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A grin and tonic for Blackstock Road

Situated on a stretch that continues to evolve in character, hybrid venue is a mix of off-licence, bar, casual restaurant and events space

18 April, 2019 — By Tom Moggach

Grin and Beer It – just one of the highlights of a wander down Blackstock Road

“IT’S like a sweetshop for adults here,” says the owner, showing me a shiny tin of marshmallow porter.

If you enjoy ales – and a corny pun – then Grin and Beer It is a new shop that will get you drooling. This venue is a fine example of the modern breed of bottle shops and taprooms: hybrid venues that are a mix of off-licence, bar, casual restaurant and events space.

It’s located in Blackstock Road, a long stretch between Finsbury Park and Highbury that has evolved in character over recent years.

You’ll still find the Ethiopian cafés, Caribbean jerk takeaways and the miniscule shop selling freshly baked naan breads – more on that later. But now they rub shoulders with a French natural beauty salon, pottery studio and a chichi wine bar tucked down a side street serving cod’s roe with toast and tarragon.

Grin and Beer It stocks more than 200 craft beers, with six rotating on the taps behind the wooden bar.

Downstairs, by the tables, you’ll find more than 100 board games, too. Pay £3 to play as many as you fancy.

This is a thrilling time for the craft beer scene in Britain. “There are now thousands of breweries in the UK,” says co-owner Tony Hickman. “There’s more choice than there’s ever been.”

Eye-catching artwork is now key to brewery branding. Brewers also collaborate to produce limited editions to keep fans on their toes.

“People are learning off each other,” says Hickman. “It’s a nice jolly for the brewers.”

You can also sit down for a meal at Grin and Beer It, courtesy of their partnership with two classy takeaways nearby.

Zing Zing offer excellent Chinese food, with a range of wok-fried noodle and rice dishes, including many vegan and vegetarian dishes with tofu and aubergine.

Home Burger invite you to customise their range of beef, chicken and veggie burgers.

Their Shoe Box for two, priced £20, is a cute idea: two burgers and homefries nestled in shoebox-style packaging.

On this visit, however, I couldn’t resist exploring other options along Blackstock Road on my cycle back home.

Around the corner, The Taste Box serves authentic Caribbean dishes such as callaloo and curry goat, plus their new invention – a reggae burrito.

Further down Blackstock Road (number 51a), the naan shop changed ownership a few months ago. But their formula remains the same: light, fluffy naan breads at laughably low prices cooked to order in their tandoor oven.

I watched the chef slap and stretch his dough, dab it onto the walls of the tandoor then extract the blistered bread with tongs just seconds later.

Their falafel costs £3; the “kubba” is an interesting dish: potato cakes stuffed with mince, vegetable and sultanas then served in the naan wrap for £2.99.

A walk down Blackstock Road is an assault on the senses – in the best possible way. I’ll raise a glass to that.

Grin and Beer It
172 Blackstock Road, N5
020 7354 2984


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