The Canonbury

The biggest draw card by far at The Canonbury is its big and beautiful beer garden. Not only is it lush with green hedges, grass and leafy surrounds, but is big enough to cater for the mothers and their bubs, the boys enjoying a pint after work and the old couples who come to lap up the mid-afternoon sun. Sitting under a big sun umbrella on a summery afternoon, The Canonbury is definitely the place to be for a relaxed pub lunch.

Nestled between the tidy white terraces of Canonbury, the pub itself is surprisingly big. In a big old terrace house, the place has been given some love and attention with modern trimmings and a fresh lick of paint. The huge garden has plenty of tables (both in the sun and the shade) and must be one of the biggest in London. Sitting in amongst the tall trees and hedges, you feel as if you’re in the countryside somewhere rather than in the busy, concrete jungle that is the capital.

The lunch menu is packed with many pub classics like beef burgers, fish and chips, steak and roast chicken, as well as plenty of fresh salads, seafood and pastas. Homemade fish cakes with mixed leaf salad and lemon mayonnaise (starter: £7.75/main: £12.95) are deliciously light with a thin layer of crumbs adding the perfect amount of crunch. The service was quick and friendly, and with a restaurant section including many outdoor tables, you can enjoy table service without feeling like you’re in a different part of the pub, but part of the whole atmosphere.

This place is a must on a summer’s day. I intend to come here a whole lot more now that I’ve discovered this secret garden and the tasty menu.

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Le Sacre Coeur

Le Sacre Coeur stands at the corner of a side street a few yards from the buzz and preen of Upper Street, but closer in ambience and gastronomy to its namesake. There is a pervasive smell, taste and feel of Paris, from the snails in garlic butter to the coq au vin, from the checked tablecloths to the waiters' accents and the highly quaffable wine.

Our members routinely gasp at the value for money - "Only £10 for two courses!" - and then gasp again at the quality of the food. "How do they do it?" they ask through mouthfuls of gourmet nosh.

It's just the right size to accommodate all 50 of us, with an hour or so of stand-up chat followed by lunch till midnight (for the determined drinkers), or a leisurely two or three hours for the rest.

We feel lucky to have discovered this place, one of the most authentic French bistros in town, at bargain prices and exemplary service. Highly recommended!

Dotori

Round the corner from Finsbury Park station on Stroud Green Road, this Korean-Japanese restaurant is one of the best eateries in the area. A pint-sized palace of eastern cuisine, Dotori can only seat around 24 people, so it’s worth booking ahead.

With its minimalist, Asian-lite interior (bamboo sticks along the wall, trickling water feature), the food is nevertheless the great draw here. A fusion of Korean and Japanese food makes for splendid variety: Bento boxes include a mix of noodles, rice and meat and there’s an impressive number of fish roe dishes among the fresh, plump sushi menu.

Deep-fried dumplings are light and delicious and make for an excellent shared starter or side dish. Yaki soba (chicken, beef or seafood) is exquisitely confected with strips of courgette and ginger, carrot and onion.

Portion sizes at Dotori are just right, leaving you satisfied but not stuffed - perfect if you have to go back to the office after lunch. The service is good and the staff polite and friendly, though occasionally slow. Great value for money and definitely worth trying.

La Petite Auberge

 

Virtually opposite Le Mercury, still on Upper Street, La Petite Auberge is a wafer-thin cut above its local rival, serving French cuisine closer to a Parisien quality, with higher grade ingredients and a little more finesse.  There’s snails, filet mignon, coq au vin etc.

Service is prompt and attentive, the place itself has a rustic charm and decor that puts you further in mind of the French capital.  Even the accents of the staff seem pretty authentic.

Meals cost a bit more here than over the road, but our Club events here have been a big hit.  Christmas 2010 was terrific: around 50 of us carousing until well after 11pm.  Well, some of us were still carousing then (some lightweights disappeared early).

For more articles and reviews by David Nicholson, please see www.freelancejournalist.co.uk.

Le Mercury

 

A fixture on the corner of Upper Street and Almeida Street (opposite the theatre) for decades, Le Mercury consistently packs in the hungry hoards of N1 for their duck en croute, their salmon steaks and assorted French dishes cooked competently, if unoriginally. 

But at these prices, who’s complaining?  Starters are under a fiver and mains under a tenner, so even with wine (about £17 a bottle) you can eat and drink well for £25 a head.

Winding old stairs take you up to light, airy rooms above the main floor, with a cute corner table in one room up on a dias, windows on two sides as the building breasts the street.

We’ve had a few events here, taking a private room to ourselves and most enjoyable they were.

Yildiz

 

Half way down Blackstock Road, on the way to Highbury Barn, Yildiz is an unassuming kebab shop with room for fifty odd diners at the back.

But the food here is really terrific, cooked on an open barbeque in full view of the customers, featuring fresh herbs, ingenious concoctions of juices and vegetables such as the onions in pomegranate sauce and a full range of meats.

Lambs kidneys, liver and testicles are all on offer, besides the more conventional shish and chicken options.  Always welcoming, with generous portions and exquisite flavours.

Leziz

 

We first came to this restaurant when it was known as the Meeting Place, in the late 1990s, serving French and international food.  Then it went Turkish and was renamed Simsim. 

The Club had three or four events here, including a summer lunch which stretched on well into the night, with Cheryl Enever treating us to a selection of operatic arias. 

Great for sunny days, Leziz has a spacious garden area with florid borders and gazebos providing shade.  The Turkish menu includes delightful mezes with hummus, small pastry parcels stuffed with feta cheese and various other dip-like creams and grains.

The meats are tender, the bread arrives warm and soft and the service is exemplary.