Islington has to be one of the most pub-heavy neighbourhoods in all of London, which is certainly not a bad thing at all. If you need a little help working out which ones are best, especially when it comes to serving great food as well as great drinks, check out our top gastro pubs in the area.
Set back off the main drag of Upper Street, The Draper’s Arms always has a great atmosphere but thanks to its airy rooms, high ceilings and outdoor space, it doesn’t feel crowded. With rotating ales, including Wandle and Harvey’s Sussex Best and a range of lagers and wines, it’s a good pub just to drink in, though food is what The Draper’s Arms excels at. The menus are seasonal and feature a mix of classic and inventive dishes like chicken and girolle pie and octopus with creamed sweetcorn, bacon and green chilli. Their Sunday sharing roasts are well spending a long lunch over too.
Given that the area surrounding The Pig and Butcher was once used as fields to rest livestock before the animals were sent to Smithfield’s Meat Market, it’s no surprise that the pub still celebrates rare breed meats and the art of butchery. The menu changes according to what produce has been brought in, so whether it’s Cornish pollock with spiced cauliflower, Hereford D-cut rump with double dipped chips or a sharing Tamworth Farm Cowboy pork chop, you know you’re getting the best. The drinks list also reflects the pub’s ethos of working with top independent suppliers, so there’s plenty of craft beer and wine from small producers to accompany the food.
As The Albion is literally just around the corner from The Draper’s Arms, comparisons between the two are often made but just like the latter, the former has plenty going for it in its own right. The wisteria-covered garden is particularly lovely but there’s plenty to admire inside the Georgian pub too, including a wide range of beers, ales and ciders. The Albion serves classic gastro pub fare, like sausages, mash & onion gravy, potted shrimp with sourdough toast and sticky toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream, which is always executed to a high standard. If you’re celebrating a special occasion though, you have to go for the whole roast suckling pig and trimmings – it really is quite something.
The Duke of Cambridge is the country’s first and only certified organic pub, an accolade that has been made possible thanks to their partnership with Devon farm Riverford (who also supply veg boxes), a business union that happened when Geetie, the owner of the pub, married Guy, the owner of the farm. Naturally produce comes from Riverford, so vegetables feature heavily and the menu changes depending on supply. The same care and consideration has also been applied to the drinks; beers are from independent breweries, wines are either organic or biodynamic, and even the soft drinks are all made with natural ingredients.
The Charles Lamb has been standing since 1839 but only with its current moniker since 2005, when the owners decided to rename the pub after the essayist Charles Lamb who lived nearby on Colebrooke Row. It’s very much a traditional English pub with a few French influences thrown in. For example, their house wine, which comes from the Languedoc, joining their real ale and lager selection, and bistro-style French dishes sitting alongside English ones on their changing blackboard menu.
With a name like The Narrowboat you’d expect this pub to be close to the water and it is, it’s actually the only pub in Islington directly on Regent’s Canal. Naturally the best spots are outside on the small terraces or right by the windows for those canal views, but the whole pub itself feels very bright and airy. The food menu features pub classics with a few modern twists, like venison sausages and mash, Kentucky fried quail, and pork T-bone and fries. As it’s a Young’s pub, you’ll find lots of their brews on tap and they also have a list of classic cocktails should you be after something a little stronger.
The Canonbury Tavern is another Young’s establishment and another pub that has been going for a few centuries. Whilst there are large open dining areas, the large garden is The Canonbury’s real gem – George Orwell wrote part of 1984 in that garden back in the 1940s – and the perfect place to enjoy dishes from their grill. Inside you can eat from the restaurant menu, which is more upmarket with plates like scallops with black pudding, king prawns and duck breast with rum marinated black cherries, savoy cabbage and apple puree.
The Myddleton Arms may be compact but the owners certainly have managed to pack a lot into a relatively small space, including a strong wine list; real ales, and quality pub grub, with the Sunday roasts being particularly good and on the generous side in terms of portions. They’ve even managed to squeeze a small, tiered garden out the back too, although this is one pub that you want to be snuggled up inside on a chilly day.
The Lord Clyde is one of those pubs that seems to work for all occasions, whether it’s a sedate pint on a Sunday, a casual dinner or lively outing with friends. The food menu is wonderfully varied, with fish & chips, sardines with pickled carrot salad and ox heart with purple potatoes and chilli salsa verde all sitting on the same menu. And that’s before you get to the dedicated BBQ section, which has everything from short rib, slaw and blackened romesco, to bream with fennel and chilli salad, to BBQ pineapple, rum cream and pecan & chocolate crumb. The beer selection is just as strong with Meantime, Harvey’s bitter, Hackney America Pale Ale on draught and more craft beers in the fridge. They’ve also got twenty gins behind the bar too.