Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where to eat in Angel Islington and where to avoid - a list of 30 restaurants and eateries in the area


It is said that Angel Islington's Upper Street is the street with the most number of restaurants and eateries in the entire Europe. While I'm not so sure about the claim, it wouldn't be too far off either. Angel's vicinity is just teeming with eating spots, some better than the others and here a list of just 30 of them in alphabetical order. Please feel free to add any others in the comments section.

This izakaya along Essex Road is really a full service restaurant albeit on the pricey side. There's a small sushi/bar counter right at the back of the restaurant for lone diners. If you're feeling peckish, I would recommend their kitsune udon.

Antonio Ristorante
Hidden right up an alleyway with the only indication as a menu propped up where the alley opens up to Upper Street. The restaurant is beside what I could only imagine to be a garage but it more than make up for it with its warm service and nice ambience especially if you are seated in the main area instead of the corridor leading to its kitchen. It would be better food wise though.

The popular burger chain is taking London by storm. Decent burgers with friendly service is their hallmark. Amongst the various themes in their branches, I like their Islington branch's stripped down facade best. I was just hanging round the joint the other day and every other person who walked past would point to it and whispered to their mates,"The place has really good burgers." Need I say more?

Cuba Libre
You can tell that they spend quite some time in the decor, which feels very 'Tropico'. Its tapas, which is its main offerings, left us a bit disappointed though.

Delhi Grill
Modelled after the Indian dhaba (roadside food joint), it offers mainly grilled street food. Prices are extremely reasonable, great place to get wasted on curries, naan and kebabs.

Di Monforte
An Italian along Liverpool Road with good ambience and warm service. The music was a bit too loud when I was there but if you sit away from the bar counter, you should be just fine. Perfect for a date.

Drapers Arms
Set in the nicer part of Islington, its shelf of old penguin classics left a deep impression. Don't even attempt to sit on the sofas near the shelves. Go for the plaice, which is one of its better offerings.

Food Lab
This charming little Italian along Essex Road punches above its weight. Despite its limited space, parents insist on wheeling their buggies in, and even down those stairs into its basement seating area. Other than pasta and its "Full English - Italian style", its cakes and pastries are hugely popular too.

Trademark orange balloons are always welcome by children. More of a family breakfast place with pancakes and all. Check out their huevos rancheros while you're there for a palate cleansing meal.

I like this but my Indian pals who know their food told met that it is far from authentic. According to them, Gufaa is at best a mixture of Pakistani and British impression of Indian food. To each his own, I guess. Gufaa offers a great lunch deal, which is essentially a thali for under £6.

I've been to this so many times that its staff actually recognizes me. I can't help it as its lunch deals (till 6pm) is definitely the best value for money. Go for the salt and pepper squid lunch set, that's pretty good. Also, the mango and black sticky rice is to die for. However, the mango turned out to be sour instead of sweet of late. You might want to check with the staff before ordering.

La Forchetta
This used to be a cheap and cherry Italian pizzeria until it underwent a major revamp. Other than a gelato counter, it looks fancier now as well. Ventilation is a problem under the revamp, avoid seating towards the end of the restaurant especially in the height of summer. Else, it's still relatively affordable. Don't expect too much in terms of taste and service.

La Porchetta
This is a too cosy for our liking; with tables placed right up next to each other, it is a bit difficult to hold a conversation without the table next to you joining in as well. Service was excellent and the main staff took quite some time going through the menu with us. There's a larger setup along Roseberry Avenue so they must be doing quite well I suppose.

Le Mercury
I can't help but think that Le Mercury plays the second fiddle to the more famous Almeida. Regardless, Le Mercury is packed during dinners, even for weekdays. Unlike the quirkier Le Sacre Coeur; along nearby Therberton Street, Le Mercury is more genteel but definitely very French.

Masala Zone
Came highly recommended by my Indian friends. They told me that it serves 'the real stuff' and I am inclined to believe them. Expect friendly and prompt service. Its lunch deals are quite a steal.

Miso Noodle Bar
This one is to be avoided at all costs. That's unless you don't mind Thai Green Curry and Japanese Curry Katsu served with sesame oil. It's not pleasant, believe me.

Who doesn't like the good o' bangers and mash? Strictly for hangover breakfasts or stomach liner before moving on to more poison. Friendly, no frills and prompt service.

This little Italian deli has recently being named as one of the top 50 delicatessens in the country by Independent. Started by the Saponara brothers who extremely passionate about their food, the deli is almost certainly to be packed during weekends with locals.

Sen Nin
Japanese teppanyaki with cosy setting. A bit pricy though but that was helped by a 50% discount on its most expensive teppanyaki meals. If you have enough of sushi and udon, and looking for the some culinary action, look no further.

At Barnsbury Road, this pizzeria is abit off the centre of action but it is nevertheless rather popular with the locals. Excellent excellent service, which naturally makes anything taste better. Lovely interior decor to boot.

The first Japanese restaurant to open up right smacked in the heart of Angel. This nifty little outlet has got its regular fans packing its two floors during peak hours. They do a decent tempura udon. I would suggest that you request to have your tempura set aside to prevent it from turning soggy.

The Albion
This Georgian styled pub is known for their Sunday roasts, which regretfully I didn't get to try. It does a decent burger with an option for triple cooked chips. There's a small outdoor seating area but if you are into outdoor seating, you would be better off at The Canonbury. More child friendly than it looks, comes with baby changing facilities.

The Blue Legume
Surely it can't get any more child friendly than The Blue Legume. Staff are extremely friendly with young children, showering them with complementary babycinno, crayons and papers with foam stickers. They even offer to display the child's masterpiece on their bar counter. Queue builds up towards late morning during weekends.

The Breakfast Club
There's always a queue building up during weekends without fail. A bohemian setting with laid back charm. Loads of stomach fillers on the menu. But not sure whether it's worth the queue.

The Canonbury
This one boosts a large outdoor seating area, which is perfect for summer. With a dedicated baby changing room, this is an obvious gathering place for families. Might have to wait for quite a bit when the pub gets crowded during weekends.

The Crown
This is one of those pubs with more style than substance. Its rather unimpressive facade gives little credit to its heavy interior wooden furnishings. Great place to have a pint but give its food a wide berth.

The House Pub
This gastropub has one of the best beer battered fish and chips that I have come across. Kids and family friendly too. It has a fine selection of newspapers and magazines to if you are just looking for a long weekend brunch. Other than an outdoor seating area, it also a bar counter, full service restaurant area and a pub like area with an assortment of sofas, wooden tables and chairs.

Old Queen's Head
There'll be a queue every now and then at this pub whenever there's some popular acts lined up. Its Sunday Roast left us a bit disappointed. Quirky interior though.

This setup along Islington Upper Street could easily be the most popular restaurant in the area. With its innovative recipes (compiled in two popular cookbooks -Ottolenghi and Plenty) that are meant to taste best at room temperature. That means that food could be beautifully presented on the counters and yet still taste fabulous. This is one restaurant that does breakfast, lunch and dinner equally well. Definitely worth the wait if you can't get a table.

Viet Garden
If I'm not wrong, this is the only Vietnamese in the area. You might like to give this a miss if you don't mind making your way down to Old Street (Cay Tre) or Kingsland Road (Song Que). The offerings here are rather unimaginative and limited.

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