Housed in a residential Primrose Hill enclave perfect for celeb safari, L’Absinthe is a classic French Bistro characterized by red check tablecloths, local art on the walls and a “Bonjour!” welcome for all. By day, it’s a cafe serving warm pastries (only an hour old we were promised), croque monsieurs and crepes to a crowd of local regulars but come evening, it becomes more ‘intimate bistro’, making it a nice place for a date. On the menu are all the classics and really this is what you should stick to - chicken liver parfait, thick onion soup (winter only), duck confit and steak frites are all winners. In true French style, vegetarians are not welcome.
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Spend enough time in The Hornbeam and you might just purge yourself of all the ailments of modern life - the place is solar powered for Christ’s sake. These good people are all about community, local produce, and keeping you green as a grasshopper. The seasonal menu (spelled out in fridge magnets) is primarily vegan and always tasty - come in the week for something simple like their pumpkin and kale tart, or on the weekend for their full English brekkie. Food aside, the music is straight-up soulful and they even host classes. Pop in for a Jamming class (jam making) or a Jammin’ class (guitar skills). Or both. Heck, we’re community converts.
From the clever sausages behind The Delaunay, Fischers and Brasserie Zedel comes this French bistro. Sitting pretty on Islington Green, Bellanger is a smart dining room with cushty booths and a bar for counter dining - it's all very French and the menu stays true to its routes by serving French classics (try the coq au Riesling and their signature tarte flambees), beer on tap and a bevy of Champagne cocktails.
When Greenberry Café opened up, it put some serious oompf back in to the cupcake-clogged Primrose Hill. We can see why people love it – their menu seriously has everything. Brunches use in-house baked bread (they also serve gluten-free), their specials list can barely fit on the blackboard, and they even do the occasional evening shindig. If you're in a rush at lunch, grab their rueben sandwich and wonder why you ever bothered going to Pret when you could've been ordering this.
Petit Pois Bistro
Everything comes together beautifully at Petit Pois: the poster-boy of the French Bistro. In an elegant, intimate spot on Hoxton Square, all our boxes get a thorough ticking: insanely good food, a soulful soundtrack, comfortable booths, soft lighting and even a lil’ exposed brickwork thrown in for good measure. The operation is simple: two chefs in the kitchen handle business, whilst a front of house strolls about chatting and serving. The menu is reassuringly short: several small plates and a couple large - we’d tip the crispy duck leg and the polloch covered in sea vegetables, cedar and castelo franco as absolute must eats. Seriously, this stuff is beautiful. The kind of dreamy place perfect for treating that special someone - and whilst you're treating yourself, perhaps take your significant other, too. Keep an eye out for their lunchtime meal deal where two courses are £16 and three £20.