From coffee to clothes, cakes to cocktails, Islington is perfect for weekend strolls with friends, hunting down an unusual gift or simply treating yourself to something new (or a vintage treasure). Upper Street is easy to get to on the Northern Line at Angel or the Victoria Line and Overground at Highbury & Islington. Here are our favourite destinations in the area.
Diverse has been in residence on Islington’s main drag Upper Street since 1986, and has one of the coolest independent edits of contemporary brands to be found in the capital. Fans of Isabel Marant and sister label Etoile can eat their heart out here, and there is a tempting selection of Carven, MSGM, Maison Martin Margiela and local girl Sophie Hulme’s creations too. Look out for the chic jewelry and Celine sunglasses in the glass cabinets.
Diverse Womenswear; 294 Upper Street, London N1 2TU
The Coffee Works Project
Islington isn’t short on coffee outlets, but this relatively new addition stands out from the crowd by a country mile. From the reclaimed décor to ordering on an iPad, you’d be forgiven for thinking Coffee Works Project is style over substance, but that certainly isn’t the case. The staff are efficient and welcoming and the flat whites are tough to beat. Neals Yard Dairy and Borough Market’s Moons Green Charcuterie supply the cheese and meat respectively for the café’s sandwiches.
96-98 High Street, Islington, N1 8EG
Annie’s is an Islington institution and can claim Kate Moss and the late Alexander McQueen among its customers. Such is the owner Annie Moss’ expertise that her stock was used to dress the cast of the ‘80s TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. ‘20s flapper dresses are Moss’ specialty and not surprisingly are among the store’s best sellers. Fur coats, ‘40s and ‘50s tea dresses, Victorian wedding gowns, nighties, hats, shoes and jewellery make this nothing short of a treasure-trove.
12 Camden Passage, Islington, Greater London, N1 8ED
Lynda-Louise Burrell was a fashion editor and stylist in New York before setting up nailgirls, inspired by the easily accessible and affordable manicures she enjoyed in the big apple. Alongside her sister Jo, Burrell has not only opened the nail spa on Islington’s Cross Street, but also created a range of toxin-free polishes to boot. Name checked by Jane Shepherdson and Brix Smith Start, you can sip a mimosa while your nails are tended to.
50 Cross St, London N1 2BA
Blink and you might miss it – Afghan Kitchen’s understated appearance belies the acclaimed food to be found within (its long been a hit with even the severest of food critics). Expect to share tables, but rest assured that the food is worth it – this is home-cooked Afghan food with meat so tender it melts in the mouth. The menu is short, but you’ll still feel spoilt for choice. Take a pal and share a portion of both the chicken in yoghurt and lamb in spinach.
35 Islington Green, London N1 8DU
69 Colebrooke Row
Like coffee, cocktails aren’t difficult to come by in Islington, but this discreet bar with no name has the edge. The brainchild of drinks maestro Tony Conigliaro (who runs masterclasses at his illustrious Drinks Laboratory), the menu here is bespoke and seasonal, though classic cocktails can be made to order. We recommend booking to avoid disappointment. Oh, and a Death In Venice – Campari with grapefruit bitters, prosecco and an orange twist.
69 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AA
Criterion Auctions of London
Grab a coffee to go from Coffee Works Project and wander a few hundred metres north east to Essex Road and the Criterion Auction house, established in 1989. Japanese contemporary tea sets, antique brass gas lamps, Regency dining chairs and Victorian jewelry caskets – there is something to delight every taste. Sellers can get professional valuations, whilst buyers can make a bid on new items each week.
53 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 2SF
A quick look in the window of Ottolenghi is enough to give you a sugar rush, such is the delectable array of cakes and tarts. This is the biggest of chef Yotam’s three delis, but at popular times you will be lucky to get a table, and should be prepared to queue most days. If queuing’s not for you, it does a roaring trade in delicious takeaway salads and sweet treats. We’ve taste tested a good majority of what’s on offer and can report that the passion fruit meringue tart is lip-smackingly good.
287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ