For your next date night, you’re going independent.
By which we certainly don’t mean that you’re heading out alone – rather that you’re going to enjoy an evening that features unique, independently run local spots – all of which you’ll find within a 20 minute strolling radius in Highbury. So put on your gladrags, and meet your significant other for…
BookBar is the kind of independent book store that exists only in romcoms… and on Blackstock Road. Owner Chrissy is passionate about getting people to talk about good books, which explains why she not only curates ‘prescriptive’ bundles as part of her Shelf Medicate series, but also serves wine. So pop in with your date, pick out a book for each other and if the weather’s fine, spend the golden hour at a table outside with a glass of something cold, reading out your first pages… (because if you’re going to a romcom location, you may as well have a romcom date).
Glasses emptied, head right down Blackstock Road until you reach the corner restaurant opposite a church that can only be described as triangular. The tattered old ‘F. J. Bulling’ sign belongs to the shop’s pre-war life as a bootmakers, but it’s now where you’re getting –
Islington has a lot of excellent restaurants that could feed you very well, any day of the week. But tonight, you’re heading to Canto73, the reincarnation of Highbury Arts Club. This reformed tapas bar makes an ideal date spot – communal tables keep the ambience convivial, but the seats are spaced far enough apart for you and your date to have a private conversation. The setting’s relaxed, with simple wooden furnishings, mismatched chairs and original artwork, but touches like the linen bistro curtains and tealights add just the right level of romance.
And then there’s the food.
On Friday and Saturday nights, chef Joao (ex-Moio) serves up a seasonal tasting menu that changes every month. With seven courses at £50 a head, it’s exceptional value for what is top quality food. He’ll personally talk you through each dish as its served, giving the whole evening an intimate, chef’s table feel. And for May? The menu includes numbers like scallop ceviche with locally-picked elderflower vinegar; blowtorched leeks with ingredients made from every part of the plant; and white chocolate & coffee tart, served with a strawberry & balsamic granita. They can cater for any dietary requirement with enough notice, and you can also opt for a drinks pairing curated by Graft Wines.
Lick the plate, then head right down Aubert Park and left down Drayton Park for…
Around halfway down the road, you’ll be hit by the lilac glow of Highbury Library. This neon-lit natural wine bar rates bottles according to an in-house Wild Scale (1 being the most approachable, 5 being for biodynamic fiends who can handle the funk). Currently they’re recommending the Toi Je Sais Gamay, which feels appropriately romantic, but you can also spring for one of their craft beers (try the sour made from beetroot), or pre-batch cocktails.
Head out to the back garden for a quieter setting, or make use of the fact that Highbury Library’s also a shop and take a bottle home…
BookBar | 166 Blackstock Road, London N5 1HA | No bookings
Canto73 | 73 Highbury Park, London N5 1UA | Book here (£50pp, + £22pp for wine pairings)
Highbury Library | 66A Drayton Park, London N5 1ND | Book via firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for more inspiration? Take a look at the best bars in Islington.