Local Parents

Local parent: Jo in Highbury & Islington

Jo Arteaga lives in Highbury & Islington and been an Islingtonian for over six years. She is a Senior Advertising Creative and has a 16-month-old daughter called Miranda.

Describe your area in three words: Never, ever boring.

Coolest coffee spot: I love coffee, so I can assure you I’ve done my research on this front. There are plenty of spots to have a decent cup in Islington and it seems like a new coffee shop opens every other week. Despite that, these remain my favourite. Coffee Works in Camden Passage is small and always packed but the coffee is great. I usually get one to go and head for the canal. I spent many maternity-leave afternoons in the wonderful Little Highness Café. The coffee is ace and the ambience is lit, but the staff could be friendlier. I went back a couple of days ago and they seemed irritated by the children (and some grown-ups). Caffè Nero in front of Islington Green might not be the most hipster of places, but it’s spacious and buggy-friendly. When your little one is screaming for food, this trusty café is the place to let the boob out.

Best family-friendly restaurant: Islington is well known for its restaurants and bars. Upper Street is filled with chains including Pizza Express, Nando’s, Byron and Zizzi, which are all baby-friendly, spacious and fuss-free. For non-chainy alternatives try Zia Lucia, which is spacious and does ridiculously good pizzas (and you can choose from four different types of dough – FOUR!). Sweet Thursday is another pizza place because pizza is life. This lovely restaurant has a small space and toys at the back for little kids to play with. The staff are friendly, the food is delicious and they even have bunny-shaped pizzas for the kids. During the week they have a lunchtime menu deal. I’ve been there with eight other mums – plus kids – and was not banned for life, so I can assure you it’s 100% child-friendly. The Canonbury Tavern is spacious inside and out, serves really good food and has a big, lovely garden in which to spend the afternoon chasing your toddler. The Albion is another pub with amazing food and an awesome outdoor space. Arepa & Co is technically in Haggerston but it’s worth a mention. I’m biased on this one as it’s a Venezuelan restaurant and that’s where I’m from. But honestly, it’s worth a visit. It’s on the Regent’s Canal, so grab a table by the window to enjoy the view. Try the tequeños and arepas – perfect for one-handed eating.  

Favourite park or green space: Highbury Fields is BBQ-friendly, which we love. The playground has everything a kid could ever want, including a huge sandpit. Freightliners City Farm has cows, fat chickens and friendly sheep. Your toddler will love it and you will try to ignore the smell.

Best local museum or gallery: I work near the Tate Modern so get my art fix there (lamest excuse ever, sorry).

Coolest kids’ shops: After Noah. I’m a sucker for beautiful toys and this place has them all. Children’s Books is a tiny store in Chadwell Street, Angel, that sells new children’s books for £1 each! Yes!

Favourite under-5s class/activity: Islington children’s centres have great classes and activities, and most are free. Most host stay-and-plays and I loved the baby-massage class I did at Bemerton Children’s Centre. Twice a week in Exmouth Market you can find Mrs H & the Sing Along Band bringing the house down. The atmosphere is lovely and you leave energised and very happy. The kids enjoy it too.

What makes your area great? Islington has everything a new mum could wish for, from the chain restaurants and stores to the quirky streets of Camden Passage and Exmouth Market. There are tons of free activities in the different children’s centres, lots of cafés and restaurants to relax in, and access to plenty of buses and the Overground, which makes travelling with a buggy less of a headache.

What’s the best thing about living in London?: From Hotpod Yoga to avocados the size of your hand, you have access to anything and everything your heart could ever desire… except maybe hot weather.

And the worst?: High rent and nursery prices. At the moment the poor air quality is making me consider swapping all my furniture for pollution-absorbing plants.

Jo runs a Spanish-speaking parents’ group, Moco & Baba, in Islington on Fridays and some weekends. Follow her at jo.arteaga.

Photo credit: Jo Arteaga

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