Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Hood : Highbury / Islington

A couple of months ago I shared my favorite neighborhood spots on the Move Guide, a great site for discovering your city and answering your expat questions. Since we have officially lived here in London for more then 8 months I thought I would just put it out there, I heart London! Yes, we have visa issues to deal with, work is crazy, I miss my family, I hate the time difference of catching up with US friends but lets be honest, London rocks! We live in the adorable area of Highbury Islington in London and it has been the perfect neighborhood to move to; a mix of city and small village feel. 

In a city as large and diverse as London, there is a huge vibrant mix of ethnicities, foods, cultures and history.  We chose to live in a residential district of Inner London, extending from Islington High Street to Highbury Fields, Highbury / Islington encompasses  the area around the busy Upper Street and Essex Road. Below is my guide to our little area of London! 

We often get asked to why we chose to live in the Highbury/Islington instead of West London where many American expats live. We actually kind of fell into living where we do. When looking for a short term that would allow a dog, the first flat we found was on Upper Street, the high street of Islington. We continued to look for a long term flat around the city but we kept coming back to our area in North London. We finally ended up settling right on the park in Highbury Fields and love the easy accessibility for our dog, the nearby high streets and restaurants and the closeness to the center of the center.
{flat hunting around Highbury Fields} 

Islington is a vibrant borough of London that has a thriving theatre scene, nightlife, cafes, bars, shopping and restaurants. Only living here for less then a year we have quickly found our favorite spots and continue to find a new place every day.

For a Cup of Tea or Coffee

London has quite a great coffee culture going on. Often people think of England with only teashops, but during my first month I discovered some great places for an afternoon coffee.
The original Euphorium Bakery on Upper Street is the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. The bakery has amazing daily freshly baked items including scones, quiche, pizza, biscuits and breads. This is a great bakery to grab a cup of coffee and a newspaper on a Saturday morning.

North of Upper Street, located in Highbury Barns is the adorable Highness Cafe & Tea Room. Walking by the windows that are full of freshly baked cakes makes me want to stop in for an afternoon tea with a girlfriend. It is quite a small shop with seating downstairs and a small cozy space upstairs, but a great place to bring a book and have a cup of tea on a rainy day.

Camden Passage , located near the Angel tube stop has some wonderful places for an afternoon coffee. Kipferl is an Austrian cafe that serves delicious cakes such as Sacher Torte and Apfelstrudel. Coffee Works Project is what I would describe as the hip coffee shop. You can usually find hipsters typing away on their laptop throughout the day.

I spent quite a few days having coffee at Madam Chi Coffee Lounge on Upper Street. The cafe makes me feel a bit like being in a Parisian cafe, whether I wanted a glass of wine or a skinny cappuccino.

Places to Dine

One of the first places I was recommended to try in Islington was The Albion and I am so glad we tried it out right away! Located off on a side street from the busy Upper Street area, the Albion feels like you have pulled up to an old Inn back in the day. A beautiful Georgian House that has a great Gastro pub feel in the front, a cozy dining room that serves delicious traditional British cuisine and also has a wonderful garden area in the back that offers an amazing place for a Sunday Roast in the Summer Days.

Head to the adorable hidden little passageway of Camden Passage for a few great options! The Breakfast Club always has a line out of the door for a reason…it is delicious! My favorite time to go for breakfast at this tiny little breakfast spot is on a Saturday or Sunday before 10am, the breakfast burritos reminded me of home, but with a side order of English sausage, were maybe a bit better! My other favorite in Camden Passage is the Elk in the Woods that serves up amazing cocktails like the Elderflower Fizz but also amazing food. The look of the restaurant is quite cozy with wooden floors and antlers on the wall but also quite hip with subway tiles by the bar and hipsters as regulars.
For delicious and inexpensive dinner be sure to stop in at one of the three Gallipoli restaurants on Upper Street.

A perfect spot for a Sunday roast with friends, The Pig in the Butcher, on Liverpool Street is a must. Make sure you try the lamb, and also book ahead!

You can tell that Ottolenghi is going to be delicious by only peeking through the windows. Beautiful desserts are always piled high in the windows, with overflowing platters of salads behind them. Healthy Mediterranean dishes mix a bit of British taste with seasonal items in this perfect spot to grab dinner in or takeaway.

The newest place to pop up with a lot of buzz in the area is the House of Wolf. Every month this restaurant changes chefs to allow locally known chefs to create a pop up restaurant feel. Every Sunday they offer bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s with their roasts!
Looking for proper British fish and chips? The Beach Hut  is located in Highbury Barns {right up the street from my flat, very village feeling, I love it!} and is a BYOB fish and chips spot. Order the small order, trust me.

As a US expat, you start to learn your favorite UK chains: Wagamamas {my favorite since I studied abroad here in college} is located in Angel, Pizza Express for a Tuesday evening Pizza and Salad is perfect.

Stop in for a Drink

“The Bar with No Name” 69 Colebrooke Row is located on a small street around the corner from Islington Green. Their alcoholic drinks are quite generous, so be aware! It is a 1920’s cocktail bar style bar with really beautiful custom cocktails. To secure a table make sure you book ahead!

Zilouf’s on Upper Street has a funky relaxed feel that I adore with a mix of couches and mismatched glassware. Serving delicious cocktails like a Honey and Basil Daiquiri, it also offers 2 for 1 cocktails from 5pm to 7pm, reminding me of the US happy hour deals!
Living in London everyone needs to find a local pub! The Alwyne Castle has become our pub and we love it! We can bring our dog, the food is yummy, it has a crazy Tuesday night trivia night and during the winter we bought our Christmas tree there!

Make Yourself Pretty
I am a big fan of the Blow Bar in Camden Passage where for £25 you can walk out feeling like you have model hair. I have also had a hair cut there and it was great!
Looking for an inexpensive nail place to get Shellac manicure for under £40, Modern Nail, not fancy, but it does a great job. Inexpensive and located in Chapel Market, close to Angel tube stop.

Food Shops & Markets
I just discovered this little gem in Highbury Barn, La FromagerieAn amazing selection of cheese and I have become to LOVE their tarts and pistachio lemon bread they have! Perfect place to stock up if you are entertaining.
Every Sunday Chapel Market has a Farmer’s Market set up and it is the best spot to get fresh produce and inexpensive groceries! During the week I order my staples through a delivery grocer but all of my fruits and veggies got purchase at ½ the costs here.

Retail Therapy
Upper Street in Islington is full of great places to shop: Oliver Bonas for trendy pieces and fun gifts for friends, WhistlesJigsaw,Petit Bateau and Sweaty Betty for fashionable work out clothes {and free pilates classes on Thursday evening}.
After Noah is a really neat store for gifts, funky furniture and retro toys. I am in love with Aria! Everything about this store I love.  The design of the store offers a coffee bar, amazing contemporary furniture and that place in the area that you can find pretty scented candles and neat contemporary gifts like Jonathan Adler mugs.

Head to N1 in Angel {across from the tube} for all of your highstreet stores like H&M, Oasis, French Connection, Gap, Benneton, Accessorize and many others.
For your Pets: Nothing fancy but there are not many huge box pet stores in the city like we are use to in the States. I’ve discovered a small place in Chapel Market, Angel Pet Supplies it sells the little things Oliver likes {treats, toys, essentials like doggy bags}.

Fresh Air
Highbury Fields. Maybe I am biased because we live close by, but it is a huge park which Oliver LOVES. The park has a gym, tennis court, is easily accessible to the tube and has a nice mix of families, young couples and elderly people who have knowledge of the area for years. I love that the park gives you a feel of community in the middle of this big city.
A few other nearby parks we love to go for runs in or take Oliver are: Clissold Park and Finsbury Park.

Come visit me and I will show you around! Live in the area? Let's meet up for a cocktail!  Cheers! 

xoxo ~ Becca


  1. oh wow great guide :) I will definitely go and check out some of your recommendations.
    A friend of mine lives in Highbury&Islington too ;).

    xx Vivi

  2. Hey Becca, great guide :) I still live on the other side of London (Greenwich, southeast) but we should definitely still do a doggy date one day! Lara would love to meet Sir Oliver!


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