176 Upper Street
Tel: 020 7354 2843 „
Just the sort of food you would like to eat in a friendly environment. Originally served mostly in oval plates. Very generous portions too! Definitely all dishes are recommended for those who like to have a taste of everything. I have tried all of them and have not been disapointed. But I would like to say that at some point last year a few people told me that the quality of the food had dropped. I have been there recently and all appeared to have gone back to those dellicious days of tasty and well served food.
La Piragua, 176 upper Street, Islington. T: 020 7354 2843.
I first went to La Piragua in 2001 for a friend's birthday. It's on Upper Street, equi distance from Angel or Highbury and Islington. I have returned regularly for lunches and dinners since then. I have never had a bad meal there and have tried most things on the menu. The wines are nice, the desserts are tasty and the staff are friendly and efficient. Any person I have brought there has adored it.
For starters I usually go for the house prawns, cooked in garlic. They are a good size, succulent and very fresh with the roe still attached to emphasise this point. You get a decent helping. There is a tapas menu which offers tasty alternatives.
Main course: I have to recommend the steak, Churrasco. It's a giant cut of prime meat which comes out on a great big chopping board because no plate is big enough. It's massive. I order it medium rare, as rare seriously means rare. This comes with lovely sauteed potatoes and an endless supply of guacamole dip (just ask the staff for more of this homemade delight). The steak is cooked in a herbal sauce and is one of the nicest I've had. Also the grilled pork is a succulent choice. The sword fish melts in your mouth and is accompanied by a lovely sauce.
Desserts: I've only ever had the creme caramel which is lovely. I tried someone else's cheesecake which I enjoyed, but the creme caramel is too good for me to order anything else.
The wine menu is fine, mainly South American choices. (Colombia, Argentina, Chile) Basic stuff but very drinkable and extremely affordable.
Also they have a selection of South American bottled lagers. All nice and good with food. I love the Cristal from Cuba. Very crisp, drinkable and thirst quenching. For non-drinkers there are Tropical Juice drinks. They have a large cocktail list to choose from too.
The staff are friendly, hard working and attentive. They make an effort, and with the music on a busy night you do feel like you're actually in a South American country, so it's a great atmosphere. The art work inside is interesting as it changes a bit because people often purchase the paintings. The restaurant is frequented by many South Americans who know where to find great food. The last time I went we had a 3 course meal each (2 people) a bottle of wine and a bottle of Cava, which came to about £50 or so. The value is amazing. A normal 3 course meal for 2 with wine would only set you back about £30. They open every evening and at lunchtime on the weekend. For late eaters, they usually take the last food orders at about 11pm or a little before. Go there and be impressed.
La Piragua 176 Upper Street, London N1 Last year, on a rainy Sunday, I discovered a little restaurant in trendy Islington called La Piragua. Since then, I have been back several times which must be a good sign. It was one of those Sunday afternoons, neither lunch nor dinner time. We were very tired and hungry after walking for hours and we did not know where to go as we were far from our usual hunting places. Besides, everything looked as dark and gloom as the day was. We stopped a bit by chance, after visiting neighbouring shops (I bought great presents that day) : there was a panel with a menu by the doors really enticing and went into, both my boyfriend and I, hesitantly, to be greeted and welcomed by a big Argentinean with a moustache about as big as him. We could have run away but we stayed, and very glad we did. The atmosphere was very casual, everyone seemed to know each other but without making you feel out of place but at home, checked tablecloths and all. But let’s go to the food. I asked for what I was told to be a Colombian staple: “Bandeja”. It was rice with fried pork, black beans, fried plantain, salad, avocado, fried egg, Colombian patty and many more that I cannot even say. Enough to say, it brought all the attention to my table when it arrived. And a great combination. My boyfriend had “Sancocho”. It is a tasty soup (meat or fish, sorry I cannot remember) with big lumps of corn, yam I believe, and a side (that is a side or a main!) of boiled rice and salad. Well, after we finished we weren’t cold anymore but we couldn’t move. Then we did the big mistake of ordering coffee. The food was great but I would not say the same about the coffee. Anyway, the bill came to less than £20, surprising for the area. And we were left happy enough to plan for a return visit. Since then, I have been there a few times, with irregular experience
s. It works better when Ramon ( the Argentinean and co-owner) is there. Without him, the place is a bit too much laid back, even unprofessional, plates arrive without all the ingredients… The character is lost. By now, I have tried most of the menu. The do very good starters, especially if you do not worry about what you are eating. You tell them about your tastes and try some of the suggestions, you get pleasant surprises. For instance I love some of their patties, or the plantain with cheese. Then, the main courses: apart form the ones I have described already, the do a minced meat and sweetcorn thing that it is to die for. They do cater very well for vegetarians, with a more than sizeable menu. If you like cheese or bakes, you will enjoy it. If you love your meats, you will get different grilled options, with homemade chips, baked potatoes, good salads or boiled rice, kind of steakhouse place. There is also some fish, grilled or baked (particularly the fish of the day) that I can also recommend. I have never made it to the puddings but I promise I will make the effort to try one day and update this opinion. Wines are Spanish or South-Americans (they do a wine of the month thing) at affordable prices. There are some exotic juices and milkshakes to try (mango and similar) if you do not want alcohols. Oh, yes, prices. Starters are between £2.50 and £4, mains come at £7-£11 (and very filling). As I said not the usual place but highly recommended for a different meal.