12 Hours In And Around Walthamstow

12 HOURS IN AND AROUND WALTHAMSTOW

WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL

Walthamstow lies conveniently at the end of the Victoria Line, giving easy access to Central London. It’s flanked by Epping Forest — the largest green space in London — to the East and the Walthamstow Wetlands to the West. Having gone through a transformation in recent years, “#awesomestow” (as it’s known by Twitterrati) certainly has a lot to offer.

9.00 a.m.

Once you alight at Walthamstow Central station, you can either go straight into Walthamstow Village, the oldest part of present-day Walthamstow, or walk down Hoe Street, which divides the area smack down the centre between the Village and the slightly edgier part of Walthamstow (which also includes the acclaimed market).

Hoe Street has had a host of shops, restaurants, and yoga studios open up in the past few years. If you want to grab a quick coffee and toastie for breakfast, head to Today Bread, the local sourdough bakery and café. A five-minute walk from the station, the café is located in a historic post-war building that previously hosted a bank and council offices. They lay huge emphasis on shopping and eating local, and to that effect, the cheese for their famous cheese toastie is sourced from Buchanan’s, an artisan cheesemonger in Mayfair. And if you like their sourdough breads, you can even try your hand at their bread-making course.

Avocado Sandwich with Poached Egg - sliced avocado and egg on toasted bread for healthy breakfast or snack.

If you fancy walking the length of Hoe Street for a hearty veggie or vegan breakfast, try Buhler and Co. They serve up classics like avocado on toast with poached egg or feta, a vegan fry up which includes fried corn and polenta cake, Portobello mushroom, smokey bean spread, and parathas. If you’re looking for a community vibe, try the vegan Hornbeam Café, which prioritises sustainable and low-cost living.

Today Bread, 6-10 Central Parade, 137 Hoe Street, London E17 4RT. Phone: 07957 158184

Buhler and Co, 8 Chingford Road, London E17 4PJ. Phone: 020 8527 3652

Hornbeam Community Cafe & Environment Centre, 458 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9AH. Phone: 020 8558 6880. Closed Mondays.

11:00 a.m.

Make your way to one of Walthamstow’s greatest treasures, William Morris Gallery. A short walk from Hoe Street, the gallery explores the legacy of textile designer, craftsman, poet, novelist, and socialist William Morris. Explore his life through the rooms of the house or have a look at some of the collections on display. The house, called “Water House” when William Morris lived there, leads to Lloyds Park that hosts the annual Walthamstow Garden Party by the Barbican.

william-morris-gallery-london

If you’re in the mood to shop instead, head to Walthamstow Market, the longest outdoor street market in Europe! From Monday to Saturday, you’ll fine fruit and veg and household goods on sale. But come Sunday, it transforms into a farmers’ market with the best local produce on sale like organic eggs, artisanal cheeses, cooked sausages, and more. Skip to the close by Wood Street Indoor Market, in the shape of a horseshoe, which is filled with antiques, second hand books, old magazines, and other knick knacks.

William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8496 4390

Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP. Phone: 020 8497 3000

Walthamstow Market, E17 7AH

Wood Street Indoor Market, 98-100 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London E17 3HX. Phone: 020 8521 0410

12.30 p.m.

After a long, relaxing walk at Lloyds Park or an amble at the markets, you will probably want to sit down for a bite to eat. There are plenty of options in Walthamstow, especially if you’re craving some rustic sourdough pizzas. Hop to Sodo, which lies in a former warehouse, or the more popular Yard Sale Pizza, for a bite. If you’d like something more substantial, Walthamstow High Street has plenty of options. You can try Turtle Bay for Caribbean food or Yum Yum E17 if you’re in the mood for Thai, and finally finish off with pancakes from Creams for dessert.

Sodo, 21 Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, London E17 4QP. Phone: 020 8520 1244

Yard Sale Pizza, 105 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0NP. Phone: 020 3602 9090

Turtle Bay, The Scene Cleveland Place, 269 High Street, London E17 7FD. Phone: 020 8520 7839

Yum Yum E17, 202 Hoe Street, E17 4BS London

2.00 p.m.

What better way to digest that lunch than to wander around London’s largest green space? Epping Forest covers a large part of North East London and Essex, including Walthamstow, and you can take several walking trails to explore this beautiful, largely untouched area. Mill Plain, especially, offers fantastic views of the London skyline.

Walthamstow Reservoir_001

If you want to explore nature but not wander in to the deep thickets of a forest, you could make your way towards the Walthamstow Wetlands. Hailed as Europe’s biggest urban wetlands, this reserve is important for all sorts of wildlife and wintering and breeding birds. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be right in the lap of Mother Nature.

Epping Forest, North East London & Essex

Walthamstow Wetlands, 2 Forest Road, London N17 9NH. Phone: 020 8496 2115

4:00 p.m.

As you make your way back from Epping Forest or the Wetlands, you have the choice of going to Walthamstow Village (to know a little bit more about the history and heritage of Waltham Forest in Vestry House Museum), or you could wander into the neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard, an unassuming warehouse filled with old vintage movie signs. Situated in Ravenswood Industrial Estate, it’s probably the best place to be for evening drinks. There’s also a café inside the Junkyard if you’d like a pick-me-up while chilling on their sofas.

Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NH.

God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 8066

7.30 p.m.

Now is when Walthamstow well and truly comes alive. There’s been a surge in bars and breweries in the past few years in the area, and if you’re already at God’s Own Junkyard you just have to step out and enter Pillars Brewery that is best known for its lagers. You can also go around the corner to Wild Card Brewery, a microbrewery that as among the first watering holes to set up shop in Ravenswood Industrial Unit.

Gin Tonic Cocktail with slice of lemon

If beer isn’t your thing, head to Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace for a whole variety of hand-crafted flavoured gins. It’s a definite favourite among the Stow locals! For something fancier, Mirth, Marvel, Maud is one to check out. Set in a Grade II listed building that was once a famous cinema frequented by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s the perfect place to kick back with some lip-smacking cocktails.

Mirth, Marvel, Maud, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London E17 4QH. Phone: 020 8520 8636

Wild Card Brewery, Unit 7, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8935 5560

Pillars Brewery, Unit 2 Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 5552

Mother’s Ruin, Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, London E17 9HQ. Phone: 07905 484711

9:00 p.m.

End your fantastic day with a truly delicious meal. Walthamstow has plenty to offer when it comes to dining, and it caters to a good range of budgets. If you’ve had one too many to drink and want something greasy and hearty to soak up all that alcohol, head to The Castle in Walthamstow Village where you’ll be served classic pub fare with a side of charming community vibe. Dogs and babies welcome. If meat is more your thing, go forth to Gokyuzu, a Turkish restaurant serving mixed grills and an array of mezze (for a large group, definitely get the mixed grills platter). For something more European, you will find Spanish tapas at Orford Saloon. But if you’re looking for some really good modern British food, go to the original Eat 17 in the Village that was started by two brothers from Walthamstow.

The Castle, 15 Grosvenor Rise E, Walthamstow, London E17 9LB. Phone: 020 8509 8095

Gokyuzu, 42D Selbourne Walk, Walthamstow, London, E17 7JR. Phone: 020 8520 2998

Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, 32 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8503 6542

Eat 17, 28-30 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NJ. Phone: 020 8521 5279

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Bar Italia Serves the Spirit of Italy

bar italia soho london

BAR ITALIA SERVES THE SPIRIT OF ITALY

Bar Italia is an Italian café in Soho that has been making excellent coffee since 1949. You can also get paninis, pizzas, wine, and liquor as you watch football on the television at the back.

Bar Italia, 22 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RF. Phone: 020 7437 4520

READ FERNANDO SDRIGOTTI'S STORY

And now it's morning
There's only one place we can go
It's around the corner in Soho
Where other broken people go

Pulp, Bar Italia

In the months leading to my daughter’s birth, conscious that I didn’t need the extra anxiety, I quit coffee. When I came back to the cup two years later, I did it in a caf in Dalston. This must have been mid-2013, and at the time I wasn’t familiar with the semiotics of dark grey walls and heavily tattooed — and heavily bearded — baristas. I didn’t make much of the ubiquity of Apple products in a given place. Nor did I pay much attention to a quirky WiFi password or the ’80s music blasting ironically from the speakers. When my coffee arrived, I was surprised by what food writer Jay Rayner would describe with grace and accuracy a year later: “The colour is right. It's coal black and across the surface is a fine, seashore foam of copper-coloured froth, the all important ‘crema’. The taste, however, is wrong. Very wrong.” I thought that my espresso was perhaps defective and sent it back. The second cup tasted very wrong too and I attributed the spiteful flavour to me falling out of love with coffee after a long hiatus. It took me several weeks to figure out this was a new kind of coffee: light roast was the name of the offending blend.

To this day, I would rather drink molten lead than one of these sour insults to the senses. Obviously, it is a matter of taste, yes. And in this matter of taste it is “heads of coffee development” in open plan offices that allow dogs, catering to well-off and caffeinated entrepreneurs of pop-ups and startups, and influencers of the world united in their terrible love for beans that taste like defecated tar who are in charge of deciding what good taste means. And so the sour coffee revolution keeps expanding beyond the confines of hip Dalston. Soon the whole of London — if not the world — will be Sour Coffee Hell.

To avoid the disappointment of this eye-squinting sour nonsense I have recently taken a radical decision: I only engage in caffeinated adventures in Bar Italia, Soho. No, it isn’t practical. And it obviously means I can’t drink coffee every time I fancy one. But at least I get to visit Soho more often.

bar italia soho london

Bar Italia stands in 22 Frith Street. It was opened in 1949 by the Polledri family, who borrowed the money to open it — £50 — from a fellow paesano. Seventy years later, the same family continues to own it. Perhaps as a testament to this continuity the bar looks pretty much as it would have in 1949, ancient till and espresso machine included.

Back at the time of Bar Italia’s birth, Soho was an area of London popular with the Italian community. Soho, with the famous Algerian Coffee Store just around the corner, was the go-to place for those after a good coffee. One and one make two, and the bar was a success from day one. Legend has it that, on the day of the opening, a party was organised on the street with the American comedians Abbott and Costello entertaining the attendees. Since then, it has continued in this trend, becoming a favourite spot for many famous Londoners and visitors: David Bowie, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul McCartney, among many others — including many jazz musicians from Ronnie Scott, just across the road — have patronised and continue to patronise this small café. Those more familiar than me with the world of theatre and television might be able to recognise a face or two in the place as well. Interestingly, this status as a ‘celebrity hotspot’ of sorts was perhaps sealed even before the bar was born: back in 1926, John Logie Bard — the television pioneer — demonstrated his prototype in his lab upstairs, as the blue plaque outside the bar reminds passersby.

bar italia soho london

Bar Italia’s deco and atmosphere really lives up to its name. From the Italian flags, football shirts, cycling memorabilia and pictures of celebrities to the chilli peppers and garlic hanging from the walls, everything is in place to hammer Italia home. The waiters are dressed in white shirts and black waistcoats, much like in your average Roman café. And it isn’t rare to bump into hordes of Italians watching the football on the telly at the back. And if the authentic feel isn’t enough for you, there is the opening to consider: the bar closes at 5 a.m. and reopens at 7 a.m., making it a favourite of late drinkers, early risers, and those who just stayed up all night, natural or chemically-induced insomniacs — a licensing miracle fixed for posterity in the homonymous Pulp song that opens this piece.

It is always reassuring to bump into a piece of London where history hasn’t been erased and replaced by the latest fad. Soho is an area under threat both by gentrification and the CrossRail development. Many of the places that gave it its aura have gone or will be gone soon. Bar Italia hangs on — heroically. May it hang for a long time. Or I will have to quit coffee again.

Photographs by Fernando Sdrigotti

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Fuel Up With Filter Coffee At Allpress Espresso

allpress espresso coffee and roastery hackney

FUEL UP WITH FILTER COFFEE AT ALLPRESS ESPRESSO

Allpress Espresso is a roastery and café in Hackney that attributes its delicious coffee to the Hot Air Roasting Method it uses. In London, it started out being on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, where it still sits as an espresso bar.

You can also find Allpress Espresso in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

Allpress Espresso, 55 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 2NG. Phone: 020 7749 1780

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

There are more coffee shops in Hackney than there are corner shops. Maybe this is hyperbole; maybe this is fact – either way, you are never too far away from a decent café serving average-to-excellent coffee. I’ve gone from cortados (my first brush with coffee only four years ago) to doppios and dabbled with a few soy/oat/coconut lattes along the way.

For the past six months, though, I have been obsessed with filter coffee, and I fuel my habit by front rolling to Allpress Espresso near my apartment several times a day. Allpress does excellent single-origin filter brews (as well as other permutations and combinations of the drink), but their coffee is just one aspect that keeps this particular café busy all day. Allpress in Dalston Lane is housed in an erstwhile joiner’s factory – meaning it has ample space to sit both inside and al fresco. Through the glass partition that divides the café and the roastery, you can see their massive hot air roaster (which is powered by solar panels on their roof!), and the few items on the food menu never disappoint. There isn’t any WiFi, so you will occasionally end up sitting next to someone drinking coffee, reading a book, and not much else – which is both terrifying and refreshing in our digital age.

I’ve spent sunny, rainy, hail-y, dreary, and cheery mornings at Allpress, and I always walk out feeling better.

 

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Milkshakes and Multiculturalism At Mess Cafe

mess cafe hackney

MILKSHAKES AND MULTICULTURALISM AT MESS CAFE

Mess Cafe in Hackney is a local institution. Open six days a week (closed on Mondays), it serves an excellent breakfast and is always filled with locals from Hackney’s diverse communities.

Mess Cafe, 38 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JN. Phone: 020 8985 3194

READ KIT CALESS'S STORY

I’m not usually one for giving away London’s best-kept secrets, but for Mess Cafe, I’m prepared to make an exception. Slap bang in the middle of the stretch of Amhurst Road that runs from the Pembury to Mare Street, Mess is a local institution. It serves one of the greatest breakfasts in the borough, no arguments. You can even build your own breakfast from scratch. It serves incredible malt milkshakes. The coffee and tea are excellent. It’s cheap. They do great hash browns. There are booths to sit in with six mates or tables to share with just one. There’s some bad artwork. Out of date gig posters. Quietly played acoustic covers of hit records on the stereo. There’s a baby chair.

This cafe has everything.

But the best thing about Mess is the people. Walk into Mess any day of the week, and it’s like the street has walked in with you. Mess is such a locals’ favourite that it is always filled with all the locals from all the communities Hackney houses. Mess reflects Hackney’s multiculturalism to a tee; all ages, all races, all cultures come into Mess for food and drinks. My favourite type of customer is the Dad taking his daughter/son out for breakfast and a catch-up. There is always at least one Dad-offspring couple in Mess at any one time. It’s a unique phenomenon for a unique cafe.

You want to see how we can all just get along? Go to Mess. Mess should give presentations at the UN on building a cosmopolitan space. Mess should by consulted by sociologists and urban planners on how to make everyone feel at home. But instead, Mess just does a banging breakfast or lovely lunch and lets you get on with your life.

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Footnote Focuses On Fresh, Local Food

FOOTNOTE FOCUSES ON FRESH, LOCAL FOOD

Footnote is a café in Hackney that focuses on sustainability, serving direct-trade coffee and food from local producers. Their wines are sourced from their family vineyard. Located on Wilton Way, Footnote is canine-friendly.

Footnote, 51 Wilton Way, London E8 1BG. Phone: 020 7923 2901

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

“We’ve got a new coffee place.” That was the text I received from a friend about a year ago, excitedly telling me about Footnote. It’s been around for longer, but it was a new discovery for both of us, and I moseyed over later that same day to check it out.

Footnote is a ray of sunshine even on a cloudy day with its refreshing mulberry facade in the otherwise grey, white and black colour palette of Wilton Way. Since I first visited, it’s become an ad-hoc place to work out of, get a snack, meet a friend, or just sit with a book and a glass of wine.

Footnote has a strong stance on being fair – to its customers as well as its suppliers and producers. When it comes to their coffee, tea, wine or food, there is a conscious effort on sustainability and sourcing, and they prefer to work with small producers and local makers. And they also don’t waste any food either. They work with an app that allows them to distribute everyday excess food to customers.

With large windows laden with green plants, a counter-top embellished with dessert, and friendly staff, it makes for a quiet, welcoming space that I love to escape to. At any given point of time Footnote has several people scattered in different corners, bathed in light, doing whatever has grabbed their attention for that hour(s). 

PS: Dog lovers take note – Footnote is canine-friendly.

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Visit Climpson And Sons For Delicious Specialty Coffee

climpson and sons coffee broadway market

VISIT CLIMPSON AND SONS FOR DELICIOUS SPECIALTY COFFEE

Climpson and Sons sources their coffee from around the world – Ethiopia, Brazil, Burundi, Kenya, and Colombia. Their flavour profiles range from dark chocolate and hazelnut to rhubarb and baked apple. You can visit their Broadway Market café or the Spitalfields Market coffee bar daily and the coffee cart at the Saturday market at Broadway Market, or take an appointment to visit their Hackney roastery and academy.

Climpson and Sons, 67 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH. Phone: 020 7254 7199; Pod 3 by Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW.

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

Climpson and Sons source and roast some of the best coffees from around the world. That should be reason enough to visit their café on Broadway Market. The small space has a tendency to be elbow-to-elbow even on weekdays with people popping in to get coffee to-go just before work, during lunch, or as an evening picker-upper. 

It’s open daily, and weekends are usually a whole different ball-game, with queues snaking out the door. The service is quick, the coffee is excellent, and if you are lucky, you might get a chance to sit on a bench with your coffee and a newspaper. Even on Saturdays, when it has a stall at the weekly market, the café is always full – come rain or shine.

Climpson were part of the first wave of specialty coffee roasters in the capital. They set up shop in 2002, and from a small stall in the weekend market they have grown to supply coffee to multitudes of cafés around the city, run a coffee academy (workshops, barista skills), their cosy café in Broadway Market, a pod at Spitalfields market, and retail coffee, coffee-making equipment as well as merchandise.  The coffee – sourced from around the world – is roasted at their roastery in Hackney.

On a lark one weekend, I decided to deviate from my usual Americano-no-sugar to a soy latte-one-cube-of-sugar-please, and my world turned to technicolour. It has quickly become a habit that I only tend to indulge at Climpson, for fear that I might be disappointed elsewhere.

Feature photograph copyright joesayhello - stock.adobe.com

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12 Hours In Islington

union-chapel-london

12 HOURS IN ISLINGTON

WORDS BY MARTIN DEAN

The Borough of Islington covers a surprisingly large portion of central London, taking in many of the city’s most bustling, beautiful, and culturally interesting bits, not to mention more than its fair share of parks and gardens. It stretches from the northernmost edge of the historic Smithfields Market (just north of the historic Chancery Lane), west to Kings Cross, east to the bars and restaurants of Dalston, and north as far as Archway and Crouch Hill, the heartland of Arsenal football club. Within its limits it covers a miniature version of London as a whole, bringing together great nightspots, shopping districts, theatres, restaurants, a sports stadium and music venues, not to mention the beautiful Regents Canal, which gives the middle of the borough a lovely waterside atmosphere.

9:00 a.m.

The best place to start exploring Islington is Angel. So-called after the 1903 Angel Hotel Building on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road, Angel today is a charming city centre unto itself, loved particularly for its huge selection of cafés, bars, and restaurants, along with some irresistible alleyways — notably Camden Passage — full of curiosity shops and antiques market stalls. At 9 a.m., breakfast is probably a good idea, so try Kipferl — an Austrian café with a wonderful mix of Tyrolean hams, rye bread, fruit, cinnamon, and Austrian bacon. If you prefer a more rustic woodland cabin feel, try the Elk in The Woods. Here you’ll be greeted with oak smoked bacon, vanilla pancakes, poached eggs, pickled beetroorts, and more. Both of these are on the aforementioned Camden Passage, and you’ll find this a great place to start exploring.

Kipferl, 20 Camden Passage, London N1 8ED. Phone: 020 7704 1555

The Elk In The Woods, 37-39 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA. Phone: 020 7226 3535

Islington Guide_003

11:00 a.m.

After breakfast, you can either take a stroll through the nearby shops of Camden Passage and beyond, or head east along the Regent’s Canal and see the city from what feels like a secret vantage, tucked away from the traffic, flanked by one of London’s historic waterways, and generally submerged in a more natural setting. You can follow the canal all the way to the edge of the borough, which conveniently ends at a pub — The Rosemary Branch, a charming Victorian ale-house which was formely a music hall — just across the water from the beautiful green expanse of Shoreditch Park. Theatre lovers might want to stop by the Almeida Theatre or Sadler’s Wells and pick up some tickets for an evening performance. Sadlers Wells is the number one place in London for dance performances, from ballet to flamenco, while the Almeida focuses on cutting edge drama from up and coming actors.

Camden Passage, London N1 8EA

Regent’s Canal

The Rosemary Branch, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT. Phone: 020 7704 2730

Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA. Phone: 020 7359 4404

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Ave, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4TN. Phone: 020 7863 8000

Islington Guide_006

12:15 p.m.

If you’re ready to eat at midday, you have an array of choices before you in Islington. Either stay in Angel to experience the famous creations of Ottolenghi — delicious North-African and Middle Eastern flavours, not to mention unbelievable cakes — or catch a bus a little way south into Clerkenwell and make for Exmouth Market. Clerkenwell is one of London’s ancient parishes, once famous for its watchmakers and a centre of activity thanks to the well from which it takes its name, which was rediscoverd in the 1920s. It has a historic, Victorian elegance, and Exmouth Market is one of its central thoroughfares, best known for its rich selection of restaurants and street food vendors, food boutiques, and hip cafes, not to mention delightful old pubs. Try Caravan for a huge range of modern cuisine, all day brunch, or just a coffee. After lunch, head over to St Luke’s Church for a lunchtime concert. The London Symphony Orchestra rehearse here, and entry is often free. Most begin between 12:30 and 1 p.m., so bear this in mind when you’re having lunch.

Ottolenghi, 287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ. Phone: 020 7288 1454

Caravan, 11-13 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QD. Phone: 020 7833 8115

St Lukes, 161 Old Street, London EC1V 9NG. Phone: 020 7490 3939

Islington Guide_007

2:00 p.m.

If you’re a fan of literature, or find you can’t resist a historic cemetary, make a stop at Bunhill Fields, where famous poet and artist William Blake is buried. Or, if you feel like some live music, pay a visit to the Piano Works, a non-stop music venue where pianists play requests given to them by the audience, all day and night! At weekends, the music starts from 12 p.m., or 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road, London EC1Y 2BG. Phone: 020 7374 4127

Piano Works, 113-117 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BX. Phone: 020 7278 1966

Islington Guide_004

3:30 p.m.

Around 3:30 p.m. you can take in one of the lesser-known museums or galleries of Islington. From Piano Works, you’re very close to The Charterhouse, a medieval priory that dates back to the 14th Century. It resisted Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, was a medieval school, and was even a burial place for victims of the Black Death. It’s extremely atmospheric, and the gardens are an ideal place to unwind if you have a spare hour. After it closes, head to Modern Art, a gallery that showcases up and coming modern artists.

Modern Art, 4-8 Helmet Row, London EC1V 3QJ. Phone: 020 7299 7950

The Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6AN. Phone: 020 3818 8873

Islington Guide_002

7:30 p.m.

To start your evening, a trip to the secluded Nightjar is a must. An underground cocktail bar with a great speakeasy feel, it’s rich in atmosphere and magnificent décor and has a host of inventive cocktails. Be warned though – once you stop by, you’ll find it hard to leave. Of course, if you’ve made plans at the Barbican, Sadlers Wells, the Almeida or any of the other major arts venues in Islington, this would be a good time to head across to their respectives bars and cafés and grab a drink and a bite to eat before the show. The Slaughtered Lamb is a delightful gastro pub that’s nicely equidistant from the first two, but for the Almeida you’ll want to head back into Angel and grab something to eat at The King’s Head, another stunning historic pub decked with Victorian fittings and full of theatre memorabilia.

Islington Guide_008

If you’re more of a music person, Islington is home to some of London’s biggest and best music venues. Islington Assembly Hall, Union Chapel, the O2 Academy, The Garage, XOYO, and The Lexington all hold live music events — they’re all large venues, with the exception of the Lexington, which is the place to go for smaller, more intimate gigs. Of this selection, the Union Chapel is the most majestic, so book a concert here for a truly special experience.

The Nightjar, 129 City Road, Hoxton, London EC1V 1JB. Phone: 020 7253 4101

The Kings Head Theatre Pub, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN. Phone: 020 7226 4443

The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0DX. Phone: 020 7253 1516

XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, London EC2A 4AP. Phone: 020 7608 2878

Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN. Phone: 020 7226 1686

The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JB. Phone: 020 7837 5371

O2 Academy Islington, 16 Parkfield Street, London N1 0PS. Phone: 020 7288 4400

The Garage, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury East, London N5 1RD. Phone: 020 7619 6721

Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD. Phone: 020 7527 8900

9:00 p.m.

If you’ve gone to a concert or a performance, you may well be there until 10 or 11 p.m. But if you haven’t, or the show ends early, it’s a safe bet that by 9 p.m. you’ll want some food or drink. The best hubs for nightime eating and drinking in Islington are without a doubt Clerkenwell, Upper Street, and the area surrounding Old Street.

For great restaurants on Upper Street, try MEATliquor for an extensive burger menu (vegan and vegetarian options available), and Rök for delicious smoked and fermented dishes,drawing on historic Northern European cooking techniques. On Old Street, The Clove Club is a must for high-end, gourmet dining.

Islington Guide_005

In Clerkenwell, the famous St John Restaurant serves traditional British fare done to perfection, although beware, it definitely errs on the side meaty, so vegetarians might prefer Mildreds, toward the north of Clerkenwell, which serves an incredible array of vegan food.

If you’ve already eaten your fill and just want to hit the bars, The New Rose on Essex Road is a lively pub with great ambience, while The Green in Clerkenwell is great for some cosy drinking in a relaxed setting.

The Clove Club, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT. Phone: 020 7729 6496

St John, 26 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4AY. Phone: 020 7251 0848

Rök Islington, 149 Upper Street, London N1 1RA. Phone: 020 7686 8024

The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0DU. Phone: 20 7490 1258

The New Rose, 84-86 Essex Road, London N1 8LU. Phone: 020 7226 1082

MEATliquor, 133B Upper Street, London N1 1QP. Phone: 020 3711 0104

Photographs

  1. Feature photo by Juhi Pande
  2. Breakfast photo copyright grinchh - stock.adobe.com
  3. Regent's Canal photo by Mark Hogan from London, UK, USA (Islington TunnelUploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Caravan photo by Ewan Munro from London, UK (Caravan, Clerkenwell, EC1Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Bunhill Fields photo by Jim Linwood [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
  6. Nightjar photo by Jerome Courtial (courtesy Nightjar)
  7. MEATliquor N1 photo courtesy MEATliquor
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Go Full English At Shepherdess Café

shepherdess café

GO FULL ENGLISH AT SHEPHERDESS CAFÉ

If you dare to live on the edge, ditch your matcha tea and carrot sticks for a greasy, full English breakfast at Shepherdess Café. This classic pub with a traditional menu and reasonable rates is ideal for diners with a hearty appetite and a weakness for fry-ups.

Shepherdess Café, 221 City Road, London EC1V 1JN. Phone: 20 7253 2463

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

The modern chain café is marked by a transitory atmosphere. You pass in and out to get a drink or a snack “on the go”, that subtle capitalist admonition to work yourself into an early grave. If you do stop ever-so-briefly, it is typically for a meeting or to rig your cerebral cortex up to the free wifi for a social media fix.

What I want from a café is rather different. This isn’t meant to sound conceited: I’m as much a stimulation junkie as every other contemporary human being; I’m also partial to a soggy cheese toasty scooped off a stainless steel production line by a smiley Spanish barista. But were these filling stations of capitalism not so ubiquitous I would spend more time in places like Shepherdess Café on City Road in Shoreditch.

As with the ideal pub, it’s the atmosphere of Shepherdess Café that clinches it rather than any item on the menu or added extra (this place also has wifi, so there goes the prospect of an unconnected idyll!). The light music, the clatter of plates, the small, bullet-shaped plastic canisters of brown sauce and ketchup, the plate of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes sitting enticingly on the counter, the strip lighting, the red tables and olive green booth seating – they all denote the peculiarly English atmosphere of the greasy spoon.

The view isn’t up to much – it’s on City Road after all – but these little recesses allow just enough seclusion to mount an attack on the greasy plate of food in front of you without shame.

As does the food, which is both traditional and reasonably priced. A Builder’s Breakfast – egg, bacon, sausage, chips and beans – together with a mug of strong tea comes in at under six pounds. Healthy options are available, but the menu is mainly geared toward the mid-day blowout. There is cod and chips, gammon and chips, ham two eggs and chips, mixed grill and chips etc. Appropriately enough, there is a large mirror spread across the back wall so that after you’ve disported yourself you can adjust your waistband before sheepishly making your way back out into the street.

I like as a rule to sit at one of the homely booths next to the window. The view isn’t up to much – it’s on City Road after all – but these little recesses allow just enough seclusion to mount an attack on the greasy plate of food in front of you without shame. A feeling of brotherhood soon develops with the fat man who is inhaling a plate of chips in the booth next to yours. His furtive glance is a tacit acknowledgement that the shrieking commissars who would replace this stodgy pleasure with celery and carrot juice can get at neither one of you in here.

Healthy options are available, but the menu is mainly geared toward the mid-day blowout.

And herein lies the real pleasure in a place like Shepherdess Café. It isn’t found in the fact that local celebrities are known to drop in occasionally – Jamie Oliver is a regular and the walls are decorated with dog-eared photographs of illustrious diners. It’s that the greasy spoon taps into a fundamental truth about life. The streamlined world of carrot sticks and soy lattes is only tolerable so long as one occasionally affirms life by dipping one’s toes into the encroaching tide of molten lava. As Saul Bellow famously put it, “Death” – or in this case a full English with all the trimmings – is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything”.

It is important to feel properly alive now and then. For some this means jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet with a sheet of nylon attached to their back. For others it is equally bracing to wander in off the street, set down the briefcase and newspaper, loosen one’s tie and top button and, as it were, attack a sausage sandwich or eggs Benedict with all the vigour of an infantrymen going over the top at the Somme.

Feature photograph copyright Felix - stock.adobe.com

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The Regency Cafe Proves Old School Is Cool

regency cafe london

THE REGENCY CAFE PROVES OLD SCHOOL IS COOL

Voted as the fifth best eating place in London just four years ago, The Recency Cafe is traditional in its décor, menu and – most importantly – prices. Tuck into a glorious full English breakfast while sitting in Daniel Craig’s spot and don’t even think about skipping the bread and butter pudding.

The Regency Cafe, 17-19 Regency Street, Westminster, London SW1P 4BY. Phone: 020 7821 6596

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

If you hanker for the bygone days of “proper” fry-ups with builders’ tea, sliced bread with butter, and no cracked black pepper, café latte, or avocado anywhere in sight, then The Regency Cafe is one for you. This is a real piece of historic London. Opened in 1946 just after the war and designed in an art deco style, it brings you a no-nonsense menu of traditional British fare, from its famous fry-ups to a selection of classic pies, complete with tinned peas and plenty of other typical trimmings. Stepping inside is like stepping back about three decades: the walls are lined with pictures of Tottenham Hotspur players and vintage newspaper clippings, while the formica tables evoke a vintage vision of London that’s hard to find today.

Thanks to its look, The Regency has been the go-to setting for café scenes in such films as Brighton Rock and Layer Cake – yes, this is where the famous tea-pot beating scene takes place. But it’s not just a novelty: The Regency Cafe was voted London’s fifth best place to eat in 2013, and while the hearty, carb-heavy classics may not be for everyone, it does them very well. The other thing that must be mentioned is the price. The most expensive meal on the menu costs £6.55, so if you’re on a budget, you can eat like a king and still have money for the bus home. But don’t take the bus before trying the homemade bread and butter pudding.

Feature photograph by Adam Bruderer [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

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The Larder at Butler’s Retreat Is Perfect For A Summer Day

the larder butler's retreat epping forest chingford

THE LARDER AT BUTLER'S RETREAT IS PERFECT FOR A SUMMER DAY

Wanstead High Street’s The Larder runs the kitchen at Butler’s Retreat to bring a café to the heart of Epping Forest. It serves country café fare like sandwiches, burgers, wraps, cake and coffee.

The Larder at Butler’s Retreat, 12 Ranger's Road, Chingford, London E4 7QH. Phone: 020 7998 7858

READ DIVYA SEHGAL'S STORY

A beautiful Spring day in London warrants a walk in your local forest or park. And if there’s a café overlooking it, what more could you want? Butler’s Retreat, in the heart of Epping Forest in Chingford, is just that. Serving typical country café fare like sandwiches, burgers, wraps, cake and coffee, it’s the ideal spot for families with kids and dogs. Right next to the historic Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, the open space that the café offers overlooking the forest is absolutely welcome in warm days.

The kitchen is run by Wanstead High Street’s The Larder (although the menus differ), which also runs the kitchen in the café at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. The Larder at Butler’s Retreat sources local produce and ingredients, and part of its appeal and charm is the stunning view of the Chingford plains and the vast greenness around. You wouldn’t believe that you’re just 25 minutes from London Liverpool Street.

Feature photo courtesy The Larder

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