks. The decor is kept simple: white walls, reclaimed school chairs and tables, and a vast wooden bar in the current coffee shop fa

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
The Wearer
Shopping

The Wearer

A collection of jewellery created by independent UK designers.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Union Chapel
Music

Union Chapel

The devil might have all the best tunes, but the Union Chapel is proof that him downstairs knows nothing about architecture. The Grade I-listed gothic masterpiece, completed in 1877, is still used as a working church and help centre for London's homeless. Noble purposes, to be sure, but equally uplifting is the effect the environment has on performances – and performers. Put simply, bands raise their game when they're playing the Union Chapel – it'd be sacrilege not to – and the spellbinding surroundings and acoustics mean it still beats the crap out of the most modern, purpose-built venue the twenty-first century has to offer. While itmade its name hosting acoustic nights and occasional jazz shows, the Union Chapel has since become a magnet for the thinking bands and their fans, particularly as part of the rightly lauded Little Noise Sessions for Mencap.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Comments

1 comments
John R. O'Neon
John R. O'Neon

Great area but I would like to know where Alan Davis lives? I want to send him a small 'Blue Whale' and can't find his contact address anywhere. I hope sombody can help me. Thanks John