Islington consists of constituencies of Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry and is an area of wealthy leftists who love art (Sadler’s Wells and Almeida Theater is a stone’s throw from Upper Street) and – you guessed it – food.
From Angel to Arsenal, the Islington food scene leaps forward to join the ranks London’s first class hospitality. But at the same time, the capital’s smallest district does not try to be any different – the N1 marches in time with its own drum and attracts whimsical shops specializing in unpretentious quality food.
This is the latest project from James Cochran, the former Ledbury, former Harwood Arms chef, who started his career at an oyster bar in his home state of Whitstable. He opened at 12:51 (named after the Strokes song) in 2018, the same year he won the BBC’s Fantastic British menu. The food always changes, but it’s generally ‘British-with-a-twist’ Cochran’s parents come from St. Vincent and Glasgow, and his dishes are a perfect reflection of this. For example, spicy mackerel comes with buttermilk, coconut, hazelnut, chadon beni and kohlrabi, while curry hake is accompanied by sweet potato, a crispy chicken wing and pearl salad.
107 Upper St, N1 1QN, 1251.co.uk
Brother Marcus is the creation of best friends Arthur, Alex and Tas, who were inspired to start their own restaurant during their travels to the Eastern Mediterranean. The rustic-chic Islington outpost is named after Alex’s younger brother and offers mezze and entrees in a casual setting-think grilled sea bass with confit mango, leek, almond moram and garlic oil or kefir-fried chicken with lime leaves, peppers and romesco sauces. Do not forget dessert: malehbi – an Israeli coconut milk served with pomegranate and vissino cherries – sounds particularly interesting.
37-39 Camden Passage, N1 8EA, brothermarcus.co.uk
The Islington branch is one of six delicatessens and restaurants owned by Israeli-British chef, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi. Located directly opposite the Almeida Theater and a pre-theater favorite, Ottolenghi seats about 50 people at mostly long communal tables for Mediterranean-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can also choose a magnificent salad served at the counter, such as yoghurt-roasted cauliflower with pickled chilies, sultanas and pine nuts or the sweet and sour red onions with sultanas, walnut salsa and goat cheese.
287 Upper St, N1 2TZ, ottolenghi.co.uk
Shrimp on the lawn
Shrimp on the lawn is a fish lover’s dream. It started life in 2013 as a fishmonger and seafood bar – such was its success that it moved to a larger location and now Islington citizens deliver fresh deliveries from Cornwall and Devon daily. Start with fried tuna with soy, mirin and spring onions or buttermilk fried fish with sriracha creme fraiche, then choose between seafood (a whole Padstow lobster or brown crab served either on ice or hot with lime and coriander butter); oysters from the Jersey or Porthilly cliffs; or ‘fish after the table’ (there are all the usual suspects, including sea bass, brill and plaice).
292, 294 St Paul’s Rd, N1 2LH, prawnonthelawn.com
Frederick’s is an Islington institution with a loyal cohort of regulars in the market for healthy European staples such as salt and pepper squid, beef carpaccio or a good steak. An ever-changing menu with spectators from chef Wilson Montoya is accompanied by an extremely extensive wine list or a good cocktail. Opened in 1969, the family-run restaurant also offers a relaxed and modern bar and private dining options.
106 Camden Passage, N1 8EG, fredericks.co.uk
Radici is located just off Upper Street, in the former site of Almeida, and is a traditional trattoria celebrating the Mezzogiorno origin of the chef, patron Francesco Mazzei (‘radici’ means ‘roots’ in Italian). The food, created by Francesco’s colleague Southern Italian chef Giuseppe Cafarois, is rustic, humble and delicious, from Calabrian pizza and pasta booklet (try the packcheri lamb stew or ‘Pizza Radici’ – a vegetarian option topped with chili jam, pesto and pumpkin seeds) to antipasti , fish and meat.
30 Almeida St, N1 1AD, radici.uk
Since Smokehouse opened its doors in 2013, it has sought to concede the claim of ‘the best smoked and grilled food in London’. In pursuit of this goal, the restaurant works with the best British farms and slaughters its meat on site. Fish is delivered daily from Cornish markets, and everything is grilled, roasted and smoked using sustainable English oak. The result is delicacies such as Gloucester Old Spot pork chops, smoked feather leaves and rare breed steaks. To wash it down, there is an incredibly extensive selection of beers (20 on tap and 60 on bottled) and wine from boutique, family-owned vineyards.
63-69 Canonbury Rd, N1 2DG, smokehouseislington.co.uk
Trullo claims to ‘worry about food in the same way [its] manufacturers make ‘-a philosophy that translates into dishes with simple, seasonal ingredients well cooked. Expect pasta hand-rolled minutes before serving, whether it’s pappardelle with beef bones or ravioli of ricotta and summer squash, along with antipasti options including beef heart, burrata with Italian black figs and monkfish carpaccio. Meat and fish lovers will not be disappointed either; Brixham brill and Tamworth pork chops are cooked over a charcoal grill.
300-302, St Paul’s Rd, N1 2LH, trullorestaurant.com
Read more: The best restaurants in the City of London