The Alwyne Castle in Islington is looking better than ever, fresh from a lick of paint, – but retains its unique homely charm, the perfect north London pub for those long winter nights, as Mark Kebble discovers when he popped in 

Sometimes when news reaches us of a pub refurbishment, our heart sinks. We like things gritty and a little grotty, especially if it’s a personal favourite. Although never falling into any kind of state of disrepair, The Alwyne Castle in Islington is still a favourite – so would a refurbishment do more harm than good?

Things start well – very well, in fact. Red Stripe is a up there with the best when it comes to lager, so my eyes positively lit up when I entered The Alwyne Castle on a chilly autumn’s night and saw that wonderful red and white logo looking back at me. When I calmed myself down, I took in my surroundings – and there’s plenty to look at. The ceiling mural by graffiti artist Inkfetish is certainly eye-catching, as are the oversized church pews flanking the fireplace. The modern dining room has been given a quirky touch with book-print wallpaper leading out into the light-filled conservatory with private enclosed garden.

It was busy on the night of our visit in the main pub area, but my guest and I took a seat in the quieter dining room to tuck into the menu featuring plenty of modern pub grub. After sharing a starter of pan-fried chorizo with focaccia bread, I took advantage of ‘burger night’ by opting for a West Country concoction with cheddar and fries. My guest was a little more adventurous in picking the risotto, but we both were extremely happy with our choices. The risotto looked particularly hearty, whereas my burger was perfectly cooked, served up in a crisp brioche bun.

The Alwyne Castle, Islington review

The dining room at The Alwyne Castle features eye-catching book-print wallpaper

Dessert was a veritable feast of what’s what when it comes to British classics. Crumble, tarts, sticky toffee pudding, brownie and a great looking cheese board formed this rather enticing line-up, with the raspberry & peach crumble and sticky toffee pudding being picked out. Fabulous stuff all round.

There’s plenty more to investigate when it comes to The Alwyne Castle’s food offerings. Their Sunday roasts have been hyped up – I am keen to return to give the Norfolk pork with crackling a go – and they will be running a very special Christmas menu too over the festive season that could be the ideal solution to any cooking nightmares. All in all, The Alwyne Castle is heart-warming stuff.

83 St Paul’s Road N1 2LY; 020 7359 7351;