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Why I live in Islington: Arva CEO Abisola Omole on her ‘calm, chic and connected’ north London area

Abisola Omole has lived in Islington for 24 years  (Matt Writtle)
Abisola Omole has lived in Islington for 24 years (Matt Writtle)

I live with my sisters and aunt in a modern-ish terraced house with four bedrooms. I love Islington so much because it is calm and full of great squares, green spaces and restaurants. The houses are so grand and I always feel very inspired just roaming the streets even though I have seen them a million times.

I grew up around here until I was 13 and then my parents moved to the countryside. When I had the chance to move back here for university I did, and I have been here ever since. Overall, I have been in the area for around 24 years.

Eating and drinking

La Vita é Bella, on Theberton Street, has the best spaghetti and chicken wings. On Upper Street, Bewliehill does awesome smoothies while Workers Cafe is a classic builder’s cafe that does a great breakfast.

Tried and tested: the Workers Cafe on Upper Street is a classic builder’s favourite (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Tried and tested: the Workers Cafe on Upper Street is a classic builder’s favourite (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Head to Essex Road for Raab’s The Bakers, where the sausage rolls and Danish pastries are so good and so cheap. Kipferl, on Camden Passage, also has an incredible selection of sausages and other classic Viennese dishes. The chicken katsu sandwiches at Jiji on Esther Anne Place are really good.

Hemingford Road’s Sunday is a young, cool brunch place though there is always a queue on the weekends. Pophams, on Prebend Street, serves the biggest and tastiest pastries.

I am not sure you can call The Pig and Butcher on Liverpool Road a pub. It is more of a fancy but warm restaurant which serves some delicious dishes.

Class act: the Pig and Butcher on Liverpool Road elevates the traditional pub (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Class act: the Pig and Butcher on Liverpool Road elevates the traditional pub (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Where I work out

I mostly work out at home, to be honest, as I have a treadmill but I have taken a couple of the classes at Third Space just off Islington Square. They are pretty great and the facilities there are the best in the area.

For a culture fix

The Almeida Theatre recently showed A Street Car Named Desire. It is a small but incredibly respected theatre that showcases some of the best productions.

The Almeida Theatre (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
The Almeida Theatre (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Odeon Luxe shows a good range of movies, and not just the typical popular ones. The chairs recline and the staff will bring your food to you; it has to be one of the best cinemas that you’ll find in London.

The Estorick Collection is a fairly hidden gallery and cafe near Canonbury Square that resides in a typically chic Islington mansion. It has regular exhibitions that are cool but it is honestly just a great place to hang out and grab a tea. The grounds are so peaceful.

To commune with nature

Freightliners Farm, where you can also buy plants (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Freightliners Farm, where you can also buy plants (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Barnsbury Square is great to walk around as there are huge trees and you are surrounded by green spaces.

That said, Freightliners Farm is a great spot, especially in the middle of the day as you can just hang out with the animals and buy plants.

Grocery shopping

We have a few cool local delis such as Da Giovanna Deli on Essex Road and Monte’s Delicatessen on Canonbury Lane but they are better for specialist items. I get most of my groceries from the M&S towards Angel.

Essex Road’s Da Giovanna Deli (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures L)
Essex Road’s Da Giovanna Deli (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures L)

Getting around

A combination of walking and taxis. If I am not in a rush I walk as I like taking everything in but if I am late, or carrying a lot of packages, I’ll jump in a black cab.

Dream street

Either Islington Square or around Barnsbury Square. Islington Square just has this refinement to it that I love so much; it’s probably the cleanest part of Islington and so well taken care of. I would happily sit on the floor or steps there for hours on a summer evening.

Houses on Barnsbury Square (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Houses on Barnsbury Square (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Walking around Barnsbury Square and the surrounding streets, especially during spring and autumn, is always so magical; the grand trees, the incredible houses. Living around there is definitely the dream.

Something you only see in Islington

A sculpture of a swimming pool. Yes, it is a plug, but my store and studio, Arva, that is in Islington Square, has a fairly big swimming pool sculpture and everyone is always surprised when they see it as it is not something you usually come across. It is definitely something that only my neighbourhood has.

Abisola at her concept store, Arva, in Islington Square (Matt Writtle)
Abisola at her concept store, Arva, in Islington Square (Matt Writtle)

What’s the catch?

It is low-key hilariously expensive.

In three words

Calm. Connected. Chic.

@abimarvel; @studio.arva; arva.co.uk

Schools

Islington Square has several nearby primary schools rated good by Ofsted, including St Mary’s CofE Primary School, Hanover Primary School and New River College Primary.

For secondary education, City of London Academy Islington is deemed outstanding while The New North Academy is rated good.

What it costs

Buying in Islington

Average flat price: £620,600

Average house price: £1,587,160

Renting in Islington

Average flat, pcm: £2,400

Average house, pcm: £4,480

Source: Hamptons & Land Registry