Going Out In Islington: The Best Bars and Pubs

Barrio North, 45 Essex Rd, Islington, London N1 2SF

While Islington is known for its burgeoning craft beer scene, it’s easy to forget (or at least, hard to remember in the morning…) that it’s had a long and varied history when it comes to alcohol.

Many of its most well-known landmarks are public houses or bars, so what better way to get to know North London’s most salubrious borough than with our guide to its Top Six Pubs?

Read on, and be sure to let us know which ones we’ve missed in the comments section below!


Oak and Pastor

Oak & Pastor, 86 Junction Rd, London N19 5QZ
Oak & Pastor, 86 Junction Rd, London N19 5QZ

Very popular among our readers, the Oak and Pastor’s mission statement is to provide a ‘home away from home’ whatever the season, where you can bring family and friends to relax. The staff are justifiably proud of their two gardens, which act as a sun-trap in the summer where patrons can cool down with an ice cold beer. In winter, though, the open fire place is the ideal location to cosy up with a red wine or whiskey.

The pub hosts the Raconteur open-mic comedy night every Thursday, so bring along a date and laugh yourselves silly in a sumptuous pub with a storied history.

Definitely try: lounging in a sun-trap with a San Miguel in the summer months!


Barrio North

Barrio North, 45 Essex Rd, Islington, London N1 2SF
Barrio North, 45 Essex Rd, Islington, London N1 2SF

The distinctly Latin atmosphere of Barrio North provides a great contrast to the more traditional pubs round Islington. The selection of cocktails on offer and the tiled walls will have you believing you’re in a bar in Havana as the live DJ plays tunes while you and a group of friends share a food platter from the menu.

Barrio North is notable in that it actively encourages new musicians and urban poets with the aim of fostering a ‘ghetto archipelago’ mindset among its patrons. They take their mission statement as seriously as they do their cocktails, with the entire bar dedicated to creating a festive theme which feels entirely unlike anything else in Islington.

Definitely try: the Tropic Plunder and South Sea Sour cocktails!


The Big Red

The Big Red, 385 Holloway Rd, London N7 0RY

This atmospheric and friendly ‘downtown dive bar’ near Holloway Road tube station boasts an incredible selection of rock and blues tunes in the jukebox, amazing food and four pool tables in addition to a good range of beers on tap. After dark the only light comes from neon bar signs and wax candles in whisky bottles, creating an environment which is oddly conducive to easy communication even while the rock is blaring.

Taking inspiration from ‘one-percenter’ biker bars in the USA, posters for classic road movies and US license plates adorn the walls, which you can admire from a faux leopard-skin lined booth. It occasionally hosts bands and events on its stage, though most evenings you can go for a pint with friends in a friendly bar that’s unlike anywhere else in London.

Make sure to: try the footlong chilli dogs and amazing nachos!


The Canonbury

21 Canonbury Place, London. N1 2NS
The Canonbury, 21 Canonbury Place, London. N1 2NS

Photo courtesy of Deborah Roback

A very popular suggestion among our readers, the Canonbury in Highbury finds the sweet spot between airy and intimate, ensuring you’ll always have a nice environment in which to spend time with your friends. Their stated aim is to make you forget the hustle and bustle of the everyday, so you can relax with a bottle of wine, a cocktail or one of their home-cooked meals, and they succeed admirably in that goal.

In the summer months you can forsake the packed parks of Islington for some relaxation in the pub’s sun-drenched garden, a feature which our readers cited as one of the main reasons they return to the Canonbury.

Absolutely try to: Beat the feeling of sitting down with your friends in the garden having carried four pints from the bar without spilling a drop!

The Angelic

The Angelic, 57 Liverpool Rd, London N1 0RJ
The Angelic, 57 Liverpool Rd, London N1 0RJ

There’s truly no greater pleasure in life than meeting a few of your friends for bracing conversation in a pleasant pub, and The Angelic on Liverpool Street more than satisfies that requirement. Its open, airy lay-out provides the perfect environment for fun conversations with your nearest and dearest, whether you’re enjoying its traditional British pub-grub by the large windows or enjoying a G&T by in the fireside sofas.

A large wooden bookcase and plenty of burnished brass surrounding the bar makes The Angelic one of the rarest of beasts; a pub that’s genuinely aesthetically pleasant. Only a short distance from Angel tube stop, The Angelic offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of Upper Street.

Definitely consider trying the very well-stocked juice bar to recover after a heavy night!


Hen & Chickens Theatre Pub

Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar, 109 St Paul's Rd, London N1 2NA
Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar, 109 St Paul’s Rd, London N1 2NA

While Islington is well-known for its pubs it also has a long history of association with the theatre, and often the borough’s interests in alcohol and arts would overlap. Indeed as anyone who has spent any time with actors and actresses can tell you, it’s often hard to keep them separate. While there are other theatre pubs in the borough, the most prominent and our staff pick for best theatre bar is the Hen & Chickens Theatre.

Handily situated just across from Highbury and Islington Station, the building features a bar stocked with locally-brewed lagers, pub standbys and real ales on the ground floor. However a blackboard on the wall is a hint as to this building’s true nature; as the venue for small, intimate theatre performances. From Jimmy Carr and Abigail Burdess to unsigned talent, the Hen & Chickens Theatre Pub offers performers an opportunity to try new material. Afterwards, traipse back downstairs to the bar and discuss the performances with your friends (and try to not to be obvious when you praise the performers within their earshot).

Definitely check out their website for upcoming events and gigs.


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