Islington foodie guide: where to eat and drink

A spread of laksa bowls and Malaysian dishes at Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar London

Looking for Islington restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants in north London’s leafy borough around Angel and Highbury and Islington stations. The best foodie spots include fish and chips at Trawler Trash, gluten free pizza at Zia Lucia and laksa at Sambal Shiok. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in Islington, from Upper Street to Holloway Road and beyond…

1251, Upper Street

1251 in a nutshell: Chef James Cochran’s new north London restaurant sees quirky small plates served 11 to 11, alongside Brick Brewery beers, organic wines and fragrant, grown-up cocktails.

What’s the vibe? Spread across two (funky, painted wooden) floors of this Victorian building, minutes from Angel and Highbury and Islington tube stations, the décor here is minimal but contemporary (think pink leather banquettes and modern art).

What’s the food like? We’re told to order a couple of ‘snacks’ each before moving onto at least one or more ‘plates’ proper – but regardless of how many we order across the menu, the idea is to share. Don’t leave without ordering the fried buttermilk rabbit – it’s the best dish on the menu. Gnarly, super-crunchy and yet juicy and tender – it gets even better thanks to some arty blobs of sweet apricot, fragrant tarragon and a snow shower of freshly grated horseradish.

Smoked kipper and leek toastie, too, with sweet, crunchy brioche slices is perfectly balanced and so good that you’ll probably need to order a second.

olive tip: Sit upstairs for the best natural light (we’re looking at you Instagrammers), art from the local community, and, if you get there early enough, aromas from the dehydrator.

Click here to read our full review of 1251

Buttermilk Rabbit with Tarragon, Horseradish and Apricot
Buttermilk Rabbit with Tarragon, Horseradish and Apricot

Linden Stores, St Paul’s Road

Linden Stores is the kind of relaxed neighbourhood hangout everyone wishes they had on their doorstep. The brainchild of chef Chris Boustead and Laura Christie, the wine shop and restaurant was conceived as place where Chris could cook part-time (it only opens evenings, Wednesday to Saturday) and still have time to spend with their young son, Ollie. The shop is crammed with mostly European bottles sourced from smaller winemakers by Laura (including plenty from Turkey) which are available to take away or drink in for £10 corkage. There is also a selection of wines by the glass each day at £5 each.

The space is small and cosy, with tables in the shop upstairs and restaurant downstairs. The frequently changing menu is inspired by British seasons as well as Chris’s Yorkshire heritage. Each eclectic small plate really packs in the flavour. Bread comes with a scoop of whipped Marmite butter; slow-cooked pig’s cheeks are glazed in a rich umami sauce and garnished with sweet and sharp pickled cherries, and a silky turnip purée. Lightly smoked creamy yogurt enriches a dish of long-stemmed broccoli with crunchy fried shallots, peanuts and cheese.

A must order are the crisp, deep-fried croquettes, filled with pea and Yorkshire Fettle – a feta-like sheep’s cheese with a zing. Elsewhere there is homemade charcuterie, fresh oysters and a British cheeseboard for those only wanting a snack with their wine. Top retro points go to a pud of chocolate bourbon biscuits filled with buttercream and served with sharp, creamy rhubarb ice cream.

Click here for our dinner party menu from Linden Stores

Bourbon Biscuit Recipe with Rhubarb Ice Cream

Sambal Shiok, Holloway Road

Sambal Shiok in a nutshell: Mandy Yin has gone from street food stall to Malaysian pop up, and now has her own laksa bar in Highbury.

What’s the vibe? The cosy room is paved with wooden floorboards, dark-blue walls are lined with Malaysian street scenes in gilt frames and bright artwork posters. Mandy and her team hustle away behind a counter in the open kitchen, assembling bowls of comforting laksa and sprinkling fresh herbs onto veggie salads.

What’s the food like? Simple Malaysian dishes are executed very well. A vegetarian salad of shredded carrot, thin slices of mooli and pickled cucumber is tossed in peanut sauce with tiny cubes of fried potato, and Malaysian fried chicken is some of the best we’ve tried – super-succulent chicken pieces are marinated in turmeric and fennel seeds with cumin and coriander then tossed in chickpea gram flour and fried until extra crunchy and golden.

There are five laksas to choose from – tofu, chicken, prawn, and a special laksa encompassing all of the above, as well as a vegan special with charred aubergine and sautéed potatoes. Slosh around in the fragrant liquid to find succulent chicken pieces, huge plump prawns, spongy pieces of tofu and crunchy green beans. Slippery rice and springy egg noodles add to the various textures that are slurped up from the rich coconutty broth. Beef rendang is a melting concoction of tender beef in a deep and complex sauce, served with fluffy rice.

olive tip: Save your booze pennies for a glass of wine or two among the olive trees of  Westerns Laundry’s terrace, just a few minutes’ walk away. Here’s our dinner party menu from Westerns Laundry to try at home.

Click here to read our full review of Sambal Shiok

A spread of laksa bowls and Malaysian dishes at Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar London

Oldroyd, Upper Street

It’s easy to miss Oldroyd, nestled on Upper Street in a tiny two-room townhouse, but it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for.

Downstairs window seats are perfect for people-watching and soaking up the buzz of the kitchen, or head upstairs for a calmer atmosphere. Sea-blue walls add a pop of colour, while weathered wooden tables are peppered with tumblers of flowers and tea lights.

 The food itself is simple and stripped back but executed beautifully. Creamy quenelles of mackerel pâté come with hunks of sourdough and crunchy cornichons, while squidgy spinach and ricotta malfatti come drenched in brown butter with crispy sage and a generous scattering of parmesan.

Save room for dessert – there’s often a frangipane tart, made with seasonal fruit, on the menu.

olive tip: Visit at lunchtime to make the most of the set menu (three courses for £19) or, if you’re veggie, book a table for dinner on a Monday night when the dishes are all meat-free.

Click here to read our review of sister restaurant, Duke of Richmond

A white plate is topped with chunks of beetroot and a fillet of crispy fish with green sauce drizzled on top at Olyroyd restaurant in Islington

Zia Lucia, Holloway Road

For the best selection of pizza bases, visit Zia Lucia on Holloway Road and choose between a traditional, wholemeal, vegetable charcoal or gluten-free base. The 48 hour fermented doughs are cooked in a wood-fired oven, each resulting in a different flavour and texture.

We recommend the gluten-free base which has a crisp yet light texture. You can create your own pizza and choose from the large selection of toppings including spianata, broccoli, butternut squash and taleggio goat’s cheese.

The Carlotta is an unusual, indulgent pizza, topped with fresh Italian sausage, crisp, sliced roast potatoes, pecorino and dill.

Click here for our favourite pizza restaurants in London

Pizza Zia Lucia Brook Green

Afghan Kitchen, Islington Green

Tucked away on leafy Islington Green, this north London institute is a must visit for hearty home cooking. Book ahead for a table in the evening (or join the lengthy queue) before taking a seat at communal tables in the compact dining room.

White, laminated menus list the curries and sides, all of which can be shared. Succulent lamb and earthy spinach is one of the heartier dishes on the menu, while tender chunks of chicken bathe in a light, fragrant yogurt sauce, ready to be mopped up with crisp, fluffy flatbread, generously drizzled in oil. Vegetarians are equally well catered to, with smoky aubergine or roasted sweet potato, both served with yogurt.

Service is fast-paced and breezy (and the restaurant is cash only), so head to the counter to settle up and order some sweet, sticky baklava to take away with you.

Radici, Almeida Street

Radici is the latest venture from Italian chef Francesco Mazzei, who also oversees Sartoria in Mayfair. More of a neighbourhood trattoria than its Savile Row sibling, Radici’s menu incorporates dishes such as seafood fettuccine and calf’s liver involtino with pancetta, garlic and rosemary served with smoked potato mash.

“I would call Radici a ‘refreshed old-school Italian’,” says Francesco. “We’re true to who we are.”

Click here to read about our favourite Italian restaurants in London including:

  • Padella
  • Theo’s
  • Lina Stores
  • Bocca di Lupo
  • Fiume


Fiume restaurant, Battersea, London

Brother Marcus, Camden Passage

Balham brunch institution Brother Marcus has opened its doors in north London with a relaxed all-day dining spot in Angel. Tucked down buzzing Camden Passage, grab a seat on the street for an al fresco breakfast, or, head inside and cosy up on tables for two under a lush living wall. Each of the classic brunch dishes has a twist, from Sugar Daddy, where cinnamon French toast comes in crumpet form, to Sister Special – bacon and poached eggs on toast served with a side of avocado and spinach drizzled with rocket oil.

For egg lovers, order the Brother Special where rich, softly scrambled eggs are served on North London Celtic Bakers sourdough toast, topped with silky slithers of in-house beetroot-cured salmon and stems of al dente grilled asparagus. If you’re feeling really peckish, choose between small side plates of halloumi with orange and pistachio as well as grilled aubergine with chilli.

The Step Sister is a must. Spicy sweet potato, courgette and feta fritters are served with avocado, spinach and kale with a subtly flavoured, creamy turmeric yogurt and a perfectly poached egg. Peruse the well-stocked cake counter before you leave as well, brimming with Portuguese custard tarts and slices of banana bread.

Click here for our favourite brunch spots in London

A blue plate topped with sweet potato and feta fritters, kale and a poached egg that the yolk is running out of

Tootoomoo, Highbury East

Tootoomoo wants to bring the punchy flavours of Asian street food to a restaurant setting – this time to a cosy and colourful site on St Pauls Road.

Expect to find many classics of Asian cuisine here, from miso soup and potsticker dumplings to rendang curry. These jostle with less typical creations like shichimi squid with Japanese pepper and sweet chilli or duck and watermelon salad with cashew and hoisin.

Dishes at Tootoomoo are simply presented but hugely enjoyable to eat. Our crispy smoked chicken with chilli salt and spicy mayonnaise was an umami dream (think grown-up chicken nuggets), while the playful popcorn shrimp with nori dust was addictively moreish, the saltiness of the shrimp pairing well with the subtle citrus tang of a yuzu-spiked mayonnaise.

Click here to read our full review of Tootoomoo

Written by Ellie Edwards, Janine Ratcliffe, Alex Crossley and Laura Rowe

from olive magazine