Planned dinner dates are lovely to look forward to, but what if the mood to eat out strikes you and there’s no time to book? Here are 10 fabulous restaurants close to Angel where you are going to find a table – probably
Beyrouths is a London chain offering Lebanese street food, which has just come to Upper Street. After an emotionally exhausting matinee at the nearby King’s Head Theatre, my party popped in here for some healthy Middle Eastern platters. Two of us shared the generous sized seven-two veggie starter for £19.90. Our meat eating teen enjoyed the shish taouk – skewers of marinated chicken with a green salad and rice with vermicelli for £10.90. There’s no drinks licence yet, but you can BYOB. We licked our plates clean and then sat chatting, enjoying the dust-free Beirut décor.
113 Upper Street N1 1QN; 020 3490 8283; beyrouths.com
2 United Ramen
Newly opened, United Ramen serves noodles with a mash up twist after finding this dish a sell out at a couple of pop ups at House of Wolf. You can pick traditional ramen – noodles served in a slow-cooked Japanese broth – and know you’re eating something delicious and healthy. Or at the weekend try their British Bulldog version with roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Also serving bubble tea and bubble tea cocktails.
105-106 Upper Street N1 1QN; 020 7183 3433; unitedramen.com
3 Le Mercury
Because Le Mercury has three floors, and is planning a second branch nearby, it’s a good choice if you can’t book. It’s also one of Upper Street’s longest-running restaurants serving good value French classics – starters are £4.45, mains £9.95 and desserts £3.45.
Le Mercury 140a Upper Street N1 1QY; 020 7354 4088
Le Mercury Deuxieme, 154-155 Upper Street N1 1RA; 020 7704 8516
This Turkish food specialist has three branches on Upper Street. Like many Upper Street restaurants the ceiling is hung with decorative lights, designed to tempt diners in. Don’t be put off if you can’t be seated at one, there may be space at a nearby Gallipoli.
104 Upper Street N1 1QP – the original; 020 7359 0630
107 Upper Street N1 1QN – has two floors and offers shisha; 020 7226 5333
120 Upper Street N1 1QP – also has a garden; 020 7359 1578
Mexican street food is having a moment on Upper Street. Wahaca does not accept bookings so any queue might seem less like a problem if you occupy yourself playing table football or washing your hands (I don’t really understand this either) in the lobby. The dining room has a fabulous atmosphere, and the food is delicious – try the citrus fizz at £1.75 for a zinging soft drink.
Wahaca, 68-69 Upper Street N1 0NY; 020 3697 7990; wahaca.co.uk/locations/islington
Desperados, 67 Upper Street N1 0NY; desperadosrestaurants.com
Canas y Tapas, 72 Upper Street N1 0NY; 020 7704 6688; canasytapas.co.uk
6 Mem & Laz
The first few metres of Theberton Street is lined with restaurants – although the north part is now dominated by Mem & Laz, which seems to be absorbing its neighbours and now has room for 400 diners. It’s still a buzzy place serving Mediterranean food. The manager says if there are ten or more of you then you must book.
Mem & Laz, 8 Theberton Street N1 0QX; 020 7704 9089; memlazuk.com
Le Sacre Coeur, 18 Theberton Street N1 0QX; 020 7354 2618; lesacrecoeurbistro.co.uk
Rosa’s, 6 Theberton Street N1 0QX; rosasthaicafe.com
7 Pizza Express
It may be a chain, but Pizza Express keeps on serving classic Italian dishes incredibly well. For several years this was where my boyfriend and I went for an anniversary date to celebrate our first dinner out (if only we’d been at Frederick’s). These days it’s where the teens go with their Pizza Express money-off vouchers so still a place for young love.
335 Upper Street N1 0PB; 020 7226 9542; pizzaexpress.com
8 The Elk in the Woods
One of Camden Passage’s most lovely restaurants is The Elk in the Woods. The Elk is even busy on Monday lunch times, though you might be able to get a table then or Tuesday, but after that it’s bookings only.
The Elk in the Woods, 37-39 Camden Passage N1 8EA; 020 7226 3535; the-elk-in-the-woods.co.uk
Frederick’s, 106 Camden Passage N1 8EG; 020 7354 2888; fredericks.co.uk
Yotam Ottolenghi has his biggest branch in Islington with 50 seats. It doesn’t take lunchtime bookings – you have to queue – but its long table isn’t ideal for an intimate dinner. The food though is invariably delicious. Arrive early for a dinner slot.
287 Upper Street N1 2TZ; 020 7288 1454; ottolenghi.co.uk
10 La Petite Auberge
This is an Islington institution. With its aubergine-striped canopy, galleried space and eclectic wall decorations – pictures mix with pitchforks – you can enjoy a proper French feel. As for tastes: how about a crepe?
283 Upper Street N1 2TZ; 020 7359 1046; lapetiteaubergebistro.co.uk
Research by Nicola Baird from islingtonfacesblog.com