Trimming down this list of unmissable spots in Islington to just six was hard work. A neighbourhood brimming with ridiculously cool speakeasies, popular live gig venues and even a cocktail bar styled as an opulent first-class train carriage, these are exciting times to be heading for a night out on Upper Street. From raucous late-night pubs to tasty new restaurant openings, here’s six of the best to try next time you’re in the area.
Still a newcomer to the neighbourhood, stumble upon this date night hotspot before the masses discover it. Little Bat is the younger sibling of Callooh Callay (who just won a Best International Cocktail Bar award) and is a charming and intimate bolthole with lots of snug tables for 2 and candles flickering throughout. A must-try if you'd prefer to keep away from those Upper Street crowds, cocktails are around the £8-9 mark - pretty reasonable considering the excellent quality - and there's dreamy Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese balls to snack on while you work your way through the menu.
Reckon you'd be fairly useful at brewing your own beer? Prove it at the Brewhouse & Kitchen, which holds 'Brewery Experience Days' as well as tutored tastings from their comfortable bar-cum-restaurant behind Angel station. The ideal stop-off whether you're coming for a pint brewed fresh from the on-site brewery or popping in for one of the most indulgent Sunday roasts in north London, there's even a handy Beer and Food Pairing chart to help you maximise the flavours on show.
If you're after something a little different, check in at the Rok Smokehouse. A fresh new restaurant and bar opened inside a Grade-II listed building just last month, treat yourself to a spread of delicious Nordic-inspired food at this relaxed and serene eatery. You can expect a small but perfectly formed menu of smoked meats that you'd typically find spread across tables in Northern Europe, with the drinks offering featuring bespoke creations from cocktail guru Matt Whiley as well as biodynamic wines from smaller producers.
No guide to going out in Islington is complete without a nod to this legend of an Essex Road boozer. The Old Queen's Head is about as versatile as pubs in London come, with everything from eccentric comedy nights to Lucky Chip burger residencies and low-key quiz nights to pumping DJ sets going down across the week. Go on Saturday for nothing less than wall-to-wall debauchery then head back the next day to cure the hangover with Bloody Mary's and a Sunday Roast.
The Bar With No Name at 69 Colebrooke Row is one of the most infamous elusive drinking dens in London. It’s owned by the acclaimed mixologist Tony Conigliaro and offers nothing short of a spectacular cocktail drinking experience, where bartenders cloaked in white lab coats shake, stir and otherwise muddle unusual ingredients as part of their bespoke menu. With room for just 40 don’t be surprised to find it crowded, especially when house pianist Maurice Horhut sits down to do his thing every Tuesday and Thursday evening.