Tag Archives: islington

Pub Grub: The Crown

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Ignore what it looks like outside – The Crown is not an old man’s pub. It might have the traditional decor, but if you look closer it is actually a pretty great place to have dinner and drinks. Back room is decorated with art by up and coming illustrators, i think it’s a great way for them to gain exposure and perhaps sell some prints. I also saw a few shaggy friends in there which is a big plus in my book.

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The crown happens to be a local to one of my best friends, so I’ve met him here on a Tuesday night after work. What makes The Crown stand out from the rest of pubs in Islington is it’s extensive wine list, so when me and my friend came here for dinner we started that way around: wine first and food pairing after.

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We kicked dinner off with a bottle of Rioja and melt-in-your mouth calamari. Both worried that calamari might have been ‘rubbery’, we were pleasantly surprised as it was just perfect. For mains we got grilled sole with baby potatoes. I have never been one to shy away from fish because of the bones, but sole was extremely bony. I was not able to enjoy my meal as much as i was constantly stopping to pluck them out.

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Again the wine was the star of the course – glass of Merlot and a glass of Bordeaux, both full bodied and rich. And don’t let me forget the grand finale with Tawny port and an English cheese board.

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Dinner over, we stepped outside the pub and were reminded just how dead quiet Barnsbury can get! Great evening overall, we will be back to The Crown soon.

P.S. Did you notice that we have recently introduced a new feature called ‘Pub Grub’?
You can use our ‘cuisine’ search menu to locate all pub reviews with just one click!

The Crown
116 Cloudesley Road, Islington, London N1 0EB
http://crownislington.co.uk/
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Coffee Break: Saint Espresso 

‘The interior is so Copenhagen’ said Elena as we settled down for an after lunch coffee session. Still not sure what that actually means and I have googled interiors of Copenhagen since and I guess it is a bit industrial?!(?!!)??!!’

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We love coffee and have love affair with coffee time which ever city we are in. Whether it’s a coffee and a nata in Lisbon, a espresso and conolli in Rome or a Turkish coffee with a piece of baklava in Istanbul, it is a ritual we fulfill every day.

On our trip to Rome we learned a lot about coffee etiquette which changed our lives. For an Italian an espresso is a ‘stand up and go’ kind of thing, people will walk into espresso bars like Tazza D’oro knock back a shot and head straight to work. So no chit chat and no ‘something sweet’ on the side. We also learned that a cappuccino and a latte had a time and a place and it was only to be consumed in the mornings. Italians cringe at the idea of drinking hot milk after a meal so never order a cappuccino after a meal in order to avoid the ‘stupid tourist’ look.

Coffee break at Manteigaria União in Lisbon
Coffee break at Manteigaria União in Lisbon

Lisbon taught us that a coffee is nothing without a freshly baked nata (Pastel de nata – Portuguese egg tart pastry). With the same notion that you walk into a coffee bar and out within 5 mins having consumed a delicious coffee and a nata. It’s just part of the process of your day to day life.

So when we go to a coffee house in London we truly appreciate the event that takes place, the care and attention the barista gives you from the selection of coffee to finding out about your day to the range of people you are seated next to, each person there with their own story: writing a book, planning a wedding, catching with friends, etc. Saint Espresso is all of these things and more, with a slogan of ‘Coffee to worship’ you know you are in for a treat.

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I urge you to really watch the Saint Espresso barista making the coffee, so much love, care and attention goes into each individual drink. The focus on the baristas face as he weighs the coffee granules, puts them in the machine and eagerly waits for the espresso to trickle out, heats and froths the milk and combines the two liquids together to create our cup of cappuccino (yeh, so we basically ignored everything we had learned in Rome and got a cappuccino after lunch).

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We ordered something sweet and we’re happy to see the selection of gluten free options as Elena is trying this gluten free diet yet she have had consumed gluten heavy food for the past three days but hay-ho I’m just that supportive cheerleader.

We nestled down in a spot and just talked about coffee and reflected on all of the above as we sipped on our rich and strong Saint Espresso cappuccino. I was excited to know that Saint Espresso change their beans frequently and only buy them in small batches to ensure they have the best quality and taste always which shows how much they care about coffee and our experience of it. After further investigation it seems the same applies to the teas so it does feel pretty special knowing that each coffee and tea experience is pretty unique and that actually we could be one of 1000 sampling a particular batch in the world. I love feeling special.

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The baristas walk around and engage in conversation with customers where it is welcomed. The barista that spoke to us seemed genuinely concerned about how little we had eaten of our cakes and wanted to know why, we had to confess we were fat bastards and had just eaten a huge lunch yet we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of sampling their delights this Sunday afternoon.

Saint Espresso is small in size but it’s bursting with a love of coffee which we as Londoners will always appreciate.

Saint Espresso
4, Angel House, 20-32 Pentonville Road, London N1 9HJ
http://www.saintespresso.com

Pub Grub: The Castle

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Just another gastro pub in Islington, you thinking?! Yeah, I suppose, but it’s a good one.

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Decor is trendy – a mixture of break out areas with cushions to lounge on and wooden tables for a more formal affair. No pub is of course complete without a TV, and you will see crowds gather in The Castle when football match is on. In summer they open a neat roof terrace, which might not give you an amazing view but certainly a welcome place to catch sun rays.

I like The Castle on a Sunday – relaxing and cosy. Great spot for a relaxed lunch with friends where you don’t feel rushed to leave your table.

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I ordered gorgeous butternut squash with rocket and sweetcorn. Nicely seasoned, cooked to perfection with soft middle and slightly firm sides. When asked waiter for a cheeky topping of goats cheese she brought me the chunkiest slab of cheese, without charging me extra, which of course I really appreciated.

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My partner in crime had a fish pie which was slightly on the salty side but good solid dish never the less.

I’m not a big drinker, so when I go to a pub I don’t have much of an opinion on their beers. One thing I always judge a bar on is how well they make their Bloody Mary. I prefer the original recipe with horseradish, lemon juice and all the trimmings. And this is exactly how they make them at The Castle! Good stuff.

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If you fancy a straight forward no-fuss Sunday lunch then head to The Castle. It’s right around the corner from me so I am happy to have it down as my ‘local’.

The Castle
54 Pentonville Road, London, Islington N1 9HF
http://www.geronimo-inns.co.uk/london-the-castle

Vegetarian special: The Gate

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We have been wanted to try The Gate in Islington for such a long time so when I called my gal pal Elena one Sunday afternoon for a luncheon well we had no excuse but to explore this gorgeous place. It is tucked away in the corner of Angel so is easy to miss but now we have been it is the first thing we will mention to our friends when they ask about best eats in the area.

The Gate is a vegetarian restaurant and we often find our friends shying away from the idea of vegetarian as they assume that it can’t be filling or might be plain and boring. However, The Gate defiantly remove all these stereotypes. We walked in as two starving beings and came out stuffed and gob smacked after only two mains and a side.

We asked the waitress what she would recommend and well her rationale behind each recommendation was admirable so we had to go with them. Normally when you ask a waitress or waiter what they think you should get they just name a dish without reason but this waitress spoke of tastes, textures and emotions so how could we argue. Naturally to avoid disappointment we got two dishes and shared them 🙂

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We ordered a Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake and an Aubergine Schnitzel. The Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake was topped with rocket leaves which had been dressed with lemon juice and further topped with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese. Now I always thought that Elena made the best mushroom risotto however once I tried this unusual take on mushroom risotto I was in heaven. I had to immediately tell Elena of course that she was now sitting at second place of the best risottos ever but once she tried the risotto she too agreed. The risotto was served like a little cake. It was crunchy on the outside and yet it fell apart when you broke into it. It was creamy and soft and so well seasoned that I just wanted more. The lemon juice drenched rocket was a contrast in taste and texture but really worked with the creaminess of the mushrooms and risotto. A truly stunning dish and but far the best risotto we have EVER tasted.

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The Aubergine Schnitzel was very similar to a vegetable lasagne, with the replacement of pasta for the aubergine and the filling was a mixture of cheese, tomatoes and peppers. There was a crispy coating of bread crumbs which locked it all together. It was served with abundance of sautéed kale and potato dauphanoise. The Aubergine Schnitzel was a party of strong flavours and textures, from sweet to tangy, from crispy to soft. The potato dauphanoise were different from your regular gooey messy, the layers of thin potatoes were packed tight and just crumbled in your mouth. The best dauphanoise I have tasted by far.

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We also ordered a side of polenta chips. They were huge, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were seasoned and infused with herbs so they actually tasted of something (ok, polenta is often rather bland). It was served with the most amazing garlic aioli which I smothered all over them. Delightful!

I feel robbed of time really. I cannot believe that we hadn’t tried this place earlier and we would have been here a million times over. This is by far the best vegetarian restaurant we have ever eaten in and for carnivores like Elena and I that’s a big thing!!!

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This is going to be our new go to place when ever we want a guaranteed happy meal.

Please try this place out and tell us what you think.

The Gate
370 St John Street
London
EC1V 4NN
http://thegaterestaurants.com

Rosa’s Thai Cafe

We have been wanting to try Rosa’s for years and we finally found no excuse when one opened up on our door step on Upper street.

The overall look of Rosa’s is very modern and you would never associate it with thai food and even when you look at the menu it is a question mark. Rosa’s menu is so exciting to look at as it isn’t your average thai. It’s full of fusion dishes such as: spaghetti green curry and stir fried prawns with pad thai sauce (what we had :). So all the combinations we think about, well Rosa actually does them.

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Our friend Mark joined us for this event and we were sceptical about what he would be able to eat as he is currently on this wheat and sugar free diet but Rosa catered for that wonderfully.

To start with we have chicken satay and summer rolls. Now satay is Elena’s most hated thing as she thinks they have zero flavour however, her opinion of satay at Rosa’s has made her love them. I have to admit these were well seasoned with an array of spices and cook wonderfully. The summer rolls were lovely and full of fresh ingredients. I appreciated that extra bit of coriander in them which made them even more moorish.

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The barman was lovely, as we weren’t really feeling the drinks on the menu we just told him what flavours we like and away he went to create up delicious personalised drinks. Thumbs up.

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Our mains smelled amazing and looked so sweet on the tinned plates. The portion sizes were a lot smaller than we were expecting when you looked at what you were paying for each dish.

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The pad thai infused stir fry was lovely with huge juicy prawns. Elena’s spaghetti just messed with your head as it looked Italian yet tasted like a subtle Thai dish. Mark had a minute seared tuna steak which he loved, his only development point was that it should have been a 30 sec searing, but he is difficult like that.

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Rosa’s is a quick eat and go kind of dine which puts it perfectly into our ‘snacks in between shopping category’.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe
6 Theberton Street, London N1 0QX
rosasthaicafe.com

 

Bibigo Bar & Dining

Bibigo Bar & Grill is the latest addition to restaurant scene in Islington. Offering healthy and fresh Korean cuisine Bibigo gone somewhere no one’s been before. But perhaps not without calculated risk.

How many of you had ‘Health’ on your new year resolution lists?
I bet quite a few, me including! But you have to admit that it’s so hard to keep up, especially if you hang out in a buzzing place like Angel. So with that in mind Bibigo’s new branch launch in mid January was very clever indeed.

I have a few Korean friends who have taken me to many great Korean restaurants and Korean supermarkets. We sampled delicious traditional bbq and Korean home cooking. And with all that experience I have always thought of Korean food as healthy, so when Bibigo claimed to serve just that i didn’t think much of it.

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We walked into a stunning room with tall ceilings and timber slate walls. I was pleasantly surprised to find this restaurant packed on a Tuesday night. But having made a booking earlier that day we were quickly seated in a darkly lit corner.

Menu is quite large with four pages per course. As tacky as it is, that’s when I appreciate having a photo next to the names of dishes.

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We stared with Korean style pancake with courgette, sweet potato and butternut squash served with rocket salad. Having picked it from ‘small dishes’ menu i was surprised by how massive it was. It was crispy and soft with delicate steamed chuncks of sweet potato on top. Although it was very delicious, between two of us we couldn’t finish it.

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Pancake was followed by Green Taco. Perhaps this is the dish that takes ‘healthy’ too far. These ‘tacos’ are lettuce wraps with pickled mooli and jalapeno, and fresh tomato salsa and tofu topping. I would have preferred this dish served as a side salad and not as a starter.

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Soondae – Korean black pudding with glass noodles and pork. This dish was presented beautifully but lacked true deep gritty flavour of black pudding.

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Bibigo skewers of char-grilled beef, oyster mushrooms and spring onions were also fun to look at, but i found their ginger sauce a little too salty.

Four starters down and still hungry we ordered Bossam (pork belly) and Galbi Jjim (braised short rib). Both these dishes in their meaty glory have finally satisfied us.

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It is very clear to me that this restaurant doesn’t call them selves healthy for the sake of it. It is the perfect hangout for conceous eaters and people on a diet. For meat lovers like me and dad it didnt hit the spot but i wouldnt write it off just yet. I look forward to coming back but this time ordering with help of Bibigo’s waiters.

Bibigo Bar & Grill
407 St. John Street Angel, Islington London EC1V 4AB
http://bibigouk.com

Bill’s

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This is the second installment of Bill’s review! I have to admit this might be my favorite local eatery and I’ve felt that the first review didn’t do it full justice.

Over the last few years Bill’s branches popped up across London like mushrooms after rain. I don’t know about other locations but Angel one is my favorite place for a catch up with friends, have late night dinner, quick bite, pre-party cocktails and

morning after scrumptious breakfast… Ok ok, I’ll shut up and give you some Bill’s food porrn pics to enjoy!

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The Albion

Islington is full of modern pubs with quirky features. But on a cold Christmas evening 5 friends were in search of old school mulled wine and traditional pub grub and came across the beauty known as The Albion. The Albion is a treasure with fire places, Victorian ceiling beams and beer garden. Little did we know it was an award winning pub.

Ever since the holiday season started it felt like Elena has not stopped on about how much she wants mulled wine and this was certainly a places that delivered. Each glass came with a segment of orange with cloves. It was one of the best mulled wines I have had this season with a perfect blend of citrus and spices. We easily went through four glasses each and still had room for more. At £4 a glass, well we just couldn’t resist. We happily sat there sipping by the fire for hours.

We snacked on triple cooked chips which are very hard to find these days, cheese boards and butter cured bacon.

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The menu was a modern take of traditional pub grub which we love. I ordered a corn fed chicken beast with kale, bread pudding and raisin jus which was very reasonably priced at £12.50. The chicken was crispy and buttery on the outside and the meat was tender. The kale was delicious, not over cooked with the right amount of crunch, it was seasoned to perfection.

Elena ordered the venison which was rare and she loved it. Game meat is defiantly something I want to try on our next pub visit.

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We went all out and had our childhood favourite desserts of sticky toffee pudding and chocolate tarts and I must admit that we had no room to eat but the food was so delicious that we had to try it while we were there, you know the feeling. Memories of my childhood flooded back with every mouthful of that treacle sponge and honey comb ice cream.

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We will definitely be back during the summer to see what magic the The Albion to our summers evening.

Star Rating: *****

The Albion
10 Thornhill Road, London N1 1HW
the-albion.co.uk

The Food Lab

It was a grey Saturday morning and we (slightly hangover) fancied a good filling breakfast that would boost us with energy. Great spot for a meal just like that is The Food Lab on Essex road. Cute Italian cafe with a healthy twist. They sell everything from hot breakfasts and lunches, to wraps, paninis and cold meats. We ordered a few smoothies, that were delicious without being overly too stiff and sweet.

IMG_7826For mains we both had eggs Benedict Simple, hot and delicious, that was the fuss free breakfast we were after!

These is a really lovely friendly atmosphere in this restaurant, i like coming here when i want to catch up with friends without feeling like we are being hurried through our meals. I am really happy that it’;s just around the corner from my home, which means i pop around quite often!

Star Rating: ***

The Food Lab
56, Essex Road N1 8LR London

http://foodlablondon.com

Bill’s

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Two visits in the space of seven days, it’s either because we have a gluttony for punishment or Bill’s is actually pretty awesome. Let’s go for the latter.

Bill’s has a very cosy barn house feel to it, with its rustic wooden seating, dried spices and herbs hanging from the ceiling, their own brand preserves cascading the walls and the ambient lighting.

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Diners at Bill’s have an added twist to their visit. You can actually sit and order your weeks shopping from Bill’s whilst you savour the delights of their menu.

This morning on the rare occasions that Elena and I are awake before 12noon on a weekend we decided to head down to Bill’s for a spot of breakfast. We were in a ‘no disappointment’ mood so new we could go to Bill’s and have a good meal with minimal fuss.

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I had the Eggs Royale and Elena had the scrambled egg with bacon. Both were served with the most delightful sour dough bread which is a break away from these dishes being served from a traditional English muffin but it works. The Eggs Royale on any breakfast menu is my fan favourite but this version/adaption has to be one of my fan favourites. The homemade hollandaise is so rich, creamy and tangy. I often get annoyed with restaurants about the quantity they serve of it but here I asked for a little more and they gave me a jug of it without any fuss. Look, I like my food hot and wet, so yes I asked for more.

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They have a range of drinks at Bill’s but my fan favourite will always be the Elderflower cordial served hot. Never had I tried it hot until I was encouraged to do so by a waiter here many years ago and I haven’t looked back.

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Bill’s may be a chain but boy is it a chain of happiness. The food can only be described as fusion food so you will find something for even the fussiest eater and to suit everyone’s budget. An average spend here for us would be £15 which is a rare thing these days.

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Star Rating: ****1/2

Bill’s
9 White Lion St, London N1 9PD
http://bills-website.co.uk/

United Ramen

From the outside you would be mistaken to think that this is just a new version of wagamama with a few funkie colours and a lack of the uncomfortable seated which wagamama is known for. On closer inspection of the menu you will find a jaw dropping range of fusion dishes inspired by the globe like; British Bulldog Roast Beef Ramen and Yankee Doodle Ramen Noodle. They even have Bombay Spiced Edamame! We ordered the handmade tofu gyoza which was the best gyoza we have had. The gyoza was not steamed or deep fried but steam-fried which gave it crispy coating. The filling was so flavoursome. Tofu can often lack flavour but this was seasoned to perfection.

Elena (better known as the devourer of anything piggie) ordered Chashu Pork Shoyu Ramen which came with crispy bacon on top and I ordered the Spicy Salmon and Kimchi Ramen which had the most succulent slices of grilled salmon on top. We both agree that the broth used in the ramen was nice and thick and popping with the individual flavours. The noodles used were almost al dente (in a good way) and very taste, with ramens the noodle part can often be soggy and tasteless so this was a very good surprise. Another positive which can be seen as a small thing but to people who love bottled water like ourselves, after paying a flat rate of £1 you can get an unlimited supply of still or sparking water. Well it’s the small things that make us happy. We look forward to returning and trying out more delights. Next on the list is the Sweet Potato and Crispy Skin Maki, apparently it was so good that they sold out but it will be in our bellies soon.

Star Rating: ***
United Ramen
105-106 Upper St, London, N1 1QN, United Kingdom
http://www.unitedramen.com