From sushi to Sunday lunch with a difference, the Pan-Asian food and drink scene on Upper Street in Angel continues to evolve at pace. Here’s 11 of the best worth your time and money, some a little more obvious than others…
1 United Ramen
A relatively new addition to Upper Street’s thriving restaurant scene, United Ramen has quickly established itself as the go to place for, well, ramen. They take it very seriously indeed: everything on the menu stems from ramen, which is made daily with deep, rich broths and served with either thin straight noodles or thick waxy noodles. Yes, there are other goodies on the menu, but when you have British Bulldog Roast Beef Ramen – rare roast beef, mini Yorkshire puddings, menma carrots, bok choi, spring onions, wasabi gravy, beef and chicken bone broth, and thin noodles – there really is only one place to start.
105-106 Upper Street N1 1QN; 020 7183 3433; unitedramen.com
2 Thai Square
From a newbie to a veteran – Thai Square’s grand façade has been a feature on Upper Street for many years now. The look of the 180-seat space gets you into the spirit, mixing contemporary with traditional, which includes impressive Thai artefacts. The Thai Square chefs are constantly creating new dishes, so despite being an old stager, you won’t get bored on each visit. Our current favourites? Lab Pla, spicy sea bass, and the wonderfully hot Gang Pa, or Jungle Curry – a choice of beef or prawns cooked with fresh young peppercorn, shredded krachai, Thai aubergines, bamboo shoots and long beans.
347-349 Upper Street N1 0PD; 020 7704 2000; thaisq.com
Islington’s very own Tardis, Upper Street’s Pho is bigger inside than it looks from the exterior, and it’s red and gold motif adds to a feeling of something special. Offering exceptional Vietnamese cuisine – which was originally a success when Pho launched in Clerkenwell – you can tuck into the likes of Goi, Pho and Com Tam (we didn’t know what they meant either, but it was fun finding out). We can’t get enough of Pho Xao, wok-fried flat noodles served with crunchy greens, protein and, in our case, a topping of tender beef (you can also choose chicken, prawn and chicken, or tofu and mushroom). Think Vietnamese Pad Thai, only better.
39 Upper Street N1 0PN; 020 7559 5150; phocafe.co.uk
Blink and you may miss it, Tenshi brings you authentic and unpretentious Japanese food in intimate surroundings along Upper Street. Don’t come here expecting fads or flamboyance, what they offer is quite simply top quality sushi dishes. The standard roll, an inside out roll with the rice on the outside, a thick sushi roll, large hand roll… You name it, you’ll be able to satisfy that sushi craving. Tenshi also offers a host of additional dishes on the menu if raw fish doesn’t take your fancy.
61 Upper Street N1 0NY; 020 7226 4665; tenshilondon.com
There’s no airs or graces about Isarn, with the exception of their quirky lighting, as it’s all about the food at this contemporary Thai restaurant. Expect an extensive array of traditional Thai curries, freshly prepared salads and soups, all served up by the very courteous staff. Proper Thai food should be spicy and make you gasp for water, which is exactly what we did when enjoying the roasted baby chicken with chilli and tamarind. There’s something rather addictive about that tingling, spicy after taste.
119 Upper Street N1 1QP; 020 7424 5183; isarn.co.uk
Surprised? We were too when we visited the recent revamped Upper Street favourite to find a menu tinged with Asian influences. That’s down to Australian chef Tim Yates, who has created a menu full of vibrant sharing and large dishes. So alongside the San Choy Bau (spiced beef and lamb mince, baby gem) and Zilouf’s prawn toast on the small plates offerings you’ll find crispy pork belly and hand-cut steak tartare. For the large plates perfect for sharing, don’t miss the King Prawn snake beans with chorizo, shrimp and chilli butter.
270 Upper Street N1 2UQ; 020 7226 1118; ziloufs.com
Now for something completely different. Akari on Essex Road is an Izakaya, which is a drinking establishment that also serves food to accompany your beverage. Don’t go expecting large courses; it’s all about being adventurous here, where you are encouraged to try various dishes along with a wide range of Japanese drinks. So you’ll be able to tuck into something as simple as nutritious edamame beans up to grilled yellowtail cheek served with salt. It’s also the first on our list not to be found on Upper Street, so Akari is a stand out for many reasons.
196 Essex Road N1 8LZ; 020 7226 9943; akarilondon.co.uk
8 Sen Nin
Established in 2006, Sen Nin lays claims to being Islington’s first Japanese restaurant. What we love about this restaurant is the fact you can watch the chefs at work. It features a centrally located Robatayaki Grill (a Japanese BBQ), Teppanyaki (Hibachi griddle), sushi counter and a wok station, all in full view of diners. Considering their talented chefs have been brought in from around the globe to prepare the finest fresh meat and fish, this is a very good thing indeed.
206 Upper Street N1 1RQ; 020 7704 1890; sen-nin.com
Although offering a mix of Pan-Asian classics, there’s something refreshingly different about XOXO. After all, there aren’t many Pan-Asian restaurants that offer a grilled chicken burger, a skinny version of that, and also a lamb kebab. Catering for all? Perhaps, but it doesn’t detract from the Thai classics elsewhere. The dumplings, in particular, are impressive, specially steamed with a home-made filling and shaped to perfection. All the sauces are made in-house by their Thai chefs to complement each dish, and there’s plenty of smaller dishes for those who don’t have a huge appetite. You can even order French fries on the side.
74 Upper Street N1 0NY; 020 7226 6799; xoxolondon.co
10 Yipin China
The site where Yipin China proudly stands has had many incarnations in the past, all restaurants that haven’t managed to entice people off of Upper Street. Yipin China’s offering is different to anywhere else and that’s something that will stand it in good stead. Hunanese is an exciting cuisine originating from the Hunan province in the south of China. Dishes are rich in flavour, spicy, and created using regional curing and smoking techniques. The menu is an eye-opener too: where else can you enjoy dry-wok pig intestines? For lovers of spice, prepare for the burn with their fragrant chicken on a pile of chillies.
70-72 Liverpool Road N1 0QD; 020 7354 3388; yipinchina.co.uk
11 Banana Tree
Springing up all over London, Banana Tree’s Indochinese menu is a real winner. Street-style food with healthy herbs, it’s a great insight into the lemongrass growing countries of South East Asia. There’s a lot to choose from: their beef rendang is known as the ‘king of the curries’ and has to be tried to be believed; the Indochina Garden aspect of the menu offers up healthier alternatives; while even their desserts are noteworthy, something that a few Pan-Asian restaurants get wrong. Banana ‘Frotiteroles’, Balinese ‘Pulut Hitam’ pudding, coconut stuffed green Thai pancakes, warm chocolate Indo-fondant… We will take them all.
412-416 St John Street EC1V 4NJ; 020 7278 7565; bananatree.co.uk