Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in London Islington
Hardens guides have spent 32 years compiling reviews of the best Islington restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 44 restaurants in Islington and our unique survey based approach to rating and reviewing Islington restaurants gives you the best insight into the top restaurants in every area and of every type of cuisine.
Featured Islington Restaurants
1. 12:51 by chef James Cochran British, Modern restaurant in Islington 107 Upper Street - N1
“When the food is good it can be amazing” at former Ledbury chef James Cochran’s Islington venue, which fans say “deserves to be better known” for his “fantastic tasting menu at sensible prices” (including “interesting” ingredients such as mutton and goat that reference the chef’s part-Caribbean heritage). Even some fans can acknowledge one or two “samey” results, though, and grades slipped a fraction this year due a few disappointments. Perhaps any unevenness is due to distraction from other projects: in June 2022 he opened Valderrama’s – a 90s-themed sports bar a short walk along Upper Street featuring the buttermilk fried chicken he developed for his Around The Cluck lockdown project.
2. Galley Fish & seafood restaurant in Islington 105-106 Upper St - N1
2019 Review: “A restaurant for a proper meal on Upper Street” – former Randall & Aubin head chef Marcel Grzyb teamed up with his sister Oriona Robb to create this welcoming yearling: “the cooking won’t knock your socks off but everything is nicely done and it is a good, safe choice”.
3. Humble Grape British, Modern restaurant in Islington 11-13 Theberton Street - N1
“The whole package – great food, staff and incredible wines” – wins hymns of praise for James Dawson’s wine shop/club/bar/kitchen combination that now has five branches across central London. The focus is on sustainable, small-scale independent producers, with many wines available by the glass.
4. Le Sacré-Coeur French restaurant in Islington 18 Theberton St - N1
This long-serving “no-nonsense bistro” just off Islington’s main drag is a “hardy local stand-by at a very moderate price for those who like French bistro-style food and ambience”. Top Tip – “escargots followed by steak frites for lunch at under £15 is an absolute steal”.
5. Rosa's Thai restaurant in Islington 6 Theberton St - N1
2021 Review: The “lovely Thai food” at these reliable cafés is “impressively authentic given that they are a chain” – “excellent value” and “fast”, if occasionally let down by “iffy service”. Founded in 2008 by Saiphin and Alex Moore, who inherited the name of their first East End site, the group has 18 branches in London and expanded to Liverpool, Manchester, Reading (delivery only) and Leeds following the sale of a majority stake to US investors. The couple also have two spin-offs, Lao Café in Covent Garden and the new Chinese noodle bar Hoh Sek in St Katharine Docks.
6. Megan's at the Sorting Office British, Modern restaurant in Islington 6 Esther Anne Place - N1
With its inviting décor, this fast-expanding group has been a big “winner” since the pandemic, mushrooming to 18 sites, all of which have generally proved useful additions to their respective areas. But while “it certainly looks the part, and the staff look after you well enough”, the brunch-friendly fare can be hit ’n’ miss, with reports ranging from “surprisingly good” to “formulaic and really abysmal”. Top Tip – “always a top option for feeding the family”.
7. Bellanger French restaurant in Islington 9 Islington Green - N1
Created by Jeremy King and Christopher Corbin, this smart brasserie on Islington Green is long on Belle Époque-style charm, and – thanks to “a menu that suits most moods and a warm welcome” – has, for many locals, become “a go-to for most occasions, particularly family lunch and brunch”. Its cuisine (with some emphasis on its selection of tartes flambées) has always tended to be “fine if not particularly distinguished” but the experience is enhanced by “decent, unrushed service”. Now part of Minor International’s Wolseley Hospitality Group following its April 2022 takeover of Corbin & King: “I fear for it under its new ownership” is a common worry among regulars.
8. Gallipoli Again Turkish restaurant in Islington 119 Upper Street - N1
“This old Upper Street favourite” (no longer with a nearby offshoot) wins high marks for its “well-grilled Turkish food” and “just brilliant, warm service”. Jolly décor, with lots of “quiet corners”, suits it to a variety of meals: from a budget celebration to lunch with the fam.
9. Jiji Fusion restaurant in Islington 6g Esther Anne Place - N1
“In the gorgeous new location of Islington Square”, this “fantastic” and unusual Israeli-Japanese newcomer is proving a promising addition to N1: “very buzzy, with cool vibes” and serving “small fusion plates” that are very “interesting”. Even fans agree, however, that it’s “very expensive… but definitely worth it… I’ll be back!”
10. MEATLiquor Islington Burgers, etc restaurant in Islington 133b Upper St - N1
“Dead hippie sauce is a must” at these “very loud” operations, which “remain at the head of the gourmet burger pack” for many fans with “lots of options available”. After 14 years of growth from a food van to a national chain with 10 venues in the capital, they “don’t seem to have lost their way yet”. “The dark and grungy ersatz New Orleans interior vibe” is of the love-it-or-hate-it variety.
11. Afghan Kitchen Afghani restaurant in Islington 35 Islington Green - N1
This enduring little café on Islington Green has thrived for three decades on its “amazing” cheap curries (if certainly not its basic interior).
12. Five Guys Islington Burgers, etc restaurant in Islington 71 Upper St - N1
2021 Review: “When all you want is an old-school burger”, these US-based arrivals of recent years really “hit the spot” – you can “build your own”, with “tons of accessories”; plus “seriously addictive fries”, “thick milkshakes”, and “more soda flavours than is reasonable”. “The eat-in experience is as depressing as McDonald’s”, though, in fact perhaps more so – “some branches have a strangely gloomy ambience” – but fans feel that “if you don’t mind 1980s-rock, a trip can still be surprisingly fun”.
13. Zaffrani Indian restaurant in Islington 47 Cross St - N1
This “handy local Indian restaurant” near the Almeida Theatre in Islington is rather smarter than the average curry house, and has a wide choice of fish and seafood dishes in addition to the standard meat and veg range.
14. Terra Rossa Italian restaurant in Islington 139 Upper Street - N1
“An absolute hidden gem” – this “unassuming Italian in the heart of Angel”, close to the Almeida Theatre, is a “perfect neighbourhood spot”, serving “generous portions of fantastic rustic food” and “well-selected wines” that make a meal “like being on holiday”. It takes its name from the red earth of the Salento peninsula, the ‘heel’ of Puglia.
15. Le Mercury French restaurant in Islington 140a Upper St - N1
This “fun, old-style bistro with dishes to match” has been one of the dining bargains of Islington’s main drag for the best part of 40 years. It serves brunch from 10am as well as the standard Gallic brasserie menu for lunch and dinner.
16. Pig & Butcher British, Modern restaurant in Islington 80 Liverpool Road - N1
This “pretty decent gastropub” – “the best in Islington” by some reckoning – butchers its own meat for the table. Everyone agrees that the food is “high quality” – “even the snacks are great!” – but “it’s a busy place and the service is a little chaotic”.
17. Yipin China Chinese restaurant in Islington 70-72 Liverpool Rd - N1
2022 Review: “The atmosphere is downbeat but the food is addictive” at this Chinese canteen near Angel, which serves “tasty, spicy food with lots and lots of pepper”. “Try and avoid the more conventional Chinese restaurant dishes for an authentic regional treat.”
18. Frederick’s British, Modern restaurant in Islington 106 Camden Passage - N1
The “cooking is as reliable as ever” at this calm and sprawling Islington institution – a fixture among the antiques shops of Camden Passage for more than half a century. Its modern European cuisine is “nothing wildly exciting, but assured and confident” and backed up by an “excellent wine list”. Staff are “especially good to regulars” (“it’s so nice to be recognised, welcomed and made to feel special”). And “when sitting in the quiet and civilised garden in the sunshine, it’s hard to believe you’re only moments from the fray of Upper Street”.
19. Skal Nordic Dining Scandinavian restaurant in Islington 149 Upper Street - N1
This “small” Swedish restaurant in Islington serves “amazing”, “absolutely delicious” meals based around Nordic ‘husmanskost’, meaning home cooking. It took over the Grade-II listed premises vacated by fellow-Scandi Rök (RIP) three years ago, making for an easy transition for locals with a taste for the north.
20. Ottolenghi Mediterranean restaurant in Islington 287 Upper St - N1
Still “a gold standard”, with their “lovely, beautifully displayed food” – this small group of deli-cafés has expanded slowly since the first one opened in Notting Hill 21 years ago; the latest arrived in Pavilion Road, Chelsea, in January 2022. Hugely influential Israeli-born chef and writer Yotam Ottolenghi has transformed the way much of the world sees Middle Eastern cuisine – and vegetables. “I’m not a vegetarian, but I love eating the veg dishes here and I find I don’t need to order any meat”. (See also the chef’s two grander restaurants, Nopi and Rovi).
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