Restaurant review: Sunday, 169 Hemingford Road, London, N1

Amol Rajan finds near-perfection at a brunch-and-dinner establishment in Islington

Many moons ago I read these pages and wondered what it would take for a restaurant to score 10 out of 10. Now I write for them and I still haven't a clue. The problem arises, I think, because some people define 10 out of 10 as "as good as it gets", yet I had long conceived of 10 out of 10 much as I conceived of five out of five or 100 per cent – in other words, perfection. Something that is incapable of being improved. But no meal is perfect. Every meal can be improved. Thus a dilemma: go through life as a restaurant critic never awarding 10 out of 10, or accept that there are some meals that, though not perfect, deserve that highest rank? My inclination is towards the latter.

Besides, perfection is over-rated. What is it, anyway? I think perfection is: the first day of a Test at Lord's; a piña colada in the Caribbean; the Wailers' first album; Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption; my father's arithmetic. You will note that all these things, while undeniably worthy of 10 out of 10, are capable of being improved. For instance, at Lord's there are always posh, fat drunkards you'd rather didn't disrupt the view; but you'd still get the bus home thinking, "Dear me, those Australians are rubbish, but that was a 10 out of 10 day."

Sunday in Islington, open for six weeks now, is my kind of perfect. On the two basic metrics which this page takes an interest in – taste and value – it is not far off incapable of being improved. Like many a good establishment, it is really two restaurants in one. Though closed on Monday, on other mornings it is a brunch palace. Delicious French toast with banana and maple syrup; fresh fruit and cereals with rich, smooth yoghurt; all manner of eggs and sizzling bacon and salmon with hollandaise; pastries from paradise; excellent coffee and teas – all your favourites, done superbly. I can easily imagine long, lazy Saturdays armed with a rumbling belly, hot thirst and a wad of magazines spent here, and the odd Sunday, too. But on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Sunday also does dinner. And this is no ordinary dinner.

Six starters, five mains, four desserts, three sides, two kinds of booze and not a single dud between them. There are no spirits, so the alcohol is either wine – white, red, rosé – or an Aperol spritz (bit dear at £7.50, but lovely for a summer evening). Among the starters, there are pork rillettes with bread-and-butter pickles and toasted sourdough (£7); juicy buffalo mozzarella with tomato salad, pesto and Parmesan croutons (£7); cured duck breast with cantaloupe melon, pickled ginger and soy (£7.50); grilled sardines with beetroot, watercress and gremolata dressing (chopped garlic, parsley, and lemon zest – £7.50); and watermelon-and-feta salad with pistachio-and-mint dressing (£7.50). Every one of these was blow-the-mind brilliant.

But they are as nothing to the – dare I say it – perfect salt-and-pepper crispy squid with papaya salad (£7.50), a wondrous union of contrasting textures and flavours. I've never thought to put a tropical twang on top of squid, but the freshness of this papaya, combined with the peppery batter on the squid, is just sublime.

A cod fillet (£14.50) comes apart in gorgeous little flakes, and sits very happily among chorizo, cannellini beans and saffron potatoes. The ricotta-stuffed courgette flowers with caponata are a steal at £12; the rib-eye with chips and Café de Paris butter, at £18.50, is cheaper than you'll find in most of London; and there is linguine vongole (£13.50) and a lamb fillet (£15), too.

The desserts – £5.50 each – are a fabulous bargain. White-chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet and shortcake; baked Alaska with lemon curd and berries; custard tart with raspberries; and, best of all, the Sunday Sundae: hot brownie, cold ice-cream, succulent cherries, and enough to convince me there may be a heaven.

I'm thinking hard about faults, really I am. The staff are all smiley and attentive, so none there. The interior is neither good nor bad, so none there. The food is almost incapable of being improved. Basically perfect.

Oh yes – the Aperol spritz is a quid too dear. That's about it. So in the circumstances, I couldn't possibly award my first 10 out of 10.


Sunday, 169 Hemingford Road, London N1, tel: 020 7607 3868. £70 for Two, including wine

Three more best for brunch

The Milestone

A high-quality gastropub that's simply fantastic for a laid-back brunch.

84 Green Lane At Ball Street, Sheffield, tel: 0114 272 8327

The Primrose Cafe

This remarkable café does a great brunch and lovely afternoon tea; by night, its cuisine is original.

1 Clifton Arcade, Boyces Avenue, Clifton, tel: 0117 946 6577


One of Glasgow's finest relaxed dining establishments, known for its lazy Sunday brunch.

28 Gibson Street, Kelvinbridge, Glasgow, tel: 0141 334 2665

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn