LDNGuide

The Best Restaurants In Islington

From handmade pasta and Peruvian skewers, to vegan Chinese and top-tier gastropubs.
Rémy Martin

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The area surrounding Angel and Highbury and Islington has an abundance of eating options good, bad, and plain chain-y. But swing clear of Angel Central and you’ll find that Islington has much more than bog standard katsu curry. There are excellent buggy-friendly gastropubs for every Islingtonite, neighbourhood institutions doing everything from candlelit pappardelle to crispy chilli beef, and London’s two best roti-making pubs.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Chinese

Islington

$$$$Perfect For:Catching Up With MatesCasual Weeknight DinnerDate Night
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You can’t help but lower your tone in Hainan House, it’s just a gentle kind of place. The southern Chinese spot brings a warm, relaxed glow to a hectic part of Islington and its light touch cooking does the same. Settling into the quiet dining room with a plate of house-poached poussin feels like a lesson in exhaling. The subtle flavours here aren’t out to shout in your face but, rather, creep up for you. The wobbling silken tofu in a sharp vinegar dressing is a pleasing and paired-back combination, while mini coconut chicken hotpot is, for all intents and purposes, Chinese penicillin.

The Tamil Crown, from the same people behind The Tamil Prince, is an excellent neighbourhood pub and Indian spot in Angel. It pulls a great pint of Guinness downstairs and upstairs, heaving platters of button-loosening Sunday roasts hit tables. Perfectly tender lamb shank or moist chicken with charred skin, surrounded by deep-fried cauliflower, green beans cooked in creamy coconut, and shimmering gravy. During the week, there are curries and buttery, flaky roti on the menu.

photo credit: Koray Firat

This spot is Temporarily Closed.

With colourful murals and Brazilian flags adorning the walls, this pub-cum-Brazilian restaurant could fool you into thinking you’re at a bohemian São Paulo bar, not in Islington. The pork ribs are rubbed in molasses atop moreish, creamy cassava, while the feijoada—rich, creamy, with all the trimmings—is the star of the show. Go when there’s live music and you’ll probably stay, snacking and drinking caipirinhas until closing time.

Islington isn’t exactly wanting when it comes to restaurant-leaning pubs, but The Baring is proof that you can never have too much of a good thing. The done-up pub in De Beauvoir is a slick, poised, elegant space full of north London locals with a new-found passion for Crocs. It’s a lovely space in the day—particularly for a Sunday roast—but come evening it becomes altogether more intimate. The modern British food—crispy chips with aioli, barbecued meats, fish with tahini yoghurt, and the like—often remains on the comforting side of creative. And that feels just right.

At Hong Kong Restaurant, the king prawn cheung fun is hypnotically chewy, the siu mai glistens like it’s actually trying to wink at you, and the crab xiao long bao is the ultimate cure for anything. As well as excellent dim sum, this relaxed Cantonese spot on Upper Street serves roast duck dishes and spicy noodle soups, and has an atmosphere that’s best described as spa-adjacent, complete with a healing soundtrack of pan flutes. Also, great news for all late-risers, that expert dim sum is served until 9pm.  

London has a tonne of restaurants for brilliant slap-up Indian meals, but only one of them is in a former pub off Caledonian Road. Given the head chef of The Tamil Prince was in the kitchen at Roti King beforehand, it’s little surprise that the Indian spot is so good. The reality is 99% restaurant and 1% pub—and it’s the same with its sibling The Tamil Crown nearby—but that isn’t to its detriment. Where the wooden floorboards of this comfortable dining room once soaked up years worth of spilled lagers, now it’s taking on the intoxicating aromas of sizzling lamb chops, garlicky tiger prawns, and pungent dhal. 

Trullo is Padella’s older sibling. It’s a gorgeous Italian restaurant—all white paper tablecloths and oil stains—that’s made for grown-ups, families, and lovers to spend their day and night eating and drinking and never, ever looking at their watch. As far as neighbourhood restaurants go, this is one of the greatest. Just make sure you haven’t got anywhere else to go afterwards.

photo credit: Seyi Odeyemi

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Jam Delish, a vibrant vegan Caribbean spot on Tolpuddle Street, has the kind of Good Times energy that will enable a round of colourful cocktails, even on a Tuesday night. You could make a meal from small plates like ‘fish’ tacos and whole jerk plantain with sharp pomegranate, but don’t miss mains like incredibly tender, warming ‘oxtail’ (jackfruit and mushroom) stew. That said, you could equally come here just for the turned-up R&B playlist, foliage-covered walls, and people-watching in the lively dining room.

Opened by a former chef at pasta favourites Bancone and Tavolino, Noci was always going to fit into Islington Green. The roomy restaurant has a decent buzz to it and a focus on handmade pasta. This is what you come here for. The pesto and crispy pancetta ziti will put all your memories of fingering jars of Sacla to shame, while the brown butter cacio e pepe is something we could shovel for the rest of eternity. You can take or leave the sharing plates with little fuss—carbs are the star of the show here.

The fact that Caravel is a floating restaurant on a converted barge isn’t the only brilliant thing about this riverside delight. The candlelit barge is permanently moored between Old Street and Angel and while it’s a beautiful and unique setting, Caravel is doing a lot more than just bobbing along. Its intimate cabin dining room is matched by simply cooked bistro-ish food that ranges from thickly stuffed prawn toast to chicken liver pâté so smooth that an influencer would be forgiven for trying to contour with it. If you fancy a drink before or after, jump over to Bruno’s, the sibling bar-and-boat next door.

Saponara is a little deli and Italian restaurant in a quiet bit of Islington between the Essex Road and Upper Street, but nothing about this old-school spot is particularly quiet. The staff are joyful, there are bright Fellini posters and Ferrari flags on the wall, and the pizza is something to shout about. Yes, the pie topped with speck and shavings of pecorino is crisp and salty and all the things you want a pizza to be. But sometimes you just can’t beat gooey, expertly formed, blink and it’s gone, margherita. 

The Compton Arms has long been a firm favourite and in Tiella, its latest kitchen residency, it has an Italian menu of gorgeous simplicity. Getting a spot on the patio of this Islington pub is one of the best things you can do for the foreseeable future. Particularly once you throw in a plate of crunchy sage and anchovy fritti with perfectly unsociable aioli. A hunk of bread and a scoop of sheep’s ricotta smothered in honey and Calabrian chilli is the kind of combination that makes you think that everything is going to be alright.

Tofu Vegan is a Chinese spot on Upper Street that’s heaving seven days a week, as everyone tucks into house-made silken tofu in Sichuan sauce, mock meats like Chongqing chicken, and dim sum like tofu and mushroom xiaolongbao. The space is big, so much so that it spills out onto the pavement, much like the sizzling fish-fragrant sauce that will likely fall from your greedy spoonfuls. 

At Tierra Peru, it’s impossible not to smile. There’s the enlivening, citric ceviche. The hum of people swapping stories and anticuchos. The blitzing sound of the blender mixing another drink from behind the bar. The family-run Peruvian spot in Islington can make a Wednesday night feel like a weekend and the food is just as fulfilling. A couple of chef-recommended dishes—cordero huanuqueño (lamb chops rubbed in huacatay sauce) and picante chalaco (spicy seafood stew)—are must-tries, as are their homemade alfajores. 

The appeal of Indian Veg is simple: all-you-can-eat buffet at an amazingly low price. Get the ace onion bhajis as soon as possible after they come out of the kitchen and bring a couple of beers—there’s no alcohol licence. Prepare yourself for some pretty intense anti-meat propaganda on the walls (‘Cancer danger in your fry-up!’) and a carb-heavy Indian meal. 

Afghan Kitchen serves hearty, tasty Afghan food in a minimalist setting. The food is saucy. Like, literally. Things like chicken in yoghurt and fish stew are perfect, and are excellent to mop up with their warm naan-e-Afghani. The cosy nature of the space makes it ideal for a very personal party. Why host in your own kitchen when you can take over somebody else’s?

Yipin’s menu covers a lot of the map of China, but you should concentrate on the Hunan and Sichuan sections. This is upscale Chinese in an upscale area and therefore not cheap, but big portions mean you don’t have to max out your plastic. Many dishes contain massive quantities of chilli, fresh and dried. Order spiced fungus (a kind of wild mushroom), numbing and hot beef, and stir-fried pig knuckle.

Sushi Show serves excellent sushi in a tiny space down Camden Passage. You can pop in to grab a takeaway, or sit at the bar opposite the window and watch the fools who don’t realise what they’re walking past. The sashimi is reasonably priced and cut fresh in front of you. If sushi isn’t your thing, there’s also a small selection of comforting donburi. 

El Inca Plebeyo is covered in colourful paintings, tiles, pottery, and tablecloths. It’s loud, it’s proud, and its ceviche is just as bright on the eye. Both the raw dishes and the grilled meats at this Ecuadorian restaurant are big plates but it’s the hornado, a national dish of slow-cooked pork that’s worth coming out of your way for. There’s always music playing and group dinners are great—try to get the big table at the back where you can see the kitchen in action.

With its decorative posters, vintage telephones, and hunting horns, Little Georgia’s got good times written all over it. And the waiters are fun: smiling, jokey, and eager to advise about ordering. Order a shot of vodka and let them guide you through the Georgian menu. The all-Georgian wine list is inexpensive and great, and there’s also an excellent sparkling water called Borjomi. The soundtrack is also—you guessed it—all-Georgian, and if you’re lucky, the owner will get up and dance with one of the waiters. 

This beautiful pub is a little bit of a wander from public transport, which also makes it a welcome break from the crowds on and around Upper Street. The area feels like you’ve stepped through a magic curtain into a place where people no longer exist. Inside The Drapers Arms, you’ll find a bar downstairs with ales on tap and as well as tables ideal for sharing roasts and killer pies. Head for the garden in good weather. Book pretty much always.

Ask anyone in Islington where they go for brunch, and you’re almost sure to hear about Sunday. One of the hottest places in Barnsbury, this breakfast/brunch/lunch place is always packed out at weekends—and sometimes even during the week. It’s worth queuing, even in the rain, for consistently well-executed standard dishes and a few more out-of-the-ordinary ones. The pancakes are some of Islington’s fluffiest and the eggs benedict is awesome. Just... be patient.

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