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Things to do in Islington – my corner of London

For many London is Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace. It conjures images of iconic buildings and historical tourist attractions. As a resident for nearly 8 years now I often fail to notice these statuesque emblems. For my London is the sights found in the shadows of these attractions. To me London is a spicy curry consumed on the grubby pavements of Brick Lane in East London. It’s the warehouses of vintage clothes and the dingy basements of sweaty bars in Shoreditch. It’s cupcakes in Portobello (I heart you Hummingbird Bakery) and design shops/cafes like ‘Drink, Shop and Do’ in Kings Cross. It’s riding a bicycle in life threatening conditions and squeezing onto tube carriages in somewhat degrading ones. London is mad, sometimes bad and a bit rough around the edges, but it is real and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Wills & Kate by Bambi

 

Treasure on the Portobello Road

As you will find in most cities around the world there is a little rivalry between the people of different neighbourhoods in London. I live north of the river in an area called Islington. By the power of geography it is therefore decreed I shall not like anybody who lives south of the Thames. Whilst this point is debatable, I will admit to being slightly biased towards my borough. Simply put – it is the best!

Islington is within easy reach of the city centre, both the financial and theatre districts are easily walked or cycled to, but yet it retains an almost village feel. With a long stretch of original boutiques, yummy coffee shops, restaurants of all manners of international cuisine and bars and pubs for every taste –  you need not leave the area of a weekend should you wish as everything is here. It’s buzzy but not bustling, trendy but not pretentious. Maybe I am a little more than slightly biased!

Islington feels like a village within a city

The heart of Islington is Upper Street which is book-ended by Angel tube station (Northern Line) at the bottom and Highbury Corner (Piccadilly Line) at the top. There are far too many great places to list here but my personal picks for a great weekend in Islington are:

Le Mercury – fancy French food at ridiculously cheap prices. Rickety wooden tables and soft candle lighting add to the ambience. A 3 course meal for under $25 dollars adds a smile to customer’s faces.

Ottolenghi – for the most magnificent meringues you will ever see. Seating is minimal in this chic establishment so prepare to queue on weekends or have your treat boxed up and take it away.

Ottolenghi, Islington, N1

The delicious cakes on offer at Ottolenghi (Le Mercury is the black and yellow restaurant opposite)

Keston Lodge –battered leather couches, moody patterned wallpaper and happy hour cocktails priced at buy 1 get 1 for a £1. Frankly the Raspberry Vodka Collins should be renamed after me.

Chilango – I discovered this distributor of magnificent burritos via Justin Morris of 48 Hour Adventure as he is obsessed with them! After much training I can now manage to eat a whole burrito in one sitting. These guys have a great social media presence so follow them on twitter and look out for the giveaways.

Chilango – the home of fresh and feisty Mexican cuisine

Leila – a wonderful female fashion store – who needs a department store full of dresses when Leila have already handpicked the best for you?

Breakfast Club – mismatched furniture, music memorabilia on the walls and a mouth-watering selection of your fave breakfast foods served all day everyday. I recommend the pancake and berry tower, sausage and bacon buttie, eggs benedict, power smoothies, chai tea latte – well, basically everything on the menu. You’ll have to try them all for yourself!

Say no more! Photo courtesy of www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com

A berry makes a bid for freedom

Lucky Voice – a classy private karaoke joint – bet you never thought you would see the words classy and karaoke in the same sentence! Sound proof booths, plasma screen TVs, acoustic effects which make even the worst of us singers sound alright, and a button that says “I’m thirsty” and results in instant alcohol served whenever pressed. Find an excuse to go and you’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again.

Name that tune…

So how do you like the sound of my ‘hood? Do I have you convinced? Let me know if you are ever in town and I will personally show you why it is the best!

About Author

Travel blogger and freelancer writer who loves boutique hotels and brunching. I've been blogging for 10 years, visited 60+ countries and called London, Sydney, Melbourne and (oh so briefly) New York home at various points during the last decade. Now travelling with a baby and trying to make it as stylish and stress-free as can be!

22 Comments

  • J Is a Bird
    August 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Great tips, I think I bookmarked everything except Ottolenghi, which I already have. I’ve been to the one in Nottinghill and love it. Thank you for introducing me to your end of London.

    Cheers!
    J.

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and hope you find the piece helpful!

      Reply
  • Justin Morris
    August 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    So proud that you can put away a whole burrito now. 🙂

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm

      haha you taught me well 🙂

      Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures
    August 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    It looks so lovely!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 29, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      thanks Andi – I am quite a fan, as you can probably tell 🙂

      Reply
  • Candace Rose Rardon
    August 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Love this, Jayne! And I adore the new blog design…the colours are fantastic 🙂

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

      Thanks Candace, it reminds me of India and you will soon see for yourself why! You must be so excited – I’m excited for you!!

      Reply
  • Heather
    August 30, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Can’t wait to come visit you in Islington next time — assuming you’re there 🙂 Ottolenghi is one of my new faves <3

    Almost all of my friends live south of the Thames, but I get your sentiment — in Sydney, I think the "Inner West is best" and will always say so!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Yes you must let me show you Islington next time you are in town – you will love it! Think I need to visit this Inner West of Sydney too….

      Reply
  • Kirsten Lodge
    August 30, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I *love* Islington. I lived there when I first moved to London! Thanks for the le Mercury tip. Someone had told me it was amazing but I couldn’t remember its name!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 30, 2011 at 9:54 am

      Glad I could help! Le Mercury is such good value it makes up for the expensive rent rates in Islington – a bit :p

      Reply
  • Kate T
    August 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I can vouch that Islington is the best borough in town! (And I’m not just being biased either…!) Situated just north of St Pancras, you can go from your door to Paris in less than 3 hours! As well as zip up to Edinburgh from Kings Cross.

    We also have some of the best pubs in town and there are NUMEROUS places to buy excellent cake.

    All of Jayne’s suggestions are WELL worth a visit if you’re in town, for a taste of what real London life is like :o)

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks for backing me up KT! This is all very true. And of course we are not biased AT ALL!

      Reply
  • Lori - The Unframed World
    August 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I loved reading about your borough pride =). It looks like an awesome place to live.

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks Lori, it can be fairly pricey to rent or buy property here but the bars and restaurants make up for this!

      Reply
  • pitchingtheworld
    August 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I used to live up the road in Stoke Newington and miss it like fuck. I reviewed all of the bars and restaurants in Islington for Square Meal. You should check out The Charles Lamb, round the back of Angel tube (sort of). It’s ace. Sorry about the swearing, but it just felt right.

    Reply
    • Jayne
      August 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Pitchy – I shall let you off the swearing seen as it is you! Re reviewing all of the restaurants in Islington – wow – how are you not obese? (Assuming you are not?!) Islington is full of great places, found it very hard to narrow them down for an international audience and am aware I missed out loads of peoples faves, I shall check out the Charles Lamb though, that’s a new one to me. Also meant to say congrats, I see you are including images in your blog posts now, this is progress :p

      Reply
  • Jo
    February 20, 2013 at 9:23 am

    wow, thanks, I’m visiting Islington next week, and I’m going to try EVERYTHING that you recommended, thanks!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Pleasure – I love that area. Will be glad to have helped!

      Reply
  • Amanda Muscarella
    October 1, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I stopped at the Ottolenghi in Islington for a quick lunch and everything I tried was delicious. Loved it!

    Reply
  • Charlie
    February 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    It’s great to see posts on these lesser visited and truly authentic neighbourhoods of London

    Reply

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