Best restaurants in Islington

Looking for a restaurant in Islington? We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to, and compiled a handy list of the best. Whatever your budget or taste, SquareMeal is here to help, with a selection of the best restaurants for every occasion. Read on for our pick of the best restaurants in Islington.

Posted on 07 November 2018

Best restaurants in Islington


The Drapers Arms

The Drapers Arms

£30 - £49
Gastropub

44 Barnsbury Street, London, N1 1ER

It may look gentrified, but The Drapers Arms is a lively place, with the ground-floor bar humming like a good ’un when the locals flock in. The Georgian building’s fine features have been left well alone, which makes for spaces of generous proportions and classic design. To drink, there are real ales at the bar and a wine list offering glass and carafe options. Head upstairs to the serene dining room to escape the hubbub (assuming it’s not booked for a private party). A patio garden provides another alternative in summer. The kitchen satisfies with its mix of modern comfort food, such as the house cheeseburger, but is equally happy knocking up duck breast with roasted black plums, or packing guinea fowl, bacon and mushrooms into a pie. To finish, gingerbread pudding competes with Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses with crab apple jelly (is it OK to have both?).

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Primeur

Primeur

£30 - £49
French

116 Petherton Road, London, N5 2RT

A converted 1930s garage in residential Stoke Newington provides the unlikely setting for this French-inspired neighbourhood favourite. Large concertina doors open on to the street in summer, encouraging punters to venture outside. Inside, all is dimly lit, cosy utilitarianism, with a large communal table and benches running alongside the open kitchen. Top-quality, seasonal ingredients are used to simple, stunning effect. A handful of daily dishes are written on the blackboard: perhaps a fresh, zesty plateful of squid, lemon, capers and parsley, or clams in a rich wine, garlic and parsley sauce – perfect for mopping up with sourdough. To follow, rare yet tender grouse with stuffing and a creamy bread sauce might provide a late-summer treat. All entries on the ever-changing wine list (also chalked up) are available by the glass. Nearby competition is sparse, so Primeur is frequently packed: it looks primed for success.

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Prawn on the Lawn

Prawn on the Lawn

£30 - £49
Fish

292-294 St Paul’s Road, London, N1 2LL

Having moved from its tiny site on the same Islington road, this punnily-named seafood bar now occupies what used to be rotisserie joint LeCoq. Alongside Prawn on the Lawn Padstow in Cornwall, this London spin-off serves oysters and seafood platters on ice, as well as daily-changing small plates such as scallop ceviche. Thanks to this bigger premises however, there’s also cooked food on offer for the first time, including monkfish and chorizo stew with home-made soda bread, or half a lobster with a tomato, garlic and tarragon salad. Wines are thoughtfully chosen and the Bloody Marys are great too.

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1251

1251

£30 - £49
International

107 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN

Chef James Cochran’s departure from his eponymous restaurant in EC3 was a messy one, involving a legal battle with his former investors that has resulted in the site still operating under his name. However, the chef hasn’t let any of this dampen his enthusiasm, and the pay-off is 1251 – a confidently ambitious, two-floor site on Islington’s restaurant-heavy Upper Street.

Lunch brings a great-value express menu which promises three plates for under £20, while those arriving for dinner can choose between the carte or a five-course tasting menu. Begin with snacks such as a potato crisp topped with blobs of whipped oyster cream and seaweed, which eats like a pimped-up Walkers, before moving on to more substantial ideas, including strips of pork complemented by crumbly black pudding, a slick of smoked eel sauce and a shard of crackling that successfully avoids tooth-breaking territory.

We also liked dipping into a bowl of astonishingly good nugget-like bites – buttery chunks of rabbit in a coating of fried breadcrumbs, elevated by a potent smear of horseradish and pickled plum.  

Cochran may have earned his stripes at the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury, but 1251 sees him successfully blending fine ingredients with his Caribbean heritage in a casual setting complete with a hip-hop soundtrack. Make no mistake, this is a thoroughly modern restaurant with the charisma and individuality to stand out from the Upper Street crowd.

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The Gate Islington

The Gate Islington

£30 - £49
Vegetarian

370 St John Street, EC1V 4NN

Located opposite Sadler’s Wells Theatre, this second branch of the ground-breaking Gate takes the same clean-lined, eclectic approach as the Hammersmith original. Design-wise, the attractive corner site is very much of its time with bare filament bulbs, wooden floors, enamel pendant lights and windows all round, while owners Michael and Adrian Daniel continue to thrill with their cross-cultural, globally inspired vegetarian food: grilled halloumi in chermoula with freekeh, pomegranate and mint salad; sesame-coated smoked tofu with coriander pesto, pickled vegetables and seaweed; leek, trompette and Stilton tart; tortillas with two fillings, guacamole, sour cream and black-bean salsa – no hippie stodge here. Desserts are slightly more conservative – raw vegan cheesecake with prune jam, for example. Also look out for daily lunch/pre-theatre deals, weekend brunch, an all-day bar menu and an eclectic wine list bristling with organic, biodynamic and vegan bottles.

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Bellanger

Bellanger

£30 - £49
French

9 Islington Green, N1 2XH

The latest restaurant from Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, the uber-restaurateurs who count The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel among their ranks, takes its name from Monsieur Bellanger (seller of Delaunay-Belville automobiles) and, more importantly, makes a welcome addition to chain-heavy Upper Street. A trademark interior of polished wood, oil paintings, and gold finishes gives the spacious dining room a bright bistro feel, all designed by Shayne Brady of Brady Williams.

During our pre-opening lunch, we ate from a shortened version of a menu which celebrates the brasseurs (brewers) of Alsace. Expect a selection of French classics (similar to those which have made its siblings Brasserie Zédel and Colbert famous), alongside more Eastern European-leaning dishes: tangy salad râpées was brought up to date with the addition of celeriac and beetroot alongside the typical grated carrot, while beetroot-cured salmon with horseradish was perfect in its simplicity. Other options included a hearty pâté de campagne with fig jam, soupe à la bière (yes, that’s beer soup), or the 1980s favourite, a crayfish, prawn and avocado cocktail. For the main event, grilled chicken paillard was light and will no doubt prove popular among lunchtime diners, while cod à la Grenobloise (lemon, capers and parsley) was surprisingly rich, made more so by a side of creamy spinach. Sharing seems to be encouraged: coq au Reisling and baeckeoffe (beef, pork and lamb braised in Gewürztraminer wine) are offered for two or four people, while there’s a dedicated saucisse selection inviting diners to choose from varieties including Toulouse pork and wild boar with cranberry and venison.

For pudding, expect French classics such as tarte au pommes, Crêpe Suzette à la mode and vanilla crème brûlée. We’d been tipped off to order the tarte flambée, however, which arrives paper-thin on a wooden board, smeared with sticky apple and scattered chards of caramelised nut brittle. We’re told that when Bellanger is fully open, these will be available with savoury toppings such as goats’ cheese or bacon: basically the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine at the bar. We have every confidence that classy Bellanger will gain a strong reputation in Islington.

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69 Colebrooke Row

69 Colebrooke Row

Bars

69 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AA

Tony Conigliaro’s cocktail bar opened up at 69 Colebrooke Row with the moniker ‘the bar with no name’, which might be a case of trying too hard by seemingly not trying at all. Whatever you call the place, Tony C has made it a destination for fans of classic cocktails and those seeking the cutting edge of this most un-dark of arts. You’ll find a classic 1950s vibe going down at this dinky backstreet spot. The Bellini is reinvented here with raspberry and violet purée replacing the standard peach, and the Prairie Oyster gets a kick with the addition of horseradish vodka. If you prefer a classic cocktail undisturbed by contemporary configuration, the bar staff are happy to oblige. There’s food, too, with little snacky options such as ceviche and a beefy pumpernickel sandwich. Masterclasses are up for grabs if you’re looking for a new life skill.

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Oldroyd

Oldroyd

£30 - £49
Modern European

344 Upper Street, London, N1 0PD

Wedged between two inconsequential outlets, Tom Oldroyd’s first solo venture after leaving Polpo is tiny and easily missed on chain-heavy Upper Street. But its diminutive size produces a convivial buzz – as does the open-plan layout and the draw of seasonal, modern European sharing plates. The food fills the minute tables: golden, crunchy smoked pork belly and pea croquetas are a must, soothed with truffle mayonnaise; chilli coriander prawns (a special) arrive shell-on: fortunate, given the piquant juices lurking within. Larger offerings include crab tagliarini dotted with succulent white flesh, sitting on a brown crab rouille that made us want to lick the plate. For dessert, salty pistachios and fresh raspberries cut through a decadent chocolate mousse, and a sweet, white-peach Bellini from the refined cocktail list also does the job. Oldroyd is surely set to become integral to Islington’s dining scene. Whether you can bag a table is another matter.

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Hot Stone

Hot Stone

£30 - £49
Sushi
Japanese

9 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EZ

At first glance, Hot Stone appears to be just another low-key Japanese local. Classic minimalist interiors are matched with faux cherry blossom trees climbing the walls and cutesy chopstick stands in the shape of animals. But cheery staff (who, Nobu-style, offer a Japanese greeting in unison to everyone that comes through the door) and the skilful output of the kitchen lift Hot Stone well above the generically Japanese and prove that there’s more to this Islington gem than meets the eye.

Guests can watch the chefs' work by dining at the counter or choose to sit at a handful of tables towards the back of the restaurant. As the name suggests, hot stone dishes are the thing to try – sizzling, super-heated slabs of granite which arrive at the table with your choice of protein, with diners left to cook the food to their liking. We opted for the luxe, startlingly tender A5 Japanese Wagyu, but we could have had Scottish sirloin or rib-eye, or a seafood mix of scallop, king prawn, tuna and salmon. 

If that doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of other dishes which impress. Take the supremely flaky black cod (another nod to Nobu), marinated for 48 hours and slicked with homemade miso. Sushi, meanwhile, exquisitely presented in smart wooden boxes with a blob of fresh wasabi, ranges from the classic to the contemporary: yellowtail, eel or fatty tuna, say, or a Suzuki roll involving seared seabass slices with pomegranate and yuzu miso. 

Moments from Angel tube station, Hot Stone is well worth a look for anyone looking for an intriguing and intimate alternative to central London's party crowd of frenetic, fast-paced modern Japanese. And while it's by no means a cheap eat, prices are not outrageous for the high quality of the ingredients (fresh 100% Japanese wasabi features prominently), while the short and straightforward list of saké and international wines is worth exploring. 

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Smokehouse Islington

Smokehouse Islington

£30 - £49
Gastropub

63-69 Canonbury Road, London, N1 2DG

Part of a wee gang of three covering N1 and EC2 (The Pig & Butcher and The Princess of Shoreditch being the other two), the Smokehouse is a gastropub through and through. It doesn’t open until 5pm Monday to Friday, yet despite the lack of daytime hours it is definitely a pub, with a stonking range of beers by draught and bottle – including a great showing from London. There’s a highly serviceable European-based wine list too. Rustic-chic is the order of the day when it comes to the decor, with plenty of wood and a verdant patio garden. But although you’ll find hearty smoky dishes on the menu to match, the food is actually rather refined, with the kitchen producing foie gras ganache with peaches and granola alongside the Highland cow-burger with Korean pulled pork, or smoked lamb shoulder with polenta. We also found a genuine passion for provenance here.

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Trullo

Trullo

£30 - £49
Italian

300-302 St Paul's Road, London, N1 2LH

“Always packed to the gills, Trullo hits the mark every time”, declaims a fan of this much-loved Islington spot. Everyone adores its lively (sometimes noisy) atmosphere, eager-to-please staff, calming contemporary interiors and a helpfully annotated regional wine list – not forgetting the “idiosyncratic Italian menu”. The “sublime” handmade pasta (perhaps pappardelle with exquisitely rich beef shin ragù, or ravioli of summer squash and sweet onions) is just the start. Also expect plates of wood pigeon with black figs and cobnut salad, baked skate wing with braised hispi cabbage and brown crab or char-grilled Dorset lamb rump with borlotti beans, datterini tomatoes and anchovy – “perfectly executed” dishes of top-drawer seasonal ingredients. To finish, we’re sold on the decadent chocolate tart and the regional Italian cheeses (Rocchetta Ubriaco) with matching wines. Be warned: this place is addictive.

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Frederick

Frederick's

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49

106 Islington High Street, Camden Passage, London, N1 8EG

“One of my all-time favourites for over 25 years now!” enthuses a dedicated follower of Frederick’s – an Islington “classic” with more than four decades of honourable service under its belt. The airy interior still looks dapper, the lovely alfresco space is “one of life’s pleasures” (especially with glass of rosé in hand), and the location amid the antique shops of Camden Passage is as endearing as ever. Meanwhile, the food has moved with the times, without ever chasing fashion or sacrificing consistency: stuffed courgette flowers ‘three ways’ is a modish opener, but also keep an eye out for the likes of organic salmon tartare with avocado, sesame soy dressing and pan carasau, curried monkfish with pappardelle and sautéed cauliflower or gigot of Welsh lamb with chips. It isn’t cheap, although affordable lunch/pre-theatre deals, Saturday brunch and kids’ menus deserve a cheer. There are also some “lovely wine choices” to peruse.

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Galley

Galley

£30 - £49
Fish

105-106 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN

With 10 years as head chef of Randall & Aubin under his belt, Polish-born Marcel Grzyb is bringing his fish-led cookery to Islington’s bar-restaurant scene. His sister Oriona Robb, in collaboration with designer Mika Burdett, is behind the eclectic interior (green velvet banquettes, Moroccan tiles, vintage rugs) that provides an apt backdrop for the all-day menu of globally inspired small and large plates. A meal might start with a colourful tower of yellowfin tuna tartare, stacked with soft mango and avocado and drizzled with sticky teriyaki; or smoky-rich octopus and chorizo a la plancha. Mains span the ocean, from John Dory with saffron mussel sauce to a majestic-looking lobster pappardelle. We plumped for sea bass, which arrived emanating truffle-laced aromas atop plump gnocchi, bobbing in a moreish broth of wild mushrooms. Scottish venison provides a worthwhile meaty alternative. An enticing brunch list (duck Benedict, perhaps), prettily presented puddings (creamy pannacotta arrives with a scattering of honeycomb, flowers and sour blackberries) and a sound selection of Old and New World wines (though more options by the glass are needed) add to Galley’s appeal. At the front, a compact bar serves cocktails both traditional and contemporary; here, French windows opening on to Upper Street should ensure summertime crowds.

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The Dead Dolls House Islington

The Dead Dolls House Islington

£30 - £49
British

181 Upper Street, London, N1 1RQ

With its great bar, occasional live music and general feeling of decadence, there’s no doubt that this venue is hip, but not so hip that it forgets to enjoy itself. To enhance the interiors of the old Victorian townhouse, outlines of furniture have been drawn on the walls, giving an almost storybook appearance while keeping space at a maximum. Divided into rooms on different levels, the ground-floor parlour is for drinking and music – venture further up the building for private dining spaces, a restaurant featuring classic easy-eating gastropub-style food (think cured salmon, steaks cooked by Big Green Egg, Pimm’s cheesecake) and a member’s club at the top. It’s fun, buzzy and a great place for a date.

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