54 Blackstock Road, London, N4 2DW
Established by three friends in an actual back yard, this small chain of lo-fi neighbourhood pizzerias is perhaps most famous for being the random and unannounced venue for the UK debut of Macauley Culkin’s covers band (at the original in Clapton). Luckily, the quality of the (punningly named) pizzas – handmade with double-fermented dough, then stone-baked – has sustained the public’s interest since then. The 12- or 18-inch bases come with a variety of both classic and eccentric toppings, from a simple margherita made with fior di latte, to a flavour punch that mixes smoked pig cheeks with roasted pineapple, pickled pink onions and Pollock-esque spatterings of red and green salsas. Location-specific specials are on offer too, with the Walthamstow branch serving a weekend brunch, for example, featuring the likes of garlicky pizzas with dip-worthy egg and optional Marmite. Can’t get a table? Yard Sale have (equally popular) takeaway counters too.
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£30 - £49
131 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 3PX
There’s a distinctly Italian accent to this “simply wicked” Finsbury Park pizzeria and bar – a “great local” run by two friends who share the name of Marco. The kitchen serves up “proper stuff”, so kick off with char-grilled Provolone and spicy marinated vegetables, beef carpaccio or pan-fried scallops tossed with courgettes and chilli before sampling a first-rate pizza from the ‘forno a legana’ (wood-fired oven) – we’ve always liked the calzone with ham, salami, mozzarella and olives, but other options range from a spinach version with a fried egg to porcini, speck and tangy Taleggio cheese. There are plenty of pastas and mains too – from pappardelle with broccoli and pancetta to char-grilled beef tagliata. You can sit outside, but it’s more atmospheric, fun and noisy indoors, where the pace is fast. Pappagone has many devotees among London’s Italian community, so best book in advance.
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3 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 2DQ
Simple and unassuming, this small Korean-Japanese hybrid, with its pictures of sushi in the window and tinkling fountain just inside the door, offers a calm respite from begrimed Finsbury Park station. Dotori has been quietly building a reputation over the past few years, so it’s wise to book. Prices are gratifyingly low, encouraging experimentation, and the Korean dishes are just as worthy of attention as the Japanese: perhaps seafood and spring onion pancake, or deep-fried oysters with a punchy chilli sauce, followed by bibimbap (rice topped with vegetables and chilli paste – with the possible addition of egg, meat or fish – served in a hot stone pot and mixed together at the table). Sushi is firm and fresh, tempura light and crisp, and service, from young waiters in smart black T-shirts, is well-meaning if occasionally erratic.
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£30 - £49
53 Stroud Green Road, N4 3EF
On the grubby paving stones of Stroud Green Road, a carefully chalked menu alerts you to this small, smart, gently offbeat restaurant. It’s just one of the touches that lifts your dining experience above the ordinary, along with the crumbly, oaty soda bread brought to your table, the perfectly soft butter, and the flakes of salt on the chocolate dessert that make it sing. Owners Neil Gill and Michael Spurgeon list such names as Alan Yau and respected gastropubs The Eagle and The Duke of Cambridge on their CVs, and their experience shows in dishes that are accomplished yet unfussy. Polish off octopus carpaccio with saffron oil, chilli and lime, before roast pork belly with spring greens and shiitake mushrooms, washed down with fruity, and pleasantly frugal, organic Spanish white. Convivial atmosphere and genial, clued-up staff, too.
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£30 - £49
26-27 Grand Parade, Green Lanes , London, N4 1LG
Veysel Yavuz and his family came to the UK in 1990 from Turkey’s farming community, settled in north London and bought a shop in Green Lanes, which eventually became the first branch of Gökyüzü. Rustic stone arches, tiles, ethnic pottery and artefacts set the tone in the dining room, while the food is true to the home country – albeit with influences from across the Mediterranean. “Awesome sharing platters” have been singled out, but the menu offers plenty for those who want to keep things to themselves: daily stews such as lamb with aubergines are a stomach-filling proposition, but there are also mezze plates, pide (Turkish pizzas), charcoal grills and specials ranging from yoghurtli adana (skewered minced lamb chopped on bread with tomato sauce, yoghurt and butter) to char-grilled sea bream or fried vegetables wrapped in lavash bread with cheese. Drink Turkish wine, raki or beer.
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