Islington is a series of villages with some great places to go out or just enjoy a bit of peace – it’s really up to you. Many of the ideas below are suggested by the locals who’ve been interviewed on islingtonfacesblog.com. You’ll get many more if you follow this blog, which has new interviews published once a week. Please do send your suggestions for places you like.
- Photos are from a trip to Camden Passage by Vicky Ryzhykh (2014). Other photographers are Isabel Vandergirt Wilson and Islington Faces.
ANGEL (Angel tube)
Shopping mecca with supermarkets (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and M&S). Lots of independent shops including cheese at Pistachio & Pickle. Try Chapel Market tues-saturday for all sorts of stalls. On Sunday there is also the farmers’ market. It’s a lovely place to go to after a busy time visiting any of the Business Design Centre exhibitions.
Coffee shop Tinderbox or Candid Cafe Arts Trust just behind the tube (the courtyard is peaceful and perfect for outdoor drinks and snacks – try the chocolate and coriander cake).
Eating Frederick’s, 106 Camden Passage is stylish and an Islington institution. Expect delicious food – a place for a proper treat, or even a wedding party.
Pubs the Red Lion used to be a favourite of Marx – and there’s an avant garde theatre space on the first floor.
Best kept secret Camden Passage is brilliant. You could spend all day browsing the stalls and shops – and there are some lovely restaurants along it too. Perfect for window shopping. Brilliant for that special find. Humming at the weekend.
ARCHWAY (Archway tube)
Coffee shop The Spoke at 710 Holloway Road is a skilfully converted old pub serving fabulous breakfasts and coffee. But it also has the best chips in Islington. Or try The Gate on Archway Island which has a garden, find it at 6 Archway Close, N19
Eating Don’t miss Archway Market on Saturdays which has good fruit and veg on sale and a renowned book stall.
Pubs The Landseer, 37 Landseer Road is a relaxing gastro pub. On Junction Road try St John’s (serves great Sunday roasts) and the Oak & Pastor.
Best kept secret the bus drivers’ refuge just by Upper Holloway – old fashioned but fascinating. If you go over the borough boundary you may find the statue of Dick Whittington’s cat.
Fab shop Mag on Junction Road for gifts and cards
ARSENAL (Arsenal tube, Holloway tube, Drayton Park rail)
Coffee shop Four Angels on Gillespie Road.
Eating Organica Pizza on Gillespie Road.
Pubs nearest is Highbury Barn or Ye Aulde Triangle on St Thomas’ Road. The Drayton Park is also an Arsenal pub.
Best kept secret The Arsenal club shop on Drayton Park & the Arsenal Museum just over the bridge by the Emirates stadium. Do try and pop into Gillespie Park – there’s also a cafe at the Ecology Centre most Sundays – as it is beautiful with a big pond, woodland and picnic spots.
Coffee shop Brunch is fantastic at Sunday Cafe, 169 Hemingford Road. Or try Roots, 115 Hemingford Road.
Eating Head to Chapel Street market or Caledonian Road.
Pubs The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road rightly calls itself a Georgian gem. Great place for a Sunday roast. Also try the Hemingford Arms, 158 Hemingford Road, the gastro pub/restaurant The Drapers Arms, 44 Barnsbury Street Or The Barnsbury, 209-211 Liverpool Road. Barnsbury is good for pubs.
Best kept secret Barnsbury wood (open tuesdays). One wit says Barnsbury people are more likely to meet at Gstaddt (skiing) than on their doorsteps – but you may also find them in Aria, Barnsbury Hall, Barnsbury Street, a furniture shop in an amazing converted music hall (best of all it allows you to browse with your dog).
Coffee shop there are so many good ones along this road, only Blighty is achingly trendy, the rest have homespun character.
Eating Au Lac (Vietnamese), Yildiz (middle Eastern), Little Sardegna. This area is packed with restaurants that serve authentic local dishes at reasonable prices.
Pubs The Bank of Friendship, 224 Blackstock Road is an Arsenal pub but it has a lovely garden. Another goodie is The Woodbine.
Best kept secret Gathering Moss for bric-a-brac, T-Bird for drinking & comedy nights.
CALEDONIAN ROAD (King’s Cross tube/rail & Caledonian Road tube)
Coffee shop Drink, Shop, Do at 9 Caledonian Road. It’s a former Turkish bath/sex shop which now converts from daytime coffee to evening bar. Lots of space and light and all sorts of things to learn.
Eating I’ve not eaten here but I’ve heard that Merkato, 196 Caledonian Road (near King’s Cross) is an impressive Ethiopian restaurant – often with live singers (singing Ethiopian style).
Pubs The huge Shillibeer’s Bar & Grill at 1 Carpenter’s Mews, N7, just off North Road. A good place to book for a party. They do food too!
Best kept secret Walk along the canal and dog-leg up through Barnsbury to Upper Street or go the other way to the heart of King’s Cross which is full of new eateries with the heart at Granary Square. See if you can find the skip garden in Lewis Cubitt Park.
CAMDEN PASSAGE (Angel tube)
Coffee shop Coffee Works Project or the Breakfast Club
Pubs The York, the Camden Head
Best kept secret a walk by Regent’s Canal
CANONBURY (Highbury & Islington tube. Also Canonbury Station)
Coffee shop The Place, 11 Canonbury Place, N1 2NQ. “Enjoyed my fresh apple carrot and ginger juice and food in the charming courtyard, with great music along side a heater in case it got chilly. They managed well to cope with not having a cook or a manager present and still deliver amazing food with a smile and good vibes.” – Isabel VanderGert – Wilson
Eating Estorick caffe serves quick Italian treats. The Canonbury Kitchen on Canonbury Lane has a tasty looking menu. The Smokehouse boasts 20 craft beers, and a great reputation for food, on Canonbury Road.
Pubs Compton Arms is a sweet pub with real ale, just tucked behind Upper Street. Try the new menu at the recently revamped Canonbury Tavern – it’s a real gem in the summer with its huge garden.
Best kept secret #1 the beautiful architecture of Canonbury Tower. On Open Garden days (June) there are several gorgeous gardens backing on to the New River that you can visit for charity – and enjoy a cup of tea and a cake on the lawns. Or just try walking along the New River (neither new, or a river).
Best kept secret #2 George Orwell was resident from 1943 in Canonbury Square, living here when Animal Farm was published and while he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. He also wrote a great essay on the ideal pub, The Moon Under Water (which Wetherspoons later borrowed!). The three pubs he based this ideal on are all in Canonbury – the Hen & Chickens (for its smoky atmosphere), the Canonbury (for its garden including the chestnut tree) and the Compton Arms (for its friendly bar staff). Orwell liked a pub which served food and good quality real ale.
CHAPEL MARKET (Angel tube)
Coffee shop Euphorium
Eating try grazing from the stalls.
Pubs The Craft Beer Company runs a not traditional pub, but it has good bar food and beers
Best kept secret Chapel Market is cheap and a good place to source useful items. Cut through near the top and you are practically at King’s Cross or take a detour to Amwell Street which is gorgeous. The farmers’ market is on Sunday mornings – a great place for seasonal treats and wholesome bread.
FINSBURY PARK (Finsbury Park tube)
Coffee shop Plenty to try including Blighty on Blackstock Road; lots on Wells Terrace including the Park Theatre, and the newly-opened Essex Bakery on Stroud Green Road. Or pop up to The Pembury Hotel and use Aroma which has a quiet decked garden. Who’d have guessed you could hear yourself speak in a place off Seven Sisters?
Eating just go and decide which of the Ethiopian or Algerian restaurants you want to try.
Pubs Mostly big Arsenal pubs around Finsbury Park/Seven Sisters Road. Nearby The Auld Triangle, St Thomas’ Road, has heaps of old-fashioned character and starred in the Wee Man.
Best kept secret the Park Theatre which offers discounts to people with N postcodes on tuesdays. It has a fab cafe/bar which is dog friendly too.
HIGHBURY BARN (bus 4, 19 and others, or 20 min walk from either Highbury & Islington tube/rail, Arsenal tube)
Coffee shops Highness, Dido
Eating Iznik and cheese snacks or coffee at La Fromagerie.
Pubs Highbury Barn serves great coffee early. Small dogs are allowed in. There are three food sittings during Arsenal games so you will need to book on a match day. It does a lovely Sunday roast for families, or anyone else who fancies eating out.
Best kept secret Barnabys, 1 Highbury Park for hair cuts.
HIGHBURY CORNER (Highbury & Islington tube)
Coffee shop Maison d’Etre, 154 Canonbury Road (on Highbury Corner) is tiny but a real gem. Enjoy it in winter with mismatched cup and saucer, your own teapot and steamed up windows. Estorick caffe has a lovely garden and an art gallery attached. Amici coffee is the nearest to the tube. Go a little way down Holloway Road to find a French gem, Le Peche Mignion on Ronalds Road.
Fun: the Union Chapel has lovely free concerts on Saturday afternoons – and good ticketed ones at other times. Go early so you can enjoy the atmospheric (and huge) bar upstairs with meals on sale. Or just enjoy a mug of tea and a bag of popcorn from the pop up cafe in the chapel.
Best kept secret the original pillar from the long-demolished Highbury station – find it on the left as you enter the station, just beside the pub.
HIGHBURY FIELDS (Highbury & Islington tube)
Important: if you use a BBQ on Highbury Fields be sure to rest the disposable BBQ pack on 2 bricks (or even a grill) so you don’t burn the grass – which spoils it for other users. You also need to dispose of these BBQs safely. After use pour water over them and then place into the special bins on the fields. Please do not just leave them or put them in a normal litter bin as they cause fires.
Coffee shop Oasis in the Park by the tennis courts (north end) has loads of tables in the fenced-in section, so brilliant for letting young children explore and play while you sit and chat.
Fun what can’t you do on Highbury Fields? There’s the sports centre with swimming pool, plus a perfect playground and good 2 o’clock club. The fields are lovely for chilling, picnics, yoga, mediation, walks, running and controversially a place where you can have a BBQ – just remember to take your rubbish home. Dog walkers and families use it as an extension of their homes.
Pubs nearest are Highbury Barn, the Alwyne Castle on St Paul’s Road or the Lamb Bar & Liquor on Holloway Road.
Best kept secret look for the beautifully mown paths in the summer near the children’s playground. And on the other side of the road enjoy spotting the historic coal holes. George Orwell used to take his adopted son for walks on Highbury Fields.
HOLLOWAY (Highbury & Islington tube/rail, Holloway tube, Upper Holloway rail, Archway tube)
Lookout for the #LoHo twitter feed
Eating El Molino (the bigger one offering lunchtime tapas deals)
Pubs The Swimmer
Best kept secret The Odeon cinema is beautiful if a bit unloved. Try Bikram yoga at Bikram Highbury & Islington.
Coffee shop Euphorium
Eating Meat has a stunning (listed) interior and serves vegetarian choices too.
Pubs Duke of Cambridge is an organic pub. Wenlock & Essex is buzzy.
Best kept secret the blue plaque celebrating Islington’s role in turn of the century music hall theatre on the Waterstone’s building. Or get bidding for your own bit of furniture with a story at Criterion auction rooms. Viewing is always fun – sales are on Mondays (and you can leave a bid or bid on line or via phone).
KING’S CROSS (King’s Cross tube/rail)
Coffee King’s Place is a good place to meet for coffee – lots of sofas and long tables, plus a view of Guardian staff’s ankles if you look up, concert players’ heads if you look down and peaceful canal views as you search for your friend…
Eating Brunch at The Grain Store sitting outside watching the ever-changing water spouts. Or try the weekday pop up market stalls on King’s Cross concourse and at Lewis Cubitt Square.
Winebars There’s a wine bar in the massive new Waitrose on the far side of Granary Square and Vinoteca on King’s Boulevard serves breakfast wines… Also look at the GNH bar in the redone Great Northern Hotel.
Be sure to see Platform 9 and three quarters is now a photo opportunity at King’s Cross, it’s also mobbed by Harry Potter fans – cute. And Platform 9 is possibly above the final resting place of Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni.
Best kept secret The oldest site of Christian worship in Londonis St Pancras Old Church which has a bizarre ash tree growing through the graves author Thomas Hardy had to move when the Midland Railway Company bought church land. It was definitely his worst job. Also find there memorials from art eccentric Sir John Soane and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
Green space More than you’d expect including the canal, Camley Street Natural Park, the outdoor pond at the King’s Cross Pond Club and the amazing Skip Garden at Lloyd Cubitt Park, which has already moved four times.
LIVERPOOL ROAD (Angel end so Angel tube)
Coffee shop xx
Eating There’s rumoured to be amazing food at the Pig & Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road.
Pubs The Barnsbury, 209-211 Liverpool Road. The Angelic, 57 Liverpool Road.
Best kept secret King Henry’s Walk garden – bliss after a Sainsbury’s shopping trip.
OLD STREET – the tube has underground overgrounds and a sweet shopping centre called St Agnes Well. People like to refer to Old Street as Silicon Roundabout because so many British web-based companies are based here.
Coffee shop: XX
Eating: Try the stalls on White Cross Street or the proper old school cafe, The Shepherdess (aka The Shep) on the corner of Shepherdess Walk.
Pubs: The Eagle, 2 Shepherdess Walk. OK it’s in Hackney, but it’s so close to Islington. It’s also the pub starring in the nursery rhyme Pop Goes The Weasel.
Best kept secret: free Friday lunchtime concerts at St Lukes which is run by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). Another goodie is the Ironmunger Row baths – originally the baths and laundry used by people in the old borough of Finsbury who didn’t have hot water or bathrooms in their homes. It’s a listed building with a lovely pool and there are spa rooms too.
TUFNELL PARK (Tufnell Park tube, 4 bus)
Coffee shop: the beautiful tiles of 9 Campdale Road have seen several coffee shop incarnations. Currently it is Korova which serves great coffee by day, trying to locally source ingredients for its salad lunches and then transforms into a dinner place at night open from 8am-22.30 (some days midnight).
Pub Tufnell Park Tavern’s huge interior has plenty of space for breakfast-fans, dog owners, mums and buggies, children and all other locals who like real ale and gastro choices. There’s also a farmers’ market outside the Tufnell Park Tavern on Saturday mornings.
Best kept secret The Rock Tower, 49 Tufnell Park Road, N7 may be a practising church, but it is also one of Islington’s biggest venues. This is where Jeremy Corbyn held his final leadership challenge rally before being elected leader of the Labour party in September 2015.
Green space Try Tufnell Park which has a small children’s play area. The rest is a huge rectangular grassy space with trees along the border offering great sight lines if you want to eye up joggers or watch your children kicking a ball.
UPPER STREET (Angel tube (south end), Highbury & Islngton tube/rail (north end)
Coffee shop Euphorium – so popular there are two on Upper Street. Or try an all-day breakfast served at the Workers Cafe, 172 Upper Street (opposite the town hall).
Tea shop Piacha, 280 Upper Street makes tea delicious again. There are at least 24 combinations – try the liquorice, milky oolong, pine needles white tea and rhubarb roobios or stick to your traditional favourite, Earl Grey (between £2.30 and £2.80 a cup). There are even ice tea smoothies (£3.70). You can go in and admire the magic teapots (quite different to the ones with handles and spouts); have a good sniff of the tester tea jars or even try out a mini cup of tea from the thermos.
Eating Upper Street is nicknamed Supper Street because it has everything to suit everyone’s budget. I love tapas and Turkish (Gallipoli). Le Mercury is another long-standing favourite. Really it’s got everything from ramen and sushi to Mexican and Mediterranean. What do you fancy?
Pubs King’s Head (and its theatre). Amazing window on Hoxley & Porter. The Vineyard is always busy – go there to watch the weddings opposite on a Saturday.
Best kept secret Cross Street and just off that the Little Angel Theatre.
ISLINGTON FACES PUBLISHED ON ANGEL RESIDENT
(focusing on the best local places to go…