Stoke Newington or ‘Stokey’, as it’s affectionately known to some of its buggy-maneuvering and reusable coffee cup-gripping residents, is one of north London’s most aesthetically pleasing areas. There’s Clissold Park, there’s Abney Cemetery, and there’s the oldest Wetherspoon’s in London.
Green and beer-stained spaces aside, there are also a load of excellent places to eat around here. From wine bars in Newington Green, to back-alley brunch spots two minutes from the park, this is where you should be eating in Stoke Newington.
Our favourite type of restaurant is the one you walk past for months and months before eventually remembering to give it a try, and it turning out to be absolutely brilliant. Rubedo is one of those and we already regret telling you about it. The food is Italian-inspired but generally it’s just excellent, fresh-tasting produce being treated very simply and very well. Think burrata with Italian anchovy fish sauce or prosciutto with quince and radicchio. Paired back, delicious things that work well together. The wines are natural, much like the rest of the approach, and, once you settle in here, it’s very, very easy to forget you’re in England, let alone the top of Church Street.
If a nice brunch place takes bookings, is it even a nice brunch place? This is a question we often ask ourselves and at the moment the answer seems to be... no. Esters is easily the best brunch place in Stoke Newington, and probably the whole of this part of London. Yes, you have to queue, but time it right and it won’t be for very long. Besides, it’s worth it. They get pretty creative with their food here, like confit pork with fried egg and rhubarb ketchup. It’s just really good. They take their coffee seriously as well, but none of this makes for a poncey atmosphere - it’s relaxed, friendly and generally easy-going.
Every part of London is full of favourites. Favourite pubs, newsagents, chicken shops, and bus stops. The reasons vary - be it Taytos behind the bar, or a bossman with boss chat - but the point is you’ve got your go-tos for a reason, and Numara Bos Cirrik II is one of our favourite Turkish spots around Stoke Newington. It’s a straightforward, old school ocakbasi restaurant that just makes downright good food. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve come here for a beyti wrap and stayed for a bowl of lentil soup. The menu is standard, classic fare and so is the inside - as good for groups as it is for solo grilled meats - it’s a firm favourite and we don’t think that will ever change.
A direct descendant of two of London’s original and still-brilliant gastro pubs - the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms - The Clarence Tavern is a younger sibling that feels like it’s been about on Church Street for years. The corner it lives on previously had the feel of something perhaps a bit cursed. There was an old school boozer and then a slightly baffling pub-aesthetic tea house but now, in the shape of a warm and wooden pub making exemplary pies, wobbling panna cottas, and still pulling fine pints - it’s got something that’s here to stay. Just as good for hunkering down for dinner inside as it is for a sunny tomato salad-filled lunch in the back garden, it manages to make lots of effort seem effortless.
Billed as ‘modern Australian’, Wander is a standout in Stoke Newington’s at times underwhelming dinner scene. There are certain dishes that make you think, ‘hello’. Chicken liver and bacon parfait served on a hot cross bun with a touch of raisin chutney is delicious and quite unique. Wild garlic spaghetti with crab, ’nduja, and crouton bits is excellent. Not everything is perfect and things feel a bit off the cuff at times, but this is a small plates and natural wines restaurant that has all it needs to set itself apart from the rest.
Romeo and Giulietta is a lovely little gelateria just south of Clissold Park that makes extremely creamy, and delicious, and two scoop essential gelato. The biscokrok (biscuits, basically) is our favourite but nothing here tastes like a dud, whether the sun is shining or not.
For an area with a high concentration of pubs, Stoke Newington is severely lacking in pubs at the more gastro end of things. Although that suits for the most part, sometimes you fancy a pint and a pie, and The Prince is ideal for just that. It’s a civilized affair at this spruced-up neighbourhood pub, and the mood leans more creche than pints of Carling on the weekend. It’s split between bar and dining room, and the menu, from padron peppers to homemade pies, is consistently satisfying.
A tapas bar that’s serving Spanish cuisine via Scotland may sound odd initially, but the more we think about it, the more we like it. Haggis croquettes. Churros with a Mars Bar sauce. We’re geniuses. Admittedly, this is nothing like what Escocesa has on offer. This is a neighbourhood tapas bar where all the seafood has come from up there, and is used to make some familiar and delicious tapas plates. Things are best here when the seafood is left to do its thing, like grilled octopus or tortilla with prawn. It’s a nice setting - particularly sitting up at the bar - and it makes for an ideal spot for a date.
Rumour has it that if you roll three Burford Brown eggs down Stoke Newington Church Street, a bearded man in wayfarers will appear and give you his secret shakshuka recipe. It’s just a rumour, but we suspect that’s why Good Egg opened down here a few years ago. They knew this was the spot that wanted brunch and they have very much provided it. The shakshuka here is decent and the shawarmas are very nice. Warning: prepare to queue on the weekend and prepare for buggies.
This place used to be called L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and people would come to Stoke Newington Church Street from all over London to try one of two pizzas on the menu - margherita or marinara - made just like they are in Naples. Though the famous name might have gone, this simple little spot has maintained standards, and the pizzas are up there with the best London has to offer. And on those days when the weather is as good as it probably is in Naples, they have a small garden where you can book if you’re a group of six or more.