The Nags Head: Or, getting drunk alone on a Thursday

NagsexteriorFirst off the bat, I have to express that I am devastated – DEVASTATED – to discover that the Angel, a manky looking Wetherspoons just down the road from the station of the same name, is not on Upper Street. Who knew? Well, they did, it turns out, and told me so when I went in to enquire. It’s actually on Islington High Street. So now we know.

The delights of change from a tenner, sticky floors and a vaguely unsettling atmosphere will just have to wait. I can’t get down if it ain’t Upper.

Onwards and alongwards, I am determined to start on my Upper Street journey this very night. After a quick swim at the new St Pancras Square pool (exceedingly lovely, do pop down if you’re in the area and fancy a dip), I try and convince my friend Ruth to accompany me on my first Up Her Street mission. She declines, citing other “commitments”, which turn out to be packing away her colanders in time to get her kitchen redone next week. It’s a sobering reminder of just how Islington most of my friends are these days.

But I am not to be put off, and sally forth alone. As it turns out, the very first bona fide Upper Street watering hole turns out to be The Nags Head – part gastro pub, part North London bar. It doesn’t quite seem to know which persona to go for, or maybe it’s just a people-pleasing prostitute sort of a venue, arching its eyebrow coquettishly before husking, “I’ll be whatever you want me to be…”


The big pink neon sign in the window proclaims Cocktails, and so I follow its advice, requesting an Amaretto Sour. Only it turns out it’s two for one cocktail time (SPRING BREAK!), and so I am brought two drinks to my table, where I sit, all alone, like some unhinged yet fairly classy alcoholic.

It is actually testament to the ambience of the place that I am not all that uncomfortable supping my two drinks solo, while sporting severely smudged eye make-up and post-pool rats tail hair. No one seems to be staring at me, or whispering, or even silently judging my decision to see off both sours in under 45 minutes. Of course, this does mean that I am now accidentally drunk, alone, on a Thursday night. But, y’know. Schmeh.


That, along with extremely good value prices at happy hour and the fact that within five minutes I’ve heard Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill playing at a not-too-antisocial volume from the sound system, means The Nags Head gets my seal of approval. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.


Best for: Getting pissed alone. Obvs
Food? Yes. Standard trying too hard gastro fare, eg  Fish finger ciabatta, £6.95
Booze? Yes. From 4pm to 10pm, Sunday to Thursday, cocktails are two for one. A thoroughly passable Amaretto Sour, £7.65
Ambience: Friendly crowd, generally 30 plus, not too trendy and not too judgemental about drinking alone
Décor: Fairly plain – simple, attractive wood-panelled walls are coupled with an incongruous giant neon cocktail sign in the window, yet the lighting inside is just a shade too bright to be flattering
Service: Excellent. An Irishman brought two cocktails to my table, no comment, no questions asked
Recommended? Indeed! A cheap yet superior after work boozer if ever there was one.


In the beginning, there was the (lemon) curd…

1244e7ed0b406ae110cdc9257ef3d3e2261232d9 (2)So, here we are. Upper Street, that elusive North London mistress running between Angel and Highbury, trying to hide from its humble roots by distracting us all with myriad boutique coffee emporiums (but without ever quite shaking them off because there’s still a Nando’s).

The above picture shows how it looked in the 1800s, back when the pastos (that’s the official historical term for people from the past) were in charge.

There are fewer sheep these days, but more overly trendy cafés with décor inspired by industrial warehouses – so it all balances out in the end.

I’m only living in this bonkers locale for five months, having scored a sweet deal to house sit for a friend in a flat with a kickass roof terrace. With London prices as mad as a box of very mad frogs and getting more loopy by the day, I fully accept that when this brief summer sojourn is over, I will never again be able to afford to live in this area; so I thought I’d go out in style. In a blaze of glory.


Ahem. For what else should one do when on Upper Street, but try and eat/water one’s way from one end to t’other? The time frame is, I’ll grant you, something of a challenge – not once have I managed to leave the house without seeing a restaurant slash bar slash coffee shop slash tea room slash ice cream parlour which prompts me to go, “Hey, was that place there yesterday?”

Could be that every establishment is imbued with magic and is only in town for one night, and one night only, before it must return to the parallel realm from whence it came. If so though, it would be good to know once and for all; and I’ll have the watertight, blog-based evidence to prove it.

So, I’ve already wandered off topic. But the point is… What was the question?

I’ve already fallen at the first hurdle. It’s too overwhelming out there, and it’s late, and I’m tired, and I’ve got a jar of lemon curd to keep me occupied. But tomorrow is another day.