It’s time for me to get all misty-eyed about another part of London. Angel is one of those places I probably started going to in my late teens, I’d grown out of sitting in Cyberdog and needed to get my vintage fix in Camden Passage. Now I see it as one of those in-betweeny areas where you can get the bulk of your shopping and socialising done without all the crazy crowds. There’s also a great mix of independent shops and noteworthy chains (hello Aesop) plus I find it impossible to walk past any of the grand townhouses without wishing for an imminent lottery win. I’m by no means an expert on the area (I’ve probably only made it to a handful of the seemingly never-ending list of restaurants) but I thought I’d share my enthusiasm anyway with a few new discoveries and old faves.
If you follow foodie types like Clerkenwell Boy over on Instagram, then it’s a bit like having your own version of Time Out at your fingertips, where you can actually see what the food looks like. That’s probably how I discovered Chinese Laundry, though I know the exterior has been getting some serious attention due to the Wes Anderson vibes. The USP is Northern Chinese cuisine in a 80s family dining setting, though it’s stylised enough for those all-important snaps (you’ll spot a dreamy colour palette on the way to the loos and the aforementioned Aesop soap in the bathroom). I went to try their version of an authentic breakfast and although I probably wasn’t as adventurous as I could have been (no congee for me), I did try the savoury tofu, which is a bit of an acquired taste if you’re used to the firm stuff. If you’re stuck on what to order, then you can’t go wrong with one of the crispy scallion pancakes, dumpling stir fry (the hot sauce needs to get in my bag), doughnut-like milky buns and the gigantic pork belly baozi. I’m definitely curious about the epic sounding Beggar’s chicken on their dinner menu, it’s a whole chicken filled with sticky rice, pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Who’s coming with me?
Has anyone else noticed the influx of ‘lifestyle’ stores popping up everywhere, with their dreamy stationery brands and niche magazines? I’m not complaining obviously. Smug was probably one of the first I can remember having a bit of a MidCentury mash-up of homeware, accessories and gifts. Founder Lizzie Evans opened the shop in 2009 soon after graduating from her interiors degree and wanted its ethos to be independent and interesting, helping new brands to grow and make their mark. It’s a handy little place to know about if you’re interiors-obsessed as designers often produce exclusives that you can’t get elsewhere (Lizzie has also designed the first Smug homeware collection, which will be out very soon). As expected there’s something for every budget, you can go crazy with a whole enamelware set or just pick up one of those finishing touches that add a little bit of personality (I went for a plant pot). It’s also worth knowing that there’s a cafe downstairs that’s only open at weekends, so you can get your cake fix alongside your ceramics.
If you’re finding the sheer amount of choice on Upper Street overwhelming, then it’s worth knowing about Little Bat, a neighbourhood bar tucked just off one of the side streets. I was invited along to the launch of their new menu a few weeks ago and was immediately won over by the House of Hackney wallpaper and whimsical cocktail concoctions (try the Rhubarb Swizzle before it goes out of season). The menu covers the main food groups, there’s Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, a Cuban pork sandwich that reminded me a little of Bánh mì and a pretty tasty Scotch Egg. You’ll probably be surprised to know that the dish in the first picture is jerk chicken with rice n’ peas. The flavouring wasn’t as fiery as I’m used to but then again I’ve been training my jerk tolerance for over twenty years and the recipe is probably better suited to the demographic here. The rice n’ peas were also served in the form of arancini balls, which is a twist I could have done with when dealing with leftovers as a child.
Little Viet Kitchen
It’s been pretty tricky to find anything that comes close to the street food I tried in Hanoi back on these shores. Sure Song Que is a pretty good alternative, but if you fancy a real treat (without dealing with the temperamental Overground) then it’s worth going to The Little Viet Kitchen. This is another place I discovered via Instagram as founder Thuy Pham-Kelly had a pretty popular account thanks to her supperclub and decided to open the restaurant last year. The prices are a bit higher if you’re used to the Kingsland Road but it’s worth it for the attention to detail (the dishes are made for Pinterest) and guarantee that you’re getting organic and free-range ingredients. I also found my main dry noodle bowl dish seriously filling and probably didn’t need to order a starter (but I’m glad I did anyway as the chicken wings come complete with their own LVK sauce which is available to buy). Just make sure you book in advance as it gets pretty popular. They also have the odd supperclub, just in case you’re keen to try a different kind of experience (this one is also on the list too).
OK so Quill technically isn’t in Angel. There’s a bit of an in-betweeny area going towards Clerkenwell that probably deserves its own post, but until I sort out logistics and dollar, I thought I’d share this destination for stationery obsessives in the meantime. I’ve done a few of their calligraphy classes before and ended up buying my beloved Rifle Paper Co calendar from their West Elm pop-up, so it’s great that there’s now a permanent space. They hold regular brush lettering and calligraphy workshops, plus their eclectic mix of supplies, notebooks, pretty pencils and washi tape is available. It’s also useful to know that they have a huge personalisation element, with in-store monogramming in 10 minutes and anything gold-foiled taking a little longer. I’d quite like some correspondence cards to complete my #GIRLBOSS transformation.
If you’ve ever been to Angel, then you’ll know that it’s impossible to keep track of all the new openings and I always notice somewhere new on my bus journey home. As much as I would have liked to have made this post even longer and just kept eating out, I had to reign it in a little, but here’s a few other places I’ve either eaten at or been recommended. Enjoy!