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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!