London Food & Culture

A beginner’s guide to…Bellanger N1

Islington's grandest neighbourhood brasserie is also one of its most relaxed dining options

Where exactly is it? The Wolesley’s casual north London sibling overlooks the famous Green, with Upper Street to the left, Essex Road to the right. Waterstone’s is usefully next door for pre- or post-prandial browsing, if you visit at lunchtime.

OK. So what goes on there? Classic French fare in pretty laidback – but undeniably elegant – surroundings: think conspiratorial booths, big windows overlooking the pedestrianised street, and waiters darting about with plates of hors d’oeuvres and salads.

What should I eat? You should peruse the decent-value set menus, for a start: it’s just £14.75 for two courses at lunch, rising to a set three-course with house wine for £24.75 a head. Eschewing these, on a chilly Sunday lunchtime we set sail a la carte, sharing a large plate of smoked salmon, sprinkled with capers and chopped shallots, served with thickly buttered brown bread; and a zingy mound of carottes rapées, the vegetable grated and shaped into an oval, all tartness and sweetness in equal measure.

Pavement terrace, Bellanger. Photo: PR

And mains? It’s unapologetically brasserie standards here, from chicken schnitzel to beef bourguignon (there are just a couple of plant-based mains). My friend and I were feeling carnivorous as the winter sun streamed in, and both chose the sole steak option. A slab of rib-eye, its exterior pleasingly criss-crossed and blackened, arrived juicily pink, with a gem and radish salad for crispness, and dreamy chips that proved spot-on crisp-yet-fluffy. We didn’t need a luxurious side of creamed spinach, but we scoffed it anyway.


And what do I drink? The sky’s the limit with the wine list. You can just about get a house red for less than thirty quid; meanwhile our impressive Brouilly was £51, with an eyewatering (and unusually high) 14.5% ABV. Hic.

What’s the service like? It’s slick and charming, an extremely well-oiled production as you’d expect from London’s famed restaurateurs Corbin & King.

Do say: ‘It would be a travesty if this disappeared.’ The restaurant did actually close permanently in 2019, with the owners admitting they hadn’t got the formula for Islington quite right. It then reopened with an offer similar to its Piccadilly sibling Brasserie Zedel just after the first lockdown in August 2020, following positive feedback from locals. On our Sunday lunchtime visit it appeared more popular than ever; let’s hope it can long remain overlooking that historic leafy triangle.

Don’t miss: A snifter in the cosy Compton Arms, a ten-minute walk into Canonbury, before or after. This is a genuine hidden gem up near Highbury & Islington Overground.

Bellanger is open daily at 9 Islington Green, London N1 2XH, follow @bellanger

Main image: PR

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