Eating out in style
A new book, Cafe London, explores the amazing range of places to eat and drink in the capital – including several venues in Islington. We spoke to editor Zena Alkayat to find out more about the book…
Tell us a little bit about the book. It must have been fun to research! Why did you think the book was needed?
Sometimes you get stuck going to the same three or four cafés that you love or that are around the corner from your house or work. But London is packed with so many brilliant cafes and coffee shops that each do things in their own special way. The book is really a celebration of that and a way to keep on searching, exploring and enjoying every corner of the city. I hope people using the book find entirely new parts of London as they root out a new café. There are well over 100 in the book to search out.
What in your mind makes the perfect café? Can you list three things?
For me, the perfect café starts with welcoming, efficient, knowledgeable staff – there’s nothing worse than feeling disgruntled and frustrated by inept staff. The food and coffee is obviously important too – it should be made with care, love and good ingredients (and not be too expensive). And finally you need a good setting. It doesn’t have to be big or especially beautiful, but it has to be comfortable, interesting, unique – ideally all three.
We were delighted to see some Islington cafes featured. What was your favourite of the ones featured in the book?
Kipferl is my absolute favourite café in Islington – it offers something for everyone, from a slice of apfelstrudel to a full-on meal of wurst and sauerkraut. It’s stylish, well-run and peaceful.
What do you think makes Islington unique from other parts of London?
Parts of Islington (like Camden Passage, Mountgrove Road, Newington Green among many others) have a wonderful village atmosphere. They’re ideal for pottering around and shopping, and making lots of stops for coffee, food and wine.
Other than cafes, do you have a favourite place to go in Islington?
Aside from the many, many shops I’d gladly spend money across Islington, my favourite places include Myddelton Square Gardens (lovely for sitting on a bench in the sun and watching the dog-walkers go by) and The Earl of Essex (best craft beer pub in London).
Do you have any other books planned?
I recently wrote some cute biographies of iconic women in a series called Life Portraits – Frida Kahlo has just come out (she followed on from Virginia Woolf, Coco Chanel and Jane Austen). That’s it for now.
Café London, edited by Zena Alkayat, is out now, published by Frances Lincoln (£9.99).