Where To Get Your Fill Of The Best Food And Drink In Islington

Where To Get Your Fill Of The Best Food And Drink In Islington
A delicious looking brunch spread
Does this or does this not beat Rice Krispies? Image: Bellanger

Islington is a must-visit for those looking to dig into some of London's best-loved restaurants.

The charm of its Victorian homes and serene backstreets offers quite the contrast to a dynamic arts scene and commercial centre. From captivating dance shows at Sadler's Wells and thought-provoking drama at the Almeida Theatre, to the special atmosphere at Union Chapel, Islington wraps up any food experience in a shiny ribbon of cultural richness. By day, a well-heeled crowd brunches by the Business Design Centre, scours Upper Street's independent boutiques, and delves into treasures at the Camden Passage antiques market, coffees in hand. As the sun sets, this same area is a buzzing haven for foodies and night owls alike, thanks to the trendy pubs and restaurants which fling open their doors for late-night capers.

Where to eat breakfast and brunch in Islington

An eggy brunch plate
Kipferl is a slice of Austria in Islington. Image: Kipferl

There are a wealth of breakfast places in the area, whether you’re searching for a greasy spoon café, US-themed eats or a plant-based brunch, Islington's meandering streets have any craving covered. Diners can start their day at L'Angleo's, which is the perfect spot for those wanting a robust English breakfast or a quick bite, like a sandwich or ciabatta to go — the avocado and chicken melt is a neighbourhood favourite and proprietor Angelo humour adds to the charm.

Kipferl in Camden Passage is a cosy escape for anyone looking to indulge in a continental breakfast. Here you can experience a slice of Austria in Islington, and enjoy an array of Viennese pastries like the eponymous kipferl or the indulgent chocolate and apricot sachertorte (alongside heftier fare like rostis and eggs). Also nestled in Camden Passage, Brother Brother Marcus's Eastern Mediterranean menu — with dishes like sweet potato, courgette, and feta fritters, paired with avocado, crispy kale, turmeric yoghurt, and a poached egg — is a refreshing take on brunch.

The interior of a white, contemporary restaurant
Everyone loves an Ottolenghi. Image: Ottolenghi

One of the capital's favourite mini-chains has a site here too; The Breakfast Club serves up US-inspired brunch classics like fluffy pancakes and fried chicken with waffles in a setting that's both vibrant and welcoming. Ottolenghi's Islington outpost is a serene, chic spot where the menu of creative Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes brings an artful touch, especially with salads scattered with roasted vegetables and nuts, and yogurts and homemade granola with an array of accompaniments.

A tray of green macarons
Have your macaron and eat it at Belle Epoque. Image: Belle Epoque

For those with a penchant for French cuisine, Crêpeaffaire's sweet and savoury buckwheat crepes cater to all tastes, from the classic lemon and sugar to the umami-rich Wiltshire ham, egg, and cheddar. Further up the road, Worker's Cafe is a friendly, cosy cafe where you can find standard breakfast fare, brunch items, and paninis to kick things off the right way. Belle Epoque's varied patisserie and Vertige Cafe on Highbury roundabout, rounds off the breakfast scene with good food and coffee; the latter's glass-covered patio is the ideal spot for brunch, especially when trying the croque monsieur, complemented by Monmouth coffee. Très bon.

Where to get coffee, tea and cakes in Islington

Matcha tea
Matcha the day. Image: Katsute 100

Islington boasts a huge landscape of independent coffee places, offering a respite from the usual chains like Pret, Starbucks, and Costa. Saint Espresso — located before you hit Angel Station — has comfy sofas, a chilled-out vibe, and does a solid flat white. Just a stone's throw from Angel station, Jerry's specialises in coffee and quick bites from his kiosk at the start of Upper Street, proving great things can come in small packages. Blank Street Coffee is known for its high-quality beans and freshness; the coffee is served at optimum temperature with just the right amount of creaminess. Redemption Roasters has a chilled vibe, bolstered by a unique underground garden area.

Tucked into Camden Passage, Frequency Coffee is beloved for its brew-based merch and design elements that highlight founder Justo's love of music, as well as simple drinks which provide a simple yet profound coffee experience. Double Knot, just off Camden Passage, is a family-owned gem that also offers brunch and themed nights, making it a versatile spot for any time of day. Daily Grind further enriches Islington’s coffee and tea scene. Head to Katsute 100 for creative Japanese desserts and specialty drinks, seamlessly blending Japanese and English traditions.

Pophams, known for an artisanal approach to pastries and coffee, creates an inviting atmosphere for those seeking a morning treat or an afternoon pick-me-up.

A modern looking coffee bar with stools
(Coffee) bean counters at Blank Street. Image: Blank Street

Raab's the Bakers on Essex Road has been a stalwart in the community for over 70 years, offering a wide selection of bread, cakes, as well as their much-loved sausage rolls and sandwiches. Additionally, Euphorium has carved out a niche since 1999 with its array of artisanal pastries, tarts, croissants, and cakes, becoming a treasured haunt among locals for a dedication to crafting delightful baked goods.

Pistachio and Pickle's second site (which it operates alongside its Camden Passage cheese shop) has a dual focus on serving Monmouth coffee alongside lip-smacking pastries, cakes, and light brunch options — such as cheese toasties, soups, and healthy seasonal salads. Vent Coffee emphasises a holistic, community vibe, offering a serene environment to enjoy coffee outdoors, perfect for those looking to unwind.

Whether you're stopping in for a cup of their exceptional coffee or browsing their wine selection, High Ground caters to those who appreciate the best of both worlds. A few minutes way, Benita offers a bright and airy seating space where patrons can enjoy artisanal bites like the carrot cake muffin and turmeric latte. Fantail also does solid coffee, delicious pastries, and sandwiches; an added bonus is the half-price offer on some goods after 3.30pm, making it a popular spot for those looking for quality goods to take up at a great value.

Restaurants in Islington for lunch and dinner

A guests posing with a load of 'Karens'
One restaurant where you'll want to have a face-off with the manager. Image: Karen's Diner

Alongside the major fast-casual chains, which offer grab and go lunches, Islington has plenty of options for all-day dining. Brunch spots blend seamlessly into evening venues as dusk settles. Just before Angel station, and opposite Sadler's Wells, The Gate is the go-to for plant-based dining with a global influence. Find bold Sichuan cooking at Taste of China, or enjoy an unforgettable meal at Karen's Diner, which promises an interactive and amusing experience, where diners are greeted and waited upon by intentionally rude waiters and forced to play a variety of silly games.

Stroll along Chapel Market to find vegetarian curry dishes at Indian Veg, where you can indulge in their all you can eat buffet. Enjoy Yunnan Rice Noodles at YUN restaurant 云, Vietnamese and Thai dishes at Yen's Kitchen, and a mix of pan-Chinese and Anglo-Cantonese classics at Fannn 有饭儿 伦敦.

There's also Japanese food at Hotstone, which offers beautifully presented sushi boxes and DIY wagyu cooking on stones.

A spread of Creole food
A taste of the South in north London. Image: Plaquemine Lock

By the canal, enjoy sushi, sashimi, bao buns, donburi and grilled fish at Sanjugo, in a neon-lit setting. Plaquemine Lock, a colourful pub by Regents Canal, serves Cajun and Creole cuisine, with a side of draft beer and live jazz. The second site by the Tamil Prince team, The Tamil Crown, is also in the area and quickly gaining a reputation for having one of the best Sunday roasts in the city, with South Asian inspired meats and sides. The space also also has a private dining room and speakeasy bar serving up Indian-spiced cocktails from Three Sheets in Dalston.

A caramelised apple tart
Bellanger does sweet tarts. Image: Bellanger

Along Essex Road, Ecuadorian restaurant El Inca Publeyo slings out ceviche, tiradito and offers contemporary takes on traditional mains. Don’t miss the hornado — an Ecuadorian roast with pork, slow-cooked, and served with giant corn, plantain and potato patties — or the enceballdo, a tuna stew with yucca and pickled onions. A few doors down, Tierra Peru's vibrant backdrop mirrors a flavourful menu of anticuchos (grilled skewers) and ceviche as well as mains like chicharrón (fried pork with sides) and the Chinese-Peruvian fusion dish arroz chufa (egg-fried rice with meat and vegetables).

A pretty steak plate
12:51 is all about fine dining in a relaxed setting. Image: @lateef.photography

There is also Akari, a beloved neighbourhood izakaya with sushi, a large range of sake and original dishes like potato mochi and fried wings.

On the other side of Upper Street, Mangia Bene, a homestyle Italian trattoria, serves pizza and pasta options. At Little Georgia, you can find traditional dishes like kachapuri and juicy chicken in walnut sauce. Nearby, Jam Delish, has shed its former ghost kitchen avatar (a collab between Jordan Johnson and Nathan Collymore of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen) for a bricks and mortar site endorsed by London A-listers such as Black Panther star Letitia Wright. Visit for an energetic night out, helped by a lively R&B soundtrack and punchy drinks menu of sharpshooters and island-inspired cocktails.

Spicy vegan dumplings
Vegans are well catered for in Islington. Image: Tofu Vegan

Past the Design Centre, Yipin serves fiery Hunanese food, known for its liberal use of pickled chillies, smoked and cured meats. Specialities include spiced snails, pig's liver with pak choy and Chairman Mao's red-braised pork. On the opposite side of Upper Road, Hanwoo Korean BBQ and Vegan serves dishes like bibimbap and jap chae as well as Korean fried chicken in a space filled with communal booths.

A tray of burgers
Burger me. Image: Meatliquor

Overlooking the green, long-standing Afghan Kitchen has warming stews, grilled meats and homemade bread — the chicken with yoghurt and the lentil stoup are standout. Spacious French bistro Bellanger brings a touch of occasion with an elegant bar, snow-white tables and plush booths. You'll feel like you're in Paris, with highlights such as steak tartare and a glorious Niçoise pissaladière with anchovies and black olive. Tenshi is also here, a family run izakaya with a seasonally revolving menu. There’s sushi, katsu and grilled meats, but real joy can also be found in less commonly served small plates like the chashu pork with menma (fermented bamboo shoots) and ochazuke — rice with green tea and dashi — served with fish roe, salmon or pickled fruit. Alternatively, diners can grab luxurious pasta dishes such as cacio e pepe and beef and shallot raviolo at Noci, while sipping negronis and house cocktails.

A cornucopia of sushi and other delectable food
We score this place ten out of Tenshi. Image: Tenshi

Further up, you’ve got Hainan House for Southern Chinese regional dishes taking influence from the Canton, Hakka, and Min regions. The Hainanese chicken and yi bua (sticky rice cakes) are both recommended. On the junction of Upper Street and Theburton Street, La Farola's glass-fronted restaurant is perfect for watching the world go by while snacking on tapas and pinoteca, while down Theberton Street, Le Sacré Coeur offers another taste of France. Its blue and white table cloths and stripy awning are evocative of continental brasseries where diners can enjoy a fantastic value set menu (three courses for £34.95) or á la carte dishes like confit duck and bœuf bourguignon.

People sitting outside Terra Rossa
Continental vibes everywhere in this neck of the woods. Image: Terra Rossa

Back on Upper Street, Tofu Vegan's team of chefs hailing from Sichuan, Canton and Dongbei cook plant-based takes on classic regional cuisine, using tofu, mushrooms or bean-based imitation meats. A stone's throw away, James Cochran's 12:51 is all about fine dining in a relaxed setting. The Ledbury and Harwood Arms alum serves a seasonal five-course tasting menu in a laidback dining room decked with vinyl and artwork.

On Islington Square, OMNOM is a sleek glass and neon clad wellness space with a plant-based Indian menu, featuring dishes like samosa, dosa and daals. The Tamil Prince is a short walk away, and brings the quintessential desi-pub experience to Islington with South Asian favourites like famous okra fries, onion bhaji and chicken lollipops in a lively pub setting.

A colourful dish of food
Image: F.K.A. B.A.M

Turkish eats can be found at Gallipoli which is a perfect place to get together with friends over mezze platters and mixed grills. Carnivores will also love Meatliquor's Angel outpost, Meatliquor N1, famous for their smash burgers. The same goes for Smokehouse, on nearby Canonbury Street, famed for its fire-based cooking and sustainability sourced meat and fish. Menu highlights include beef brisket mac 'n' cheese and of course, the steak.

A seafood spread
Shell out on delicious seafood at Prawn on the Lawn. Image: Prawn on the Lawn

By St Mary’s Church Gardens, find Hong Kong serving a concise menu of Hong Kong style and Anglo-Cantonese dishes alongside dim sum. Terra Rossa brings the flavours of Puglia to Islington with pizzas, pastas and traditional dishes like orrichiette with turnip tips and paccheri with octopus ragu in a cosy, terracotta coloured dining room.

Literally one minute away, Sichuan House serves hotpot for £25pp, great for gatherings. Also great for parties is Italian American joint Detroit Pizza, where diners can tuck into massive thick-crust pies like the signature Detroit, with pepperoni, jalapeño, honey and parmesan — as well as baked ziti, spaghetti and giant portions of chicken parm.

Next, you've got Skål Nordic Dining, a gem of a restaurant modern Nordic cuisine in an elegant dining room with white walls and skylights. The venison meatballs here are a local favourite.

A player of chicken and beans
Trullo scrumptious. Image: Trullo

By Highbury and Islington station and Highbury fields, lies F.K.A. B.A.M rebranded from Black Axe Mangal. This second incarnation maintains its essence with a blend of St John Bread and Wine's British nose-to-tail ethos and the Turkish mangal flavours cherished by chef-patron Lee Tiernan. The menu, eclectic in its influences, ranges from Southeast Asian to Middle Eastern, features items like lahmacun-inspired flatbreads with lamb offal and pork schnitzel with tomato, complemented by a vegan menu and low-intervention wines.

Neighbouring Prawn on the Lawn has fresh seafood, sourced from the south of England in a relaxed, rustic setting. We'd suggest the small plates are the way to go here, with highlights such as lemon sole and 'nduja butter with tarragon, hake with lime pickle curry and crab with seaweed, cucumber, daikon and sesame.

Nearby, Trullo has been open since 2010, serving fresh, tasty Italian food. The seasonal menu changes daily but expect dishes like quail and naval orange fritti with aioli and mackerel with shaved fennel, grapefruit and crispy capers, alongside fresh pastas and charcoal-grilled meats with vegetables.

Pubs, gastropubs and bars in Islington

a bar with lots of bottles behind it
Homeboy does boilermakers FYI. Image: Homeboy

By Angel Station, The Castle has a rooftop terrace where patrons can enjoy drinks under the sky. The Famous Cock, located just outside Highbury & Islington tube station, is a straightforward, bustling spot known for its vibrant after-work scene. The Three Johns serves a great selection of craft beers alongside pizza, perfect for casual gatherings and The Islington Townhouse's quirky interior and an eclectic drink menu creates a charming, inviting atmosphere. Nearby, The Earl of Essex is a beer lover's paradise. Aficionados can find an extensive selection of rotating craft brews (there are also cocktails) alongside a menu designed to complement each sip, from homemade pork crackling to fried pickles and chicken bites.

The York is a local staple for residents, with hearty pub grub and, further along the canal, the Island Queen's dramatic Victorian interior, complete with etched windows and high ceilings, make it a beautiful place for a casual drink or a sit-down meal. Groups of 10 or more can take advantage of the buffet menu with snacks like sliders and calamari. A short walk away, the Duke of Cambridge stakes its claim as London's first organic pub, serving organic beers and wines along with sustainably sourced dishes in a cosy setting.

A pub with a huge beer menu
The Earl of Essex is a Londonist fave. Image: Londonist

Down Liverpool Road, the Angelic is a friendly spot which is great for those looking to unwind and take advantage of live sport and weekly events like £15 wine on Wednesdays. A few doors away, the Pig and Butcher is a gastropub known for its farm-to-table approach, offering a menu that perfectly blends traditional British cuisine with innovative twists. Standouts include Georgian gastropub the Albion, which offers a picturesque garden setting, ideal for a relaxed pint or a leisurely Sunday roast.

There is plenty for music fans in the area too. The Hemingford Arms's eclectic decor and wide range of ales attract a loyal following, as do the live music performances every Sunday. Another one for music fans is The Old Queens Head, which merges the laid back vibe of a classic pub with the energy of a live music venue, offering everything from quizzes and comedy nights to big-name DJ sets.

The Bull on Upper Street also adds to the area's lively bar scene with its weekly DJs, contemporary design and innovative cocktail list, attracting a trendy crowd. For a tropical vibe, there is Laki Kane on Upper Street, which slings out sultry tipples and Thai eats alongside thumping DJ sets and theatrical fire dancers. Finally, the Hope and Anchor holds legendary status as a live music venue, where up-and-coming bands and established acts perform against a backdrop of historical rock and roll paraphernalia.

Fox on the Green is one of the oldest pubs in the area, having opened in 1872. Its grade II listed building adds to the charm of the area. By day its friendly vibe attracts families and students, while by night the music turns up and the lively atmosphere plays host to an afterwork crowd.

Bars in Islington like Humble Grape and Vineyard focus on delivering a top-notch wine experience, inviting you to explore their extensive bottles via knowledgeable staff. More wine can be found at Top Cuvée, which pushes the traditional bar experience further, focusing on natural wines and innovative small plates.

Irish-influenced Homeboy is all leather banquettes, bare brick walls, and an inventive cocktail menu (plus boilermakers). Along Regents Canal, Narrowboat boasts an idyllic location, offering waterside views and a selection of craft beers and classic British dishes.

Round off the night at Angel Comedy at the Bill Murray — it's not just a bar; regular roast battles and nightly comedy shows in an intimate setting, make it a cultural hotspot.

NOTE: The officially recognised borough of Islington is huge, which takes in parts of Clerkenwell, King's Cross and Highbury. With the wealth of food options in the area, these areas warrant their own guides, so to keep things as tight as possible we've gone with the smaller catchment of the Islington neighbourhood, roughly mapped as bordering Caledonian Road station in the west, Highbury Fields in the north, Pentonville Road in the South and Regent's Canal to the east.

Last Updated 21 March 2024

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