Restaurant review: Vivo, Upper Street, Islington

The new roof-top terrace at Vivo

The new roof-top terrace at Vivo - Credit: Archant

Stylish and laid back Italian dining has arrived in Islington.

Opened by brothers Will and Ben Thompson, Vivo, in Upper Street, is a very slick and modern café-come-bar serving up some fantastic grub in a very informal and relaxed setting.

The pair were inspired by the culinary experiences of their childhood holidays to Italy. And by all accounts, it appears like they’ve done a pretty good job.

A 14-metre-long granite food counter contains the most tempting of desserts – tarts, mousses and, of course, tiramisus – each one delicately laid out in rows of five or six.

Next come the salads, also beautifully presented, and then the hot dishes.

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Only top quality ingredients imported from Italy are used and you can really tell.


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The meatballs in tomato sauce were delicious, but my favourite was the melanzane alla parmigiana – rich layers of aubergine, parmesan, tomatoes and mozzarella oozing all over each other.

The salads too were impressive and filling. We had the potato and artichoke, traditional caesar and salmon and black venere rice with rocket.

The mains are priced at £8-9 and the salads around £5, so you won’t break the bank dining here either.

Vivo is as much about style as substance. The decor is minimalist, light and airy – what I imagine Milanese eateries to be like with Nancy Dell’Olio look-alikes in the corner sipping on macchiatos and sharing cake.

The walls are covered in large grey stones on one side and timber panels on the other with long concrete tables and tan leather chairs in the centre. A roof terrace, equally stylish, with wooden walls and plush seating, has also just opened ready for summer.

The desserts were the real show stoppers at Vivo, so we had three. The chocolate and raspberry dome was rich, but not sickly and definitely the most beautiful of all the puddings. The cannoli was perfectly sweet and crunchy and the fruity cheesecake we just about managed to finish was light, with a delicious dark biscuit bottom.

We were there on a Wednesday and there were plenty of customers just coming in for a late night dessert with a coffee.

They were mostly Italian or Mediterranean, but I hope this kicks off a trend towards more informal dining where you can just rock up and feast on a rum baba with an espresso at 11pm.

There’s also plenty of smaller savoury choices, including pizza by the slice and plenty of antipasto, all of which you can take away.

The wines are sourced from all over Italy and are reasonably priced too. Glasses start from £3.25 and cocktails are about £7.

Stunning food and surroundings, a welcome addition to Upper Street.

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