Discovering Islington: A tour of the borough
Hip Shoreditch and eccentric Camden Town are known for their style, but Islington’s place on London’s lifestyle map should not be overlooked. We took a tour through the borough, discovering its best stores, cafés and markets
Starting off the day with a cup of good coffee is essential, so we our first stop is Ottolenghi. The Mediterranean deli is a fresh-food mecca. With its white interior and menu scribbled on a black board behind the counter, there is a domestic feel about this place, where heaps of fresh-from-the-oven pastries pile up on wooden trays. A good spot to munch on a cinnamon French toast or breakfast bread board before setting off.
OTTOLENGHI / 287 Upper Street / Monday to Saturday 8am-10.30pm and Sunday 9am-7pm / Website
11.30AM: CHAPEL MARKET
This daily street market serves organic foods, from Italian buffalo mozzarella to Spanish tapas, and offers a variety of treasures. The traders are local, selling everything from gaudy fabrics to fresh flowers and fragile ceramics. So if you’re up for a souvenir search, you will find market stalls full of irresistible trinkets.
CHAPEL MARKET / Chapel Market / Tuesday to Sunday 9am-5pm
1PM: THE FARA WORKSHOP
Vintage concept store The Fara Workshop has its unique philosophy of cloth recycling. Using donated garments and fabrics, in-house designer Grace Clark uses her hand-craft skills to infuse forgotten pieces of apparel with new lives. “It is vintage re-worked. We make the clothes on site, from scratch. Islington is an exciting place to be and we get a broad range of customers,’ she says. The store also runs an art residence programme. The entire profit from sales is donated to the Fara Charity.
THE FARA WORKSHOP / 28-32 Pentonville Road / Monday to Friday 10am-7pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm / Website
2.30PM: CLOUD CUCKOO LAND
This tiny vintage shop is located just off Camden Passage. “I’ve been here for 32 years and the place has changed very much,” says Barbra, the boutique’s owner. “There are not so many antique stalls anymore, Islington is more commercial yet I have clients who keep coming back since I started.” Specialising in the 1920s, the shop stays true to its name: the walls are covered with frills and laces, while hangers bend under exquisitely made dresses dating back to the Victorian era.
CLOUD CUCKOO LAND / 6 Charlton Place / Tuesday to Saturday 11am-5.30pm
3PM: ANNIE’S VINTAGE
The atmospheric vintage boutique offers a unique dress collection that even appeals to the generation’s grand fashion icons. “We’ve had Kate Moss coming in, buying a Chinese wrap shirt with a fringe and a black beaded dress,” says Annie, who opened her shop back in the 1980s. On the market for over three decades, it remains an exciting spot on the capital’s fashion map. A small collection of antique homeware is also on offer, from frames through cutlery to caskets.
ANNIE’S VINTAGE / 12 Camden Passage / Monday to Sunday 10am-6pm/ Website
3.45PM: ODYSSEY 20C
Strolling further down the Camden Passage, this small design store is a real pearl. A miscellany of lamps, glass, ceramics and furniture, each piece carefully selected by the owner, Paul Runniff-Nutman, who gets his treasures at antique fairs and from foreign art dealers. “Islington is now a very good mix of concept, vintage and design shops,” says Nutman, whose gallery store is definitely part of this exciting mixture.
ODYSSEY 20C / 47 Camden Passage / Monday to Sunday 10am-6pm
4.30PM: ISLINGTON MUSIC
Going off the beaten track, we pop in to Islington Music, hidden from view in Shillingford Street. Run by Tricia Cottle, there is a bell on the door that rings with customers coming in and a variety of instruments hanging on the walls, displayed like the most valuable art pieces. “Islington has gotten more diverse since I started but it’s nice to be here. You got customers looking for guitar strings or chords, but you never really know,” says Tricia. The place has an extraordinary feel of an old music store, where you will easily find a new addition to your classical music collection.
ISLINGTON MUSIC / 6 Shillingford Street/ Monday to Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday 10am-5.30pm
6PM: M. MANZE
Heaven for English food lovers, the restaurant has been serving pie & mash according to its secret recipe since 1902. “We have the same customers coming in, generation after generation. There are also tourists who get here, so the business keeps going,” says Eloise, who’s been working at M. Manze for a while now. At a moderate price, you can treat yourself to a local ‘spécialité’, Pie Eels & Mash, and enjoy your meal in the atmosphere of an old eating-house with wooden tables and tile-covered surfaces, taking visitors back in time.
M.MANZE / 74 Chapel Market / Monday to Sunday 10am-until late/ Website