The 8 best Islington restaurants

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  • The 8 best Islington restaurants


    A traditional Italian trattoria serving excellent homemade pasta

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: Trullo, 300-302 St Paul’s Rd, Highbury East, London N1 2LH

    Telephone: +44 20 7226 2733


  • The 8 best Islington restaurants

    Westerns Laundry

    Homespun seafood champ in Highbury

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: Westerns Laundry, 34 Drayton Park, Highbury, London N5 1PB

    Telephone: +44 20 7700 3700


  • The 8 best Islington restaurants

    Prawn on the Lawn

    Brilliantly fresh, lip-smacking seafood in Islington

    Prawn on the Lawn is the sort of restaurant those in the know like to keep quiet, perhaps recommending it to their closest friends but jealously guarding it from others. It started life as a simple fishmonger and seafood bar but is now a fully fledged restaurant, due in no small part to its legion of tight-lipped fans. There isn’t actually a lawn here (or any outdoor space for that matter). It is named after its signature dish – smashed avocado on toast topped with grilled prawns – rather than the fanciful concept of consuming crustaceans on a stretch of green, but it’s full of charm nonetheless. The space is intimate without being cramped and interiors are pared-back, with brick and white-washed walls, simple wooden tables and a constantly changing menu scrawled in chalk on a wall-mounted blackboard.


    Plates are simple celebrations of the seafood that Prawn on the Lawn sources daily from fish markets in Devon and Cornwall. Oysters come fresh or deep-fried in a crunchy crumb with garlic crème fraȋche (if you’ve never tried them before, this is how to start). That signature dish sounds simple enough but comes with flourishes such as homemade soda bread and a pile of zesty greens that turn it into something you’ll want to order again and again. Squid is cooked to buttery-soft perfection and arrives piled on top of a scoop of ajo blanco (a Spanish bread sauce) and scattered with zingy pickled grapes. Delicate, flaky cod fillet is paired with a well-balanced cauliflower and truffle purée and a porcini crumb. And don’t skip a side of the spiced crushed potatoes – they’re exceptionally crunchy and moreish. There’s a short-and-sweet pudding menu too. The potted salted caramel with raspberries is an indulgent finish, even when shared between two.


    Kick things off with a punchy Cornish Negroni (made with Tarquin’s gin from Cornwall) and then move on to the wine list. Unsurprisingly, it’s heavy on sparkling wines and whites. We’d recommend the delicately green French Picpoul de Pinet, which will work with anything at all you order from the food menu. Teetotallers are well catered for too, with grown-up options such as Seedlip and elderflower tonic, a trick many other London restaurants are failing to catch on to, despite the growing trend for sobriety.


    Easily Islington’s best seafood restaurant. By Olivia Holborrow

    Address: Prawn on the Lawn, 292-294 St Paul’s Rd, Highbury East, London N1 2LH

    Telephone: +44 20 3302 8668


  • The 8 best Islington restaurants


    James Cochran’s Islington follow-up to his original, Michelin-starred joint

    James Cochran’s name is well enough known, after being on the London restaurant scene for a few years (plus a high-profile stint on the BBC’s Great British Menu) that any restaurant with it above the door could draw plenty of see-and-be-seen customers. But the trademark to his name is still owned by the EC3 restaurant he left in 2018 – his venture on Islington’s Upper Street had to open with the name 1251, after The Stroke’s follow-up single to their smash-hit album Is This It?. Note the parallels? Upper Street has been raising its game for a few years, with some of London’s best bars Alphabet and Little Bat putting it firmly on our radar – and 1251 has a cosy, warmly-lit window scene to attract discerning Londoners. One long room is stacked on top of another, with closely packed tables that a scruffily dressed waiter nips nimbly between.


    1251 is firmly in the camp of sharing plates, and sends dishes out when they’re ready. Staff are on hand with a well-rehearsed spiel to guide you through the menu of snacks and plates: they advise one snack and two plates per person. Snacks include homemade soda bread served with umami seaweed butter and a pickled crab tartlet: a flaky pastry case stuffed with white Devon crab meat and topped with melt-in-the-mouth brown meat butter. For the plates, don’t expect a robust main course that’ll leave you needing to loosen your jeans: these are elegant dishes that feature dehydrated seaweed and foams and jus. Go in with an open mind if that’s not usually your thing: the Orkney scallops, served with creamed pumpkin, are plump and tender, while the lamb, served delicately pink with artichoke and olive, has a mix of flavours you’d never put together on your own – but will want to when you leave. We shared pudding in the form of malted hobnob with dark-chocolate malt and banana cream, which is almost too rich but saves itself just before crossing the line, and a toasted oat custard tart, raspberries and clotted cream that looks like cheesecake but tastes 10 times better.


    Well-made cocktails include classics such as Negronis and Old Fashioneds. Staff are happy to advise you on the best wine to pair with your meal and beers are not overlooked: try the Peckham Pils, which comes in a hipster-friendly graphic can.


    This is a refined restaurant that serves up brilliantly cooked food without being stuffy. The soundtrack is cool, the staff are laid-back, and on our visit, Cochran himself was swaying to Nineties hip hop while chatting to his maître d’ near the bar. Go for the big-shot name, and stay for the food. By Sarah James

    Address: 1251, 107 Upper Street, London N1 1QN


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    Black Axe Mangal

    Loud music. Loud decor. Loud food. This tiny restaurant on Highbury Corner has a big personality. Lee Tiernan’s Turkish-inspired changing menu is full of punchy memorable dishes. As a former St John chef, Tiernan is no stranger to nose-to-tail eating so expect to see bone marrow, pigs’ ears and offal. In fact, if the offal flatbread is being served, be sure to order it: spiced meat on a fluffy thin dough piled with herbs and onions. Do the other flatbreads too (cooked in the wood-fired oven behind the counter emblazoned with details from cult film The Warriors) especially the dramatic glittery squid-ink bread with smoked cod’s roe. Elsewhere there are tongue-tingling dishes with seasoning from New York’s Mission Chinese restaurant, innovative bao combinations and out-there pudding options such as a white chocolate foie-gras ice-cream bar. They don’t take bookings so if you don’t manage to get a table in the evening, head over at the weekend instead to try the unusual brunch dishes.

  • The 8 best Islington restaurants


    Neighbourhood small-plates restaurant on Upper Street

    Soho restaurant Polpo sparked a small-plates restaurant revolution when it opened back in 2009. Its former chef director Tom Oldroyd set up on his own in Islington – and, gosh, it was worth the wait. This humble little spot has all the makings of a brilliant neighbourhood restaurant: a chef-owner who’s actually in the kitchen most days, cheery staff who know their stuff, reasonably priced food and plenty of locals. It’s a bit of a squash, but what’s a few knocked elbows between friends?


    Dishes are for sharing: big, bold lamb-and-almond meatballs; dessert-worthy peach and cow-curd panzanella with broad beans and mint; a stonking great lump of mozzarella; sweet pork belly and pea croquettas to dunk into truffle mayonnaise.


    Mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana – aka Mr Lyan – worked his magic on the cocktail list. On my visit, Chetiyawardana was sitting at the next table drinking a simple G&T made with his own Mr Lyan gin, and had ordered a Negroni for his guest. Either would be a fine choice. By Hazel Lubbock

    Address: Oldroyd, 344 Upper Street, Islington, London N1

    Telephone: +44 20 8617 9010


  • The 8 best Islington restaurants

    Four Legs at The Compton Arms

    A contender for London’s best burger

    There’s no shortage of London pubs with exceptional food and now this newly renovated Islington favourite has joined the ranks thanks to the kitchen being taken over by the brilliant Four Legs (Jamie Allan from Hill & Szrok and Ed McIlroy from Borough Market restaurant Bao). Despite being mere moments away from the bustle of Upper Street, The Compton Arms somehow manages to still feel like a quaint countryside pub full of in-the-know locals. There’s only a small bar space and cosy back terrace, so tables are in high demand but well worth the wait for a casual meal. The concise menu ranges from bar snacks (smoked almonds, whipped cod’s roe on toast, burrata) to more hearty dishes such as fish tacos, mussels bouillabaisse, tagliatelle ragu and the much lauded Dexter cheeseburger. Honestly, this is the best one we’ve ever eaten: caramelised cheese and perfectly done beef with a light sweet bun and a pleasing pickled relish. Indeed all the food here is pretty damn great; fresh and seasonal small plates that go perfectly with the house Negronis (order the smoky mezcal one). Go for the burger, stay for everything else. By Sonya Barber

    Address: The Compton Arms, 4 Compton Avenue, London N1 2XD

    Telephone: +44 20 7354 8473


  • Slaw

    Islington’s coolest vegan restaurant

    Slaw is our favourite plant-based spot in Islington: a smart, modern restaurant that attracts the type of cool young crowd you’d expect to stumble across in Dalston rather than family-friendly Islington. The menu shows off the versatility of fruit and vegetables, making use of every single element (carrot tops included) to concoct inventive, flavourful dishes. Our favourite was the lick-the-plate-clean butternut squash and kale curry, but it’s worth bribing your dinner date to share several plates so you can try as much of the menu as possible. By Olivia Holborow

    Read our full review of Slaw in our round-up of the best vegan restaurants in London

    The best vegan restaurants in London

Address: Slaw, 149 Upper St, London N1 1RA

Telephone: +44 20 3774 3624


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