Restaurants: Where shall we meet in Islington?

The Blairs didn't do a whole lot of favours for Islington, apart from pushing up the values of property, which might be nice for the pension funds of those already established there. But the busy, jolly and varied life of Upper Street has suffered a bit as big business caught on to the fact that the area has a lot of people with reasonable disposable incomes to spend on going out. Once an area gets more chain bars than individual businesses, it could be pretty much anywhere in England.

Obviously, All Bar One, Pitcher and Piano, Pizza Express and so forth have their place - let's face it, we all patronise them from time to time - but they do rather leave you screaming for somewhere a little different, somewhere that allows you to feel as though you've been a bit clever in discovering it. Step forward the Embassy.

The Embassy has avoided Upper-Streetifying by living a five-minute walk away in Essex Road, and has, as a result, a sense of the unique for the area. The punters, still look like they've been transported wholesale from the West End somewhere, but this clubby pub still has a homey feel to it. The U-shaped bar and banquette enclaves lining the walls are far more comfortable for hanging out, lounging with mates, than the overly keen chrome that has become an aggressive cliche of every wannabe bar in the country.

And there's more. The Embassy has a policy of encouraging innovative efforts in music, visuals and film, and events take place there all the time. A 1am licence at weekends allows for a pleasant crossover between club and pub, and, though this policy is inevitably going to attract people for whom novelty is a driving force, all that leather and wood serves to restrain the worst of the posing that goes with it. Nice to see that, in an increasingly by-the-rules area, someone is still trying. Oh, and they do great toasted sandwiches, as well.

The Embassy, 119 Essex Rd, N1 (0171-226 9849)

ISLINGTON INDEPENDENTS

Jindivick

201 Liverpool Rd, N1

(0171-607 7710)

Candid Cafe

3 Torrens St, EC1 (0171-278 9368)

Gallipoli

102 Upper St, N1 (0171-359 0630)

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